The annual Chicago Auto Show is the most consumer-driven of the automotive spectacles that happen in the United States. Always fun to visit, the CAS also has more floor space and ride-and-drive events included than any other show. This year, along with blacked-out trim packages, famous race cars and new reveals, there was also something for Star Wars and Lego fans.
The 2017 Chicago Auto Show officially opened to the general public on Saturday, February 11. Here's what you can look forward to if you attend CAS this year.
The Chicago show isn't well-known as a big showcase for manufacturer's new wares or concepts. Those are usually left for the Detroit and New York shows and, more and more, the Consumer Electronics Show. Tucked in between these shows, CAS tends towards the consumer rather than the "wow!" Yet there are still some surprises in store.
Notably this year, Nissan unveiled its latest (and last) version of the Titan XD pickup truck that's been trickling out over the past year or so. This one is a king cab configuration, ready for the jobsite or the driveway. With the expected suicide door configuration popular in this cab style, the king cab finishes the gamut of cab options for the Titan, which now span the regular (single), king, and crew (four-door) options. Nissan has finally made the Titan into a complete offering in the full-sized truck market.
Also unveiled were some special Mopar editions of the Dodge Challenger sports coupe. The Challenger is now Dodge's premier sports car and is also the most-modified car by Mopar, the company's tuning arm. Celebrating 80 years of muscle, the special edition Mopar Challenger is a big deal to Dodge.
Mercedes-Benz hit the Chicago Auto Show in force, covering the floor with work vans of all types. Unveiled at the show was a new Metris Mastersolutions Toolbox, a Mercedes van kitted out to look like a giant toolbox for kids. We fully expect to see scale versions of these on a toy store shelf soon.
Nissan has a big presence at this year's Chicago show, not only with pickups but also with new Midnight Editions of its cars ... and more than a hint of Star Wars. Tying in with the Rogue One film, Nissan has no fewer than a half-dozen Star Wars-themed displays and vehicles in Chicago.
Hyundai hit Chicago by showing off a new American version of a European hot hatch. The Elantra GT Sport is an i30 with a boost in power and a name change for the American market.
Toyota rounds-out the Chicago Auto Show unveils, showcasing its latest TRD Sport packaging for several off-road-ready vehicles like the 4Runner and Tundra. Also unveiled is a new model, the RAV4 Adventure, hoping to boost the off-pavement credibility of its best-selling little crossover.
Race cars, sports cars and fast fun
Everyone loves race cars and the Chicago Auto Show has plenty – especially rally and GT cars, which are big draws in the American Midwest. If Tanner Faust is your hero, Volkswagen's got you covered. Prefer the Mini Cup? The famous Lemons car is in the Mazda display.
If you like sports cars with a more road-ready bent, you might want to sneak over to the "Little Italy" section where Maserati and Alfa Romeo stare each other down across the aisle. There are also some cars involved.
Other well-known sports car makers are on hand, of course. Not to mention aftermarket tuners and, a definite favorite, specialty super car sellers with big displays of Lamborghinis and Aston Martins – the bread and butter of any great automotive show.
Ride-along tracks and kids playspaces
The vast amount of space available in the McCormick Center allows for huge ride-along tracks where manufacturer representatives take potential consumers on drives. These are a big part of the show and this year the CAS has at least eight.
In a ride-along, you'll learn about the features of a given vehicle, be taken on extreme showcases of how those work, and more. From shopping carts popping out and causing automatic safety braking to kick in to Jeeps running sideways at 40-degree angles, it's at CAS. If you're more of a performance lover, get into a Challenger or Abarth model and rush the 0-60 line at the FCA Performance booth.
The kids can get in on the action too. To show off the award-winning Chrysler Pacifica and Pacifica Hybrid minivans, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles built a kids area with a ball pit, a Pacifica mini car, tablet-ready coloring stations, and a lot more.
Lego at a car show?
Lego is also part of the action at the Chicago Auto Show. From the giant Lego Batmobile (first shown off at the Detroit show), to a Volkswagen display showcasing the evolution of the VW Bus, Legos seem to be everywhere. We're not complaining.
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