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Auto Show:  2011 Chicago Auto Show

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January 2011 author photo


January 31, 2011

High heels not recommended: especially not for the guys. Seriously, the Chicago Auto Show prides itself on being the biggest such event in North America, because it covers 1.3 million square feet and around 1,000 cars are exhibited. So, a pair of comfortable walking shoes are the order of the day.

Not only does the Windy City play host to a humungous display area (big enough to house the world’s largest indoor test track on several occasions), it is also the oldest car show in the United States. The first one took place in 1901, just after the horseless carriage had been invented. By 2008, it had been staged 100 times, the first auto show anywhere to have reached that number. It typically sees one million visitors a year, so car makers realize Chicago’s importance.

This year in the Windy City, Acura will be debuting the 2012 TL, a revised version of this mid-size premium sport sedan. The company hasn’t said much in advance, apart from describing the new car as “aggressive, yet refined.”

Audi is doing its best to reduce its carbon footprint, not only with its cars (like those powered by the clean diesel TDI engine or the electric E-tron models), but it is also doing away with paper brochures. Visitors to the Chicago show can have virtual Audi brochures sent to their smart phones. “Audi has always sought to deliver a superior experience through superior technology,” said Scott Keogh, chief marketing officer for Audi of America.

Under the General Motors umbrella, Buick has promised “some technology news.” Chevrolet, meanwhile, also has some “exciting news” concerning the Camaro, and a “Living With The Volt” indoor test track, with simulated home and work charging stations. Product specialists familiar with Chevy’s headline-grabbing plug-in hybrid will be available to answer questions.

Mercedes-Benz is unveiling its 2012 SLK roadster. This is an all-new generation of the ever-popular two-seater with the clever folding hard top. This model sports a fresh design and plenty of techy features, such as its “Magic Sky Control.” This is a glass panel in the roof that can either block or let in light at the touch of a button: an electrical signal actually alters its molecular structure.

There’s a chance to win a new 2011 Toyota Prius. The Chicagoland Toyota Dealers (a conglomeration of 30 local Toyota franchises) are running this show. Entrants must become a fan of the CTD’s Facebook page. Ten semi-finalists will all assemble on the last day of the show (February 20), where they will each be given an envelope. The one that contains a picture of a Prius is the winner. For more information, go to

A “Prius Zone” also features heavily in Toyota’s 2011 Chicago display. The company is promising the largest stand it has ever built for an auto show in the United States, at 45,070 square feet.

And to demonstrate that car shows are not all about expensive dream cars, weird concepts or unobtainable classics, Nissan is introducing its NV commercial vehicle. This is the first full-size van produced by a Japanese company for the North American market.

AutoTrader is welcoming Chicago Bulls and NBA legend B.J. Armstrong to its stand, as well as possibly the most enjoyable way to research a new car purchase. This is AutoTrader’s “Driver’s Choice” video game where players drive a virtual vehicle through all sorts of stages. The player with the most points at show’s end wins an Apple iPad.

The 2011 Chicago Auto Show runs from Friday, February 11 through to Saturday, February 19. Tuesday the 15th is Women’s Day, with a lower admission fee of $7 (as opposed to the usual $11), and what the show’s organizers call “special women-oriented programs” covering the purchase, lease and maintenance of their new rides. Friday the 18th is Telemundo Hispanic Day (more info is available on And Wednesday the 16th through to Friday the 18th is dedicated to a food drive for the A Safe Haven Foundation. Bring three cans of food and receive a coupon for a $7 admission.

If you’re a car nut, Chicago in February is your kind of town.


McCormick Place
2301 South Martin Luther King Drive
Chicago, Illinois, 60616

Get directions to the show

Public Show hours:

            Friday, February 11 to Saturday, February 19: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

            Sunday, Feb. 20: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

For more information, visit


            Adults: $11

            Children (7-12): $7

            Children (6 and under): Free when accompanied by a paying adult

            Seniors (62+): $7

            School & group discounts available

Buy tickets online and avoid the lines. Advance tickets may be purchased at There is no service fee and online ticket purchases are good for any public day.

For more information about the show, visit the official Chicago Auto Show website.

author photoCOLIN RYAN has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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