Frigid Chicago puts on a hot auto show

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Media and auto industry honchos may flock to auto shows in Detroit, New York and LA, but the Chicago Auto Show (CAS), which closed last Sunday, was designed to appeal to consumers. CAS actually is the largest U.S. auto showcase, with over one million square feet stuffed with more than 1,000 vehicles.

The massive McCormick Place made it easy to house Jeep’s Camp Jeep obstacle course as well as a test-track for some of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ hottest wheels. There was also a sizeable amount of space devoted to displaying exotic vehicles from storied brands like Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus and McClaren.

Plunk Coloradans down at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, though, and they would have been likely to gravitate toward the trucks and SUVs. There were several exciting things to look at in this segment.

The redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot, which debuted at CAS, generated maximum buzz. In fact, one media type called it “the most significant car at the show.” The eight-seat SUV lost 300 pounds, gained fuel-efficiency and now has a more rounded silhouette and all of Honda’s latest safety and tech bells and whistles. Its Acura cousin, the RDX crossover, also been updated with new LED head and taillights, a nine-speed gearbox, better fuel efficiency and tons of tech and safety features.

Another attention-attracting SUV was the full-size Mitsubishi Concept GC-PHEV (plug-in hybrid), notable for its angular design. It has both a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 and a 70-kilowatt electric motor, which together generate 335 horsepower with an electric range of 25+ miles.

Chevrolet showed off its updated Equinox SUV with new taillight and rear bumper styling, a seven-inch touchscreen and reworked center stack. Ford’s big debut was the Police Interceptor, available only to law enforcement, but based on its newest civilian Ford Explorer. Ford boasts that it is “a vehicle ready to meet extremely demanding needs.”

Fiat Chrysler’s Ram top-of-the-line Laramie Limited comes with huge gleaming chrome grille and trim and wicked all-black leather interior. It goes on sale later this year with engines ranging from a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel to 5.7 or 6.4-liter Hemis and 6.7-liter turbo-diesel.

The Chevy Colorado GearOn Special Edition, available this spring, should appeal to Colorado’s outdoor enthusiasts. The pickup’s GearOn accessory system facilitates mounting equipment such as bikes, kayaks, paddleboards and even a tent. Most can be attached to upper rails, leaving the truck bed open to hold more stuff. As AutoWeek.com put it, “This truck was made for glamping.” Glamping: “glamorous camping.”

The Kia Trail’ster concept hybrid crossover SUV also was a big draw in Chicago. It kicks the hamster-friendly Kia Soul up a notch with all-wheel drive and a hybrid drivetrain with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a 270-volt electric motor that sends power to the rear wheels. It comes with higher ground clearance, tow hooks and a cloth sunroof with integrated roof rack. There’s no word on whether this concept will ever make it to production.

Even with all the trucks, crossovers and SUVs, there were plenty of cars. Nissan debuted the GT-R LM Nismo concept that earned looks with a cloth drop-top and 350 hp, 3.7-liter engine. Toyota unveiled the 2016 Avalon premium sedan. The engine stays the same but it gets an updated look, two suspension choices and five trim levels. The top trims come with a raft of advanced safety features, including pre-collision system and lane departure warning.

And for folks who think hybrid = slow, a pair of super-fast hybrids: the Porsche 918 Spyder that gets 887 hp combined gas/electric, and the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo 1,250-hp FWD race car that it plans to race at Le Mans.

The Denver Auto Show is scheduled for April 8-12, and like the Chicago Auto Show, it’s a show designed to intrigue and delight consumers. We will have something for every taste – including some of the vehicles we saw in Chicago.

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About timwjackson

Working every day for a better Colorado.
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