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2015 Chicago Auto Show Preview

  • Chicago is big enough to take 1,000 vehicles
  • The show is very hands-on
  • Attention will turn to SUVs and trucks

The 2015 Chicago Auto Show comes on the heels of a remarkable Detroit show at the beginning of the year. Motown seemed to burst with confidence as luxury cars and exotic sports machines grabbed all the headlines. It’s a rare occurrence, for instance, when Ford manufactures something like the GT supercar.

But Chicago has always had two things in its favor. The first is the sheer size of the venue, McCormick Place, with the 1 million square feet it enjoys. There’s enough space for whole ranges to be on the stand, allowing for visitors to touch, sit in and scrutinize what might be their next car or, in particular, their next truck or SUV. That’s the second string to Chicago’s bow: This is a place where bigger vehicles can have their time in the spotlight.

Sport, but Mainly Utility

The 2016 Honda Pilot is shaping up to be one of the stars of the Chicago Auto Show when it makes its world debut. This is an all-new generation (the third). It’s an 8-seater that’s been designed, developed and built in the United States. Whereas the previous Pilot was squared-off and chunky, this model is sleeker. But it should still exhibit Honda’s flair for maximizing cabin space while offering plenty of people/cargo combinations when it goes on sale this summer. (Incidentally, Honda has now been building vehicles in the States for 20 years.)

An updated 2016 Acura RDX will also be introduced in Chicago. This premium compact crossover is a 5-seater and receives a mid-generation tweak to its exterior styling, along with some changes to the cabin for a more upscale air. The engine department might see more power, too.

Mitsubishi is coming to the Windy City with what it calls a returning legend, which is some kind of SUV crossover. Educated guesses expect a new generation of the Montero full-size SUV, a vehicle that has fared better in the rest of the world than in the United States, where it was discontinued in 2006.

On the sport front, there’s a rumor that a 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustang Convertible might launch here. A similar rumor concerns an open-topped version of the 2016 Dodge Viper.

One sports car that visitors won’t be able to sit in is the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO Hybrid racer. It’ll stop off in Chicago before taking part in the fabled 24-hour race at Le Mans later in the year.

Kia will bring a new concept to the party: an electric vehicle with all-wheel drive from the company’s design studios in California.

Indoor Tracks and Outdoor Drives

Jeep never disappoints with its simulation of off-road challenges while still being under a roof and protected from Midwest winters. There will probably be logs of various heights to drive over, along with a steep ramp to raise the fear/thrill factor and other tests that help buyers gain a deeper appreciation of Jeep vehicles’ capabilities.

Toyota usually has a setup that resembles a construction site, putting the company’s pickups in an ideal setting. Remember, this is still indoors. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma midsize truck debuted in Detroit this January, so this’ll be another chance to check it out.

Meanwhile, the streets of Chicago play host to driving opportunities from Ford, Kia, Mazda, Scion, Subaru and Toyota. will be covering the 2015 Chicago Auto Show press days on February 12 and 13. The show opens to the public from February 14 to 22. And yes, that 2016 Ford GT supercar is appearing here, too.

What it means to you: For truck buyers, and for those checking out new SUVs and crossovers, Chicago could be the most important show of the year. And there’s always something entertaining for everyone else.

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More about Colin Ryan

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