Chicago 2021: Highlights from the first major US auto show in over a year
It’s been more than a year since a major US automotive show opened to the public. The Chicago Auto Show, running this once as a summertime show, held a press day and then opened to the public for the weekend. The show features several first-time-seen vehicles and an outdoor component.
For this one year, the Chicago show is happening in July. For 2022, it will return to its usual mid-winter schedule. This one time summer show, however, means that a rare outdoor portion is available, including test drives and ride-and-drives for the public. Taking advantage of this, several automakers have test drive booths and vehicles outside of the McCormick Center’s doors. Ford, Kia, Volkswagen and more have all set up shop to offer simulated off-road, on-road, and other experiences for show goers.
On the show floor proper, there are thousands of vehicles on display, including several that haven’t been seen by the public yet. Here's a rundown of the highlights:
New from Ford are several models that have yet to see a public auto show. These include the Maverick pickup truck, a small truck from Ford that takes on the name of a not-really-legendary car of yesteryear. The Maverick is on display alongside the new Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, also making its auto show debut.
Jeep has added a US$3,995 Xtreme Recon Package to the Wrangler models, adding a suspension lift and 35-inch tires. Seeing that this was the most popular upgrade Wrangler buyers would make to their new purchase, Jeep decided to offer this as a factory option. It’s important to note that in order to add the new packaging, other upgrades must also be included, putting that price tag closer to $7,000.
Jeep also unveiled the new Compass and announced pricing for the small SUV. The new design update for the Compass was unveiled a few days before the Chicago Show and the show marks its first public debut in the metal.
The new Jeep Wrangler 4xe also features prominently in the Jeep booth. As do the new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer SUVs. Also returning to the Chicago Auto Show is the Jeep Experience indoor track, featuring all Jeep vehicles doing off-road stunts.
Kia is showcasing several vehicles at the Chicago show, but most prominent in the automaker's booth is the new EV6 electric crossover. The EV6 is Kia's latest and most all-in foray into electric vehicles.
The luxury brand Lexus debuted the all-new NX and IS crossover and car Performance Launch Edition models at the Chicago show. These are firsts for Lexus and the Chicago Auto Show and debut some new paint colors for the brand as well.
At the Chicago Auto Show, Ram did the first public viewing of the new Ram 1500 GT models, sport truck models that fit between the Ram Rebel off-road model and the powerful Ram TRX beast. These trucks are available in a variety of packages and add sporty power to the half-ton Ram along with some unique wheel and paint combinations.
Debuting at the Chicago show are the new Ram BackCountry Edition for the Ram 1500 Big Horn and Lone Star pickups. These add unique two-tone paint combinations, new wheels, and amenities packaging to the Ram pickup lineup.
Ram also has their indoor Track Experience at the Chicago show, which includes towing test and off-road ramps.
Nissan is showing several new vehicles that haven’t made show floors until now. These include the redesigned 2022 Pathfinder (review coming soon), the fully redesigned 2022 Frontier pickup truck, and the Z Proto production concept for the upcoming new Nissan Z sports car. Also on display is Nissan’s new Ariya electric crossover in a beautiful golden-copper color.
The first public viewing of new Toyota products like the Corolla Cross and GR 86 are found in Chicago. The Corolla Cross is a wagon-style crossover version of the Corolla meant to replace the outgoing iA model and entice buyers who want an SUV-like drive feel in a compact Corolla platform. The GR 86 is, of course, the new generation of the Toyobaru sports cars in collaboration with Subaru.
Oddest of all is the Rhombus concept EV, also displayed in Toyota’s booth. Not as boggling are auto show firsts like the Tacoma TRD Pro 3.0, Tacoma Trail Edition, and the 4Runner TRD Sport models.
VW introduced the new Golf GTI and Golf R models for the 2022 model year. These cars are redesigned with new body styles, more engine power, and a powerful new price tag. They keep the manual transmission option as well.
The Chicago Auto Show runs until July 19, 2021.