By George Polgar

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Like an ancient tribe gathering at the blazing altars of the gods, an army of the masses – 250,000 visitors are expected this year at the Philadelphia Auto Show through its 8-day run ending Sunday at 8 pm.

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While some view cars as mere transportation appliances, many consumers appreciate the indulgent reward, passion and personal statement of a new car.

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The 700 new cars spread out over 700,000 square feet at the Pennsylvania Convention Center address the broadest range of buyers. The Philadelphia Auto Show in particular is a bellwether nationally of consumer preference, as a third of the attendees are likely to buy new cars in the next 12 months, unlike high profile media and celebrity driven extravaganzas in Detroit, New York and Los Angeles.

To navigate the show floor look for a profusion of market leading compact SUVs, more than 60 vehicles EPA rated at 30 mpg plus, and reflecting the economic upswing, an eye-popping crop of super-performance and high style vehicles.

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The positive trends of better safety and efficiency technologies, and rising overall quality standards tend to validate what some critics view as a mechanized bacchanal.