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Auto Show:  2012 Chicago Auto Show

Ride and Drives: Chicago Auto Show

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author photo by Tom Cassady February 2012
  • Toyota teams with Hasbro games for Monopoly Hybrid Ride Experience
  • Chrysler group has three separate courses
  • Drive experiences span from off-road to hybrid

Interactivity is the name of the game at the Chicago Auto Show, and some automakers are allowing visitors to experience first-hand exactly what vehicles are capable of in real world simulations. For example, “Jeep Mountain” is an 18-foot obstacle in the middle of Jeep’s ride-and-drive course that Grand Cherokee, Wrangler and Liberty models climb every 20 seconds.

Jeep isn’t alone, either. In fact, Chrysler has three courses - one for Jeep, one for Ram and one for the remaining brands under Chrysler’s umbrella. Each course is intended to feature the brand’s strong traits. Jeep, along with the aforementioned Jeep Mountain, also has obstacles for showing off suspension travel, rough road dampening and 35-degree entry and exit angles. The Ram’s course is similar but doesn’t have as steep (30-degree incline) or as tall (12-foot peak) a grade to climb. It also feels more like a construction site than a campground. The remaining three brands keep it pretty tame, with a slow slalom and acceleration to 25 and back to zero.

Just a few booths down, Toyota has a similar setup, with three different hybrid models showing their capabilities through ride-and-drive courses. Designed to show off the park-assist feature in the new Prius, the first course features a parallel parking spot, which the Prius maneuvers itself into with only inputs from the brake pedal to keep it in check. In the middle course, the Highlander Hybrid has a metal hill to climb and descend. And the new Camry gets to show off its back-up monitor and active collision avoidance features by backing adeptly up to a wall. Toyota even teamed up with Hasbro to make its whole drive booth feel like a trip around a Monopoly game board.

What it means to you: If taking a test drive at your local dealership doesn’t fully demonstrate what a car can do (we doubt your dealer has an 18-foot, 35-degree hill available for climbing), the Chicago Auto Show is a good place to experience a vehicle’s capabilities.

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