The 105th Annual Chicago Auto Show – Part 1
It is one of the largest and arguably, the oldest show of its kind in the Midwest, the Chicago Auto Show predates the venue in which it is housed. However old it is, it hasn’t lost its fervor or prominence. The resounding mantra from executives after each press conference was even: “We love Chicago”. This love was evident in 2013, not with unveilings but announcements. In the next few days, I will give a guide to what you need to see if you are in the Chicagoland area between February 9th through February 18th. We have to pour a gallon into a pint here, so let’s begin.
The first media day began with Toyota’s unveiling of the 2013 Tundra. The Tundra is a rather safe evolution from its predecessor despite the fact that Chevy and Ford are aiming at the truck market with both barrels. Toyota put a lot of emphasis on comfort, capability and style. Equipped with a 5.7 liter V8, 400 lb-ft. of torque and a host of available configurations, this truck should do well until Atlas comes along. Being designed in California and Michigan didn’t hurt either.
Next up for us would be Kia – which had, hands-down, the most impressive presentation of the two-day press preview. More impressive was their collaboration with DC Comics creator, Jim Lee which will yield three new models: The Superman Optima Hybrid (unveiled in Chicago), The Wonder Woman Optima Hybrid (to be unveiled next month in New York), and a special Sorento Amalgamation model (to be unveiled in the summer). These cars are part of the “We Can Be Heroes” campaign, an effort to relieve the current drought-induced hunger plight in Africa. As part of the eight models scheduled to be released in 2013, The New Forte, The Cadenza and Sorento were joined in Chicago by the Forte five-door. The new Forte five-door is a very nice offering with 1.6-liter turbo or 2.0-liter engines and clean design. Finally, we were serenaded by a five-piece vocal band as the newest Kia Concept rolled onto the stage. The stunning new Cross GT Concept is indeed a wonderful addition to the Kia momentum. Kia has made sensible cars exciting and we look forward to more new offerings as the year progresses.
KIA at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show Gallery
Volkswagen revealed a basket full of performance models with the Beetle GSR Model (which hearkens back to a race-winning Beetle of the 60’s) taking center stage as well as a host of performance-themed Beetles scattered across their display area. Their R-Line has stretched its tentacles to include the Beetle convertible as well as a five-door Golf with upgrades. Most notably, Gran Turismo and Fender Models were on hand; one with the thunder under the hood (500+ horsepower Gran Turismo Vortex) and one with the thunder in the speakers (nine speakers, 400 watts Fender Coupe).
Volkswagen at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show Gallery
Nissan blessed the world with NISMO versions of their 370Z and Juke. The Juke was adorned with a full body kit, 18-inch wheels and LED’s. Special NISMO seats hold you in as 197 horsepower and 188 lb-ft. of torque make grocery-getting much more fun than before. Red accents, a new steering wheel that features Alcantara synthetic suede with red accents, and a red tachometer has been added. Bigger brakes bring the NISMO 370Z to a stop via 14-inch rotors. Otherwise, the 370Z NISMO remains unchanged from the already potent 2013 model. However wonderful the presentation, you couldn’t help but notice the GT-R in black sitting ominously in the corner. Known affectionately as “Godzilla”, the GT-R Track Edition is carbon-fiber clad and power enhanced to do even more damage.
Nissan at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show Gallery
After Dodge Commercial vehicles’ moving and “backbone of America themed” presentation was over, it was time to tour the show floor alone and get my own perspective on the industry’s wares.
I can say with assurance that Audi never fails to impress with well-crafted displays. The attraction this year emphasized the symmetry of design. A spokesperson told me that in order to highlight the cars, they kept the staging minimal. They pulled it off with a “sea of white” all meticulously placed, the R8 Spyder, RS 6 and TT-RS being the only specs of color and deservingly so.
Audi at 2013 Chicago Auto Show Gallery
BMW, Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz were all in close proximity to each other, somewhat like four mighty juggernauts posing for battle. BMW tucked the M Power missiles (M5 and M3) in the back of their display, sort of saying that only those with the proper “cajones” need venture back there. Fortunately, the 6-series Gran Coupe, 6-, and 7-series were placed for all to see. One would think that you’d get tired of seeing that same center stack in every vehicle…almost. You don’t notice it until they are all in one place. No matter how redundant, that interior is where you want to be.
BMW at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show Gallery
Mercedes-Benz at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show
Jaguar had the All-Wheel Drive XJ and the new F-Type on hand. This is the first time Jaguar has offered all-wheel drive as an option on its full-size sedan. Engineering the all-wheel-drive system to behave like rear-wheel drive most of the time sends up to 50 percent to the front wheels only when needed. Looking at the F-Type gave me a sense of what it must have been to see the XK-120 brought to light 60+ years ago. Will it save Jaguar? I will tell you in another article. However, it got people to look at it and therefore, look at the other models as well. I must highlight the XK Coupe and Convertible. Jaguar has stepped up its game in the interior department. The leather is so beautiful, it’s unreal – top on or top off.
Jaguar at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show Gallery
There was so much going on that regretfully, I could not get it all in one sitting. However, there was plenty of opportunity and tons of information to get and plenty for you if you are able to get to Chicago this week. I will return tomorrow with more from the show.