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by Jim Choate • See the Chrysler/Ram/Jeep/Dodge/Fiat section
The big news from Toyota was the debut of the 2014 Tundra pickup truck. I had passed by initially because it didn't look all that different from the current Tundra, save for the Ford/GMC-style horizontal-slat grille, which will apparently be different for each trim level now.
One thing Toyota did have on display that was unique was the Tacoma pickup truck - it was the only small pickup truck I saw during my time at the show. Other highlights included Toyota's push to get into the urban market with the Avalon DUB Edition (which upon later view reminds me of a somewhat larger Dodge Dart) and the Corolla Furia concept, which if produced would at least make the half-a-million new Corollas sold every year look better.
Lexus is showing off the new IS and GS. After a while all the Lexus cars started to blend together and look the same. Except for the CS and the LF-LC, of course. Didn't see any of the trucks or crossovers.
Honda showed the EV_STER Concept - 2 seats, electric, with a twin-level steering setup. Since that's not all that realistic, my interest waned. The rest of the display was of Honda models you've seen for the last year.
No Volkswagen Routans to be found anywhere, nor did the CrossBlue concept from Detroit make the trip. VW showed their new R-Line editions, which appear to be just additional visual pieces on top of the SEL models. Also featured were the TDI diesels and the new 2014 Beetle GSR, a re-interpretation of the 1970s Beetle GSR that I never knew existed.
Mini showed off their lineup, which is not all that easy to tell apart without a scorecard (what makes a Paceman different from a Countryman?) Don't get me wrong — I like Mini — I just wonder if the model overlap results more in taking sales from other makes, or if they just steal from themselves.
Kia seems to be riding a wave of popularity and showed off the new 2014 Kia Forte (longer, lower, wider) that looks to be good competition for the Dodge Dart. Also shown was the new 2014 Cadenza (sister to the Hyundai Azera) - a well-loaded large FWD car that could be an option to potential Chrysler 300 buyers who don’t want RWD.
Porsche had one of each basic model. Cayman is new for 2014. More editions of the 911. Panamera is huge. Cayenne probably shouldn't exist, but probably is making the most money.
New for Mitsubishi is the 2014 Outlander GT - a refresh of the current Outlander crossover - not to be confused with the Outlander Sport - a different vehicle entirely. Also shown is the i-MiEV, perhaps the least known and least advertised electric car on the market in the US. It's still the cheapest feeling and looking $30,000 car on sale today.
Suburu showed off the 2014 Forester, and still makes the Tribeca in case you were wondering. Oh, and the BR-Z coupe, which all the kids love and is the only Subaru sold today that doesn't offer all-wheel-drive.
A special edition for the Scion xD — all I could tell was that the roof was a different color than the rest of the car, similar to Mini and Fiat. The FR-S (sister to the Subaru BR-Z) was there, and I still don't know why they don't badge it as the “86” as they do in Japan - especially with the cool “86” piston badge on the car already. The iQ is still odd looking.
Announced at the show were the Nissan Juke Nismo and the 370Z Nismo - what appear to be appearance packages with minor performace bumps. I did not see the new Versa Note - the hatch/wagon version of the Versa. Still not used to seeing the Pathfinder as a crossover. A good third of Nissan's space was dedicated to the NV lineup of vans - parked right across the walkway from the Ram Commercial display.
Shown last year and now available is the Buick Encore - a mini-Enclave, if you will. It looks very nice - the question is will people pay $25K for a very small crossover from Buick - if they do, I expect to see similar offerings from Lincoln and possibly Chrysler. The Verano may be stealing sales from the Regal. The rear seat in the LaCrosse is far too cramped.
GMC is showing off the new Sierra pickup truck. Of note on the fenced display model was a badge that read "ALL-TERRAIN", while the other display model had the "Z71" badge - I'm not sure what the difference is. I also wonder if there will be a GMC Terrain All-Terrain.
The big news for Chevrolet was the Cruze Clean Diesel offering up to 42MPG highway with an automatic - same MPG as the Cruze Eco gas model with a manual. The Cruze Clean Diesel features the same green badge on the back as the Eco model - except that it doesn't say “eco” on it. It starts at $25K and you have to take the 2LT trim option with it, so there's no way for a cheap stripper Cruze diesel.
Malibu still has incredibly tight rear seating - those taller than six feet need not apply. Impala is not much better. Sonic bests them both. Spark could easily be mistaken for a Sonic hatch.
Traverse got a new front fascia and rear tailight setup and looks much, much better than before. Corvette is behind a fence. Camaro is featured heavily with a tie-in to the new Dreamworks' “Turbo” movie; also featured were a '67 Camaro and a '13 Camaro made up to look like Hot Wheels cars, with a Hot Wheels loop track in the back - race your car around the loop and it jumps off the ramp - get it in the bucket and you'll walk away with your own limited edition 2013 Auto Show Camaro Hot Wheels car. I'd imagine a good chunk of them are on eBay right now. Missing in action are the full-size vans and commercial trucks, as well as the Caprice police car.
