As your body is thrust against the passenger-side window of the powerful new Jeep Rubicon, the driver doesn’t stop or slow down his explanation of the car. He’s been driving the obstacle course outside the Javits Center all day, and on this harrowing 30 degree wedge, he’s well aware of the impossibility of actually flipping over this automobile. He explains about the 3.6 liter V6 and disconnected sway bar, and you would really like to ask him what the sway bar is, but you’re already on top of a patch of incredibly uneven ground that jostles the brain and makes questions seem silly—this car is a serious car. It is not your 2002 Toyota Corolla.

This car is incredibly capable (capable of tackling the imposing obstacles that have been made specifically for it to conquer, but still pretty effin’ cool). The final ascent over a 35 degree incline, while the soft strains of a Keith Urban song hum inside of the incredibly quiet car, feel like you’re approaching the top of a rollercoaster, and when you do smoothly arrive at the top, you have a beautiful view of midtown. And then the “hill descent feature” takes over, the driver horrifyingly points out that he doesn’t even have his foot on the brake, and you softly glide to the bottom of the fake hill. Deep breath.

The 2013 New York International Auto Show kicks off tomorrow, bringing with it flashy new cars and a level of vacuous and yet brilliant marketing that only the automobile industry can deliver. The Chevrolet Spark, which is a mini car meant for city driving, was promoted under the slogan, “Soon to be an urban legend.” As in, soon to be a myth? Nonexistent? Confusing, but oddly mesmerizing.

Down the hall there was a Camaro hanging on the wall, which marked the beginning of the Chevrolet showroom in the North hall of the Javits Center. Through the massive doorways that had been cut out in the shape of the Chevrolet logo, free coffee and lunches were being distributed to the well-heeled car enthusiasts and assorted media. A group of finely-dressed older men chatted and joked with the horribly retro models next to the 2014 Cadillac ELR. It is kind of a sexy car, but bizarre (it seems like too many elements seem borrowed from a golf ball). Further into the showroom was the 2013 electric Chevrolet Volt, a beautiful car that was marketed as being “pure electric fun.”

The big commotion in the Chevrolet showroom, at the far back, was the reintroduction of the Z/28, a $55,000 street-racing car that had a devoted gaggle around it murmuring sentences like “very impressive,” and “It’s the real deal,” to one another, while stroking their chins. Car enthusiasts, it seemed apparent, are also goatee-enthusiasts.

In the less-crowded main showroom, Toyota is displaying a Seqouia that has been turned into a drag car (called, in another marketing miracle, the “Dragqouia”), as well as the actual Toyota Endeavor that pulled the space shuttle. Attendees can take turns throwing paper airplanes through a target on the back of this vaunted, historic, brave Toyota.

Off-beat car offerings included the LogDog, a “revved-up superhero that is half-truck, half-tree, with the personality of a faithful dog,” who stars in his own children’s book. There was also a car that was working to raise awareness about PTSD among veterans.

“I can’t pretend I’m arresting you,” state trooper Phil Fouche told a German tourist who approached him on the other side of the hall, next to one of New York State’s new Chevrolet Caprice’s. The Caprice is one of three models of cars that the state police are trying out to replace the Crown Victoria, which stopped production in 2011. “I love the way it drives,” he told us.

Subaru, which looked to cement its reputation as the car of choice among Northeastern hippies (good gas mileage, relatively cheap, and 4-wheel drive) set up a silk-screening station that was giving out free t-shirts when you download the “Subaru Discover App”. Once you download the App, you can take a picture of your new shirt, unlocking special features. We live in a time of marketing wonders.

Nissan, which also discussed it’s taxicab of the future, reiterated its new commitment to leading the way in emission innovation, and declared that we are now living in “the era of electrification.” Across the convention center, most companies have already rolled out their next generation hybrid model, with nothing particularly innovative on display this year. Nissan touted record-sales for its all-electric Leaf, the most efficient electric car in America.

Shrouded in mystery was the Scion showroom on the 3rd (and most likely haunted) level of the Javits Center. A security guard blocked our access, leaving us wondering what was behind the black curtains (possibilities: aero-car, car that runs on good vibes, car that produces gasoline... but it was actually a "sporty coupe").

The NY International Auto Show runs through April 7 at the Jacob Javits Center; tickets are $15 for adults.

Max Rivlin-Nadler, who wrote this piece, is a freelance writer in New York.