Highlights from the floor of the 2019 Chicago Auto Show
It's a big year for the Chicago Auto Show, with more new vehicles unveiled than we've seen in some time, including the 2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD, the new Subaru Legacy and the 30th Anniversary edition of the MX-5 Miata. Here's a look at the highlights from one of the largest automotive show floors in the US.
Acura took the opportunity to unveil a special anniversary edition of the NSX supercar featuring a trim package that references the game-changing car's past. On hand to unveil it was the lead designer for the current-generation NSX and an automotive journalist who was on the first track drive program for the original NSX that debuted 35 years ago.
The display showcases the first build (above left) alongside the new-generation Acura NSX, both in the signature red paint Acura's sports cars are known for. The original NSX was redesigned at the last minute to incorporate the then-new V-Tech engine, which produced more power but was larger than the original engine planned for the car. The new NSX had a similar thing happen when designers realized that a larger bay would be required to incorporate the NSX's electronic controls for its hybrid system.
Alfa unveiled a new 4C Spider Italia, a special edition of the little Alfa Romeo 4C, of which only 15 will be made exclusively for North America. The special edition includes exclusive paint, badging, and tweaks. Also on hand is Alfa's new Sauber Formula 1 racer (above), marking Alfa Romeo's return to the sport after an absence of three decades.
Heavy duty offerings abound of late, and Chevrolet made sure to keep itself in the game by placing the Silverado HD pickups front and center at its booth in Chicago. Sure the Camaros and Corvettes are the eye-grabbers, but the big pickups are bread and butter for General Motors.
And then there's the Chevrolet Lego Silverado display(above), complete with a work station where kids (or kids at heart) can make their own smaller version of the truck.
This is a unique year for Chrysler, an automotive marque with only two vehicles for sale. One of those is the Pacifica minivan, which continues 35 years of minivan success for the company. To celebrate, Chrysler pulled a heritage first-generation 1984 Plymouth Voyager minivan – complete with faux wood siding and shag-like interior upholstery – out of the museum and dusted it off. It sits next to a current-generation Chrysler Pacifica on the show floor to highlight just how far minivans have come.
Not surprisingly the Pacifica is seeing record sales, proving that people movers are becoming sexy again.
Unveiled just before the show was Ford's unveiled its new F-Series Super Duty line of pickup trucks just before the show and Chicago 2019 marks the first time those trucks have been shown publicly. Also unveiled was a collaborative F-150 pickup that continues Ford's partnership with Harley Davidson motorcycles. The sound of the special edition pickup is amazingly similar to the signature Harley rumble thanks to changes to the Ford's exhaust system.
Ford also revealed new Yakima accessories for the 2020 Ford Explorer unveiled earlier this year in Detroit. Explorer models decked out with bike racks, roof racks, bike racks on roofs, and more were on hand to show off the possibilities.
There isn't anything new from Jeep at the Chicago Auto Show, but the Jeep Experience is going strong and the brand is more than happy to spotlight its new Gladiator pickup truck for all to see. The Gladiator got the Mopar treatment at Detroit, showing off what the accessory brand can do to kit out this Wrangler-pickup hybrid that's been all the talk of late.
There are also plenty of aftermarket dealers on hand to show what inventive ideas Jeep enthusiasts can add to their rigs. Lift kits and bead lock wheels are standard fare, of course, but what about custom replacement doors, paint-dipped wheels, and hammocks slung from the roll bars? Yep, those are some of what's out there, proving why the Wrangler is the most-accessorized vehicle in production.
Kia seems to have grown tired of being the quiet Korean automaker that specializes in mainstream parking lot fare. The brand is taking full advantage of the buzz it generated from the Telluride crossover-SUV debut earlier this year with a Kia Telluride concept prominent on the floor in Chicago.
The much-talked-about Stinger sports sedan dallies in the premium market as an upscale go-getter, and Kia brought along an all things carbon fiber Stinger model that debuted at SEMA to make the point.
Quietly making an entrance at the Chicago Auto Show this year was the 2020 Kia Sportage, marking some light changes for the crossover for the coming model year.
Land Rover is using the Chicago Auto Show to spearhead its new Evoque, which was unveiled last November and now has pricing and options to match. The 2020 Evoque is promised with a 48-volt mild hybrid option, which will be offered only in the R-Dynamics trim, now priced at US$47,595 (without the mild hybrid).
It seems the late 1980s was a great time in the modern automotive era, because 2018 marks the anniversary of a lot of great things. This includes the 30th anniversary of Mazda's MX-5 Miata sports car. To celebrate, Mazda unveiled a coupe and convertible version of an Anniversary Edition bedecked in special edition bright orange paint. Also on hand were examples of the newly-restored Miatas from the restoration arm at Mazda's heritage museum.
Nissan has been unusually quiet about its auto show presence this year, but didn't disappoint when it came to new unveils. Foregoing the usual one-off "winter mobiles" that the company has made for the past several years, Nissan decided to unveil real models meant for consumers this time around.
A new Rock Creek version of the Pathfinder crossover-SUV (above) was shown, all bedecked in beautiful green paint and adding value to the lineup for the Pathfinder with a lot of amenities for half the price of à la carte.
Also unveiled was the 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport, which is restyled to set itself apart from its larger (and largely unrelated) namesake, the Rogue. The Rogue Sport (or Qashqai, if you aren't in the US) is a global design that shrinks Nissan into a smaller category. We liked it when we drove it and think the differentiation in style is a good move for Nissan.
Ram decided to make a big deal of the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, debuting the all-new Ram Heavy Duty chassis cab variants of the Ram HD trucks unveiled in Detroit. These are the commercial "make it what you want" options for Ram buyers, but Ram also included a surprise luxury chassis cab made for specialized haulers who want to maximize comfort as well.
Also unveiled in Chicago was the new multifunction tailgate for the Ram 1500 series. The tailgate, which we covered in more detail here, opens in a split to either side and folds down like a standard tailgate. A new bumper-mounted step aids getting into the pickup's cargo bed and the whole thing can be used with a trailer attached – a clear response to GMC's MultiPro tailgate option for the Sierra.
Unexpectedly, Subaru chose the Chicago show to unveil a brand new Legacy. The 2020 Subaru Legacy is completely revamped, though its exterior styling might not make that obvious. Understated in Subaru fashion, the new Legacy has more interior room, a huge tablet-sized touchscreen option, and the same turbocharged goodness found in the big Ascent three-row crossover.
While the Supra definitely stole the show in Detroit this year, Toyota wasn't done when it came to Chicago. The company unveiled not one but three new Toyota Racing Development (TRD) upgrades in the Windy City. The biggest news of those three was the all-new RAV4 TRD Off-Road, but there was also a new Sequoia TRD Pro edition and a few upgrades for the Tacoma pickup truck, especially for its TRD options.
Also being shown is a new Land Cruiser heritage model that takes a nostalgic look back at the legendary off-roader's past.
As usual there is a lot to see (and do) at the Chicago Auto Show this year. Upfitters, suspension droppers, outfitters, and kit sellers abound. So do offbeat offerings like hybrid police cars, three-wheeled homebrew kits and handmade getabouts. There's also several ride-and-drive and ride-along options from various carmakers, including a Jeep and a Land Rover off-road experience, and a Ram Truck high-elevation ramp. Simulators for racing, building, or even crashing cars are also on the floor, plus plenty of attractions for the kids.
The 2019 Chicago Auto Show runs until February 18 at McCormick Place. If you can't get there, check out more photos in our gallery or see detailed coverage of cars mentioned above here.