Polestar Editions of the Volvo S60 and C30 are shown. I'm not entirely sure what Polestar is. Volvo is still made in Sweden, but Ford sold the company to a Chinese outfit.
Jaguar showed off the new F-Type convertible. All the Jags look beautiful and are very expensive and fast. Land Rover showed off the new Land Rover Range Rover, not to be confused with the Land Rover Range Rover Sport. Land Rovers are also expensive and fast.
I kept flip-flopping during my time at the show if I needed to stop by the Ford display or not. It was almost as if they had maybe too many things to look at, so none of them were highlighted in any real way. They were showing the Atlas pickup truck concept, and also had displays of the upcoming Transit large van and the next-gen Transit Connect small van. I was keen on investigating both, however they were both stickered as being “locked for my safety.”
Badging is a big deal for Ford on some key models - the Flex features it across the front of the hood, as does one trim of the Explorer. The F-150 trucks now also feature "LIMITED" or "PLATINUM" badging on the upper part of the rear fenders. Similar to stick-on fender vents, these badges make me think that an F-150 buyer went to the local mass-market auto parts store, bought stick-on letters, and applied them themselves. Oh, and Tanner Foust from Top Gear America was there to hype the new Ford Racing Focus ST that he'll be driving soon.
The Lincoln display looked like a bunch of cages, perhaps so potential vistors could be kept from running away. The big push for Lincoln is the MKZ, which I at first thought was an MKS - visually it looks much bigger than it is. It's nice looking, the interior isn't bad, but if you're a big person you might find it a bit tight. There is no transaxle shifter - it's buttons on the dash instead. I hope it succeeds, but I think Lincoln's silly naming convention isn't doing any of its models any favors. The MKT is roomy enough to serve as a Town Car replacement - once the livery and black car companies get over the fact that they can't get any more Town Cars. The chrome on the Navigator is way too heavy and gaudy looking.
The Cadillac XTS suffers from the same cramped rear seat that the Impala and LaCrosse have. The CTS is starting to show its age, and I think the ATS will take away more sales from the CTS than from BMW. The SRX is a really nice Equinox. The Escalades must still be generating huge profits for what amounts to an upscale Tahoe/Suburban.
I'll be honest - I walked right past Infiniti. Like Lexus they're all starting to look similar, and the recent decision to name all the cars “Q” and trucks with “QX” is silly.
The new BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe looks sharp. I like the 1-Series, too.
I was hoping to see the Mercedes A-Class or the CLA or whatever they are calling it - but it wasn't there. The E-Class looks more like the CLS which makes be wonder why they bother with both. Smart cars still aren't.
Audi debuted the RS5 Cabriolet.
Big news for Hyundai is that the 5-passenger Santa Fe becomes the new Santa Fe Sport, and the 7-passenger Santa Fe replaces the Veracruz. A Veloster C3 Rolltop Concept is shown - apparently there's some kind of styling trend with bicycles where the consumer customizes half the bike, so you end up with something that has one black wheel and one teal wheel. Hyundai extended that theme to a Veloster with a SkySlider-like top, changed the liftgate to a tailgate, and put black wheels on the front and teal wheels on the back. Less confusing is the “Elantra ZE Zombie Survival Machine” - a tie-in with The Walking Dead TV series that features an Elantra with titanium wheel pikes, a large spiked carbon fiber “herd plow” on the front and other features to assist in the elimination of the upcoming zombie threat. Plus six standard airbags, because safety.
In the South Hall past the Toyota test track are a bunch of smaller auto-related booths and displays. One of them is sponsored by DriveChicago.com (an auto sales website) and features among other vehicles a restored 1970 American Motors AMX/3 Mid-Engined Concept Car, one of six that were built.
The 105th Chicago Auto Show is held in the North and South buildings of McCormick Place, located in Chicago, Illinois and runs from Saturday, February 9th through Monday, February 18th. There's a myriad of potential ways to get to the show - from the western suburbs I took Roosevelt Road east all the way into the city, turning right/south on Indiana and then left/east on Cermak. Cermak turns right/south and becomes King Drive, and the exit for parking lot "A" is on the right. Cost to park in the parking lot "A" garage is $21 for the day, and there is a covered walkway that leads from the 4th level of the garage directly to McCormick Place. Other parking lots are available and some distant lots offer shuttle buses to the show.
Metra electric trains make stops at the station at McCormick Place, and CTA buses are available from the Ogilvie and Union Station train terminals. Tickets for the show can be purchased online and discount tickets are available from various area banks and car dealers. Food at McCormick Place can be expensive - a Chicago-style hot dog or slice of pizza and a drink can easily run $10 per person. Restrooms can be found all around the perimiter of the North Hall and are kept reasonably clean; there are also options below the cafes in the South Hall.
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