The Chicago Auto Show is not known for glitzy debuts or glamorous concept car unveilings. Instead, it's a more laid back, informative show with manufacturers and dealerships showing off their latest models for the new model year as well as a glimpse of what's to come. This year's show had a few new things to reveal; but, for the most part, it's all about the everyday bread and butter of the automotive world. Here are some highlights.
Ford Transit Connect Wagon
Unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show, the Ford Transit Connect Wagon is aimed towards an unexpected demographic: baby boomers. Ford was explicit about its aims with the Wagon, which will be offered in both a five-seat and seven-seat design. The company's belief is that the aging set in the US needs a van that is both highly economical and versatile. The Transit Connect Wagon can be towed behind an RV, used to schlep around the grandkids, and make the occasional hardware store run for some lumber.
At least, that's the advertising. Powering the 2019 Ford Transit Connect Wagon is a 1.5-liter turbocharged diesel engine that should return around 30 mpg (7.8 l/100km) on the highway. As much as it tried, Ford could only do so much to pretty up what amounts to a box on wheels. That said, the extreme versatility of the Transit Connect Wagon may find its niche regardless.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid
Hyundai took the opportunity to unveil some non-surprises in the new Sonata Hybrid and Sonata Plug-in Hybrid models, which will enter showrooms later this year. These are electrified sedans which build on the brand's history of hybrids with more efficiency, more driveability, and better daily use comfort. We covered the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid on their debut.
A surprise in the Hyundai booth was the unveiling of its new Pirelli World Challenge in the Americas race car, which will compete in the GT class of the PWC. The car is based on an i 30N TCR, also known as the Elantra GT, as a homologated racer under the Bryan Herta Autosports team's tutelage. Two of the i 30Ns will race in this year's upcoming challenge.
Slingshot Grand Touring
Hearing from manufacturers like Polaris' Slingshot division is an unusual side show for an automotive show like Chicago. The three-wheel maker used the opportunity to showcase its new Grand Touring model as a "luxury autocycle" option for buyers.
"The Grand Touring LE is a fully-loaded, limited-edition model for the driver looking for the latest and greatest in technology, rider comfort and premium styling," said Rachael Elia, brand marketing manager for Slingshot. We'd believe it, given its bold look.
Volkswagen Arteon Flagship Sedan
Also being shown in Chicago is the new VW Arteon, a flagship sedan for the brand. Replacing the CC, the Arteon is a midsize, upscale offering that hit the show with a surprisingly loud response. Unusual for its beauty, the car debuted without a lot of pomp and then began gaining attention once the covers were off and the media saw what was underneath.
The 2019 VW Arteon is coming to showrooms in the United States later this year. Longer and wider than the CC it replaces, the Arteon is built on VW's latest platform and utilizes a well-sized 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
Lifted and Off-Road Kits from Ram, Nissan, and Toyota
Three pickup truck makers unveiled various factory tuner and aftermarket options for their trucks.
Ram's own Mopar is showcasing a host of possibilities for upgrades to the new 2019 Ram 1500, which was shown in Detroit. These include cast aluminum running boards, 18-inch off-road wheels with color-matching beadlock strips, massive 5-inch dual exhaust tips, and Katzkin leather seating. Other options include boat racks, under-bumper steps for bed access, and more. As if the stock Ram 1500 wasn't hardcore enough.
Over at Nissan, pickup trucks have been a serious focus since the debut of the new Titan and Titan XD models a couple of years ago. Now, Nissan offers not only a suite of lift kit options from the dealership (including full warranty coverage) for the Titan XD, but the lifts can be doubled up for a full six inches thanks to approved aftermarket suppliers. Nissan unveiled this with some flair, using snow machines to make it snow on the gathered press corps upon announcing the new options. Off to the side was a Nissan NV van outfitted by an aftermarket supplier as a camper in the Westfalia style. The usual contingent of Nissan Star Wars-themed vehicles were also on display.
Toyota took the opportunity of the Chicago Auto Show to unveil its new TRD Pro lineup of off-road muscle for the Tundra and Tacoma pickups and for the 4Runner SUV. These include lifts, upgraded shock systems, stiffer coil springs, strong underbody protection in the form of skid plates and covers, and exclusive paint offerings.
Concepts and Project Vehicles
Chicago is also well-known for its more personalized appearance of concept vehicles that are often unveiled at other shows and then crowded out by the masses. The more laid back feel of CAS allows a more personal look at these concepts as well as a chance for manufacturers to make one-off fun vehicles just for the heck of it.
Chicago is a fun show and well worth the trip if you're in the area. With show floors covering one full level of the massive McCormick center, CAS2018 covers more real estate than just about any other automotive show in the world. The show is open to the public until February 19.
You can check out more of the vehicles that we saw there, in the gallery.
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