SAN JOSE -- The Silicon Valley International Auto Show opening Thursday at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center will show off current and 2015 models of vehicles from muscle cars to plug-ins.

Unlike the auto show held last month in traffic-congested San Francisco, lookie-loos and potential customers will be able to test drive more than 50 models from Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC and Toyota around downtown San Jose.

"The San Francisco location at Moscone Center makes it very difficult for people to get out on the road and not be sitting in traffic," said Robert Louisell of Ford, which will have eight cars available for test drives, including a 2014 Mustang. "The layout of the San Jose show affords drivers and guests a much better opportunity to actually drive."

Ford gave 754 test drives at last year's Silicon Valley International Auto Show. With its prime "ride-and-drive" location directly in front of the convention center this year, Ford hopes to offer even more rides.

Inside the convention center, along with 24 trucks, SUVs, Mustangs, hybrids and plug-ins, Ford also will have a simulator equipped with a steering wheel, seats, screens, pedals and a hydraulic system that will give drivers a virtual test of Ford's fuel-efficient EcoBoost technology.

Toyota will ask teen drivers to take a ride in its "TeenDrive365" simulator that provides a virtual experience of how distractions impair safe driving, according to Briana Nelson, assistant general manager for Toyota's San Francisco region.

Toyota, which remains the best-selling brand in California, will display its Prius, the top-selling car in California and the Bay Area in its class; and its Camry, the best-selling car in its class in America 12 years running.

Four Toyota models have been overhauled for 2014 and will be on display: the Corolla, 4Runner, Tundra and Highlander. The auto show also will represent the Northern California debut of the new 2014 Highlander Hybrid, which will go on sale in early March, Nelson said.

As at other auto shows, potential customers won't be pressured to buy because sales are prohibited. But they can get a look at BMW's first all-electric car, the i3, and also see pre-production models of the 2015 Chevrolet Silverado HD, Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon.

Representatives from automakers also will be on hand to help potential buyers understand their options for charging electric vehicles.

The auto show's history dates to 1909 and it later evolved into the San Jose International Auto Show before taking on its current name in 2005.

This year, the show will be packed with vehicles jammed with technology that makes them more fuel-efficient while also offering more cockpit conveniences, such as cameras on all four sides of some Infiniti models that give drivers a 360-degree view; rear seat belts that inflate in a crash for increased safety (Ford); accident avoidance sensors (various models of Acura, BMW, Ford, Infiniti, Jaguar and Toyota); smartphone apps that allow drivers to lock/unlock doors, check tire pressures and remotely start their vehicles (select models of Buick, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC); parking assist (Ford, Lexus, Toyota and others); built-in Wi-Fi (BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Ford); and more intelligent voice activation that understands nuanced pronunciations (Chevrolet, Ford, Kia).

Honda's overhauled 2014 Odyssey van also includes an optional in-vehicle vacuum system called HondaVac made by Shop-Vac.

Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.

silicon valley international auto show
When: Thursday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. except Sunday, when the show closes at 6 p.m.
Admission: Free opening day tickets available at participating Lucky, Save Mart and FoodMaxx supermarkets and UPS stores; $11 for adults (save $1 by purchasing tickets at www.SVAutoShow.com); $8 for military members with ID, senior citizens 62 and older, students under 21 with school ID and children 7 to 12; free for children 6 and under accompanied by an adult. Free for children 12 and under Sunday when accompanied by an adult.