2013 Chicago Auto Show

By Staff Contributor.

2013 Chicago Auto Show

The Chicago Auto Show is considered the redheaded stepchild by the automotive press, falling behind the New York, Los Angeles, and – especially – the Detroit Auto Show, which is but a scant few weeks earlier. Many press even abandoned the Windy City show despite it having one of the largest, if the not largest, per square footage showrooms in the states, never mind the world. (Comfortable shoes are a must, whether you’re media or visitor.) This actually works for so-called “lifestyle” reporters like bloggers and social media folks, giving them even more time and room to spend at the debuts. Yes, there were fewer debuts at the Chicago Auto Show compared to the other ones, but both staff and attending automakers rolled out their best. Some of the most buzz-worthy ones this year included:

Chevrolet

The autosphere has known for some time that General Motors planned to roll out a diesel trim of its popular Chevrolet Cruze subcompact sedan. The automaker was tight-lipped on many important features of the Chevy Cruze like pricing, fuel economy, and – of course – engine specs. Making its debut at the Chicago Auto Show, we now know the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is priced just a hair below $26,000, which includes destination / delivery charges. GM hasn’t officially released EPA figures of the diesel Cruze, but we’re hearing 42-mpg highway floating at the show and on-line. What is official is the power train: the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is powered by a four-cylinder diesel engine that generates 148 horsepower and 258 lb – ft of torque coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. Interestingly, a so-called “over boost” function adds over 30 lb – ft of torque for ten seconds. Translation? The Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel moves real, real fast.

The 2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel goes on sale in the second quarter of 2013, most likely in May. It will be sold in select states (to be named later), going on sale to the rest of the nation later in the year. GM is squarely aiming the Chevrolet Cruze diesel at the Volkswagen Jetta TDI; the Auto Comparison team will look forward in comparing these two in the near future.

Toyota

It’s hip to be square. That was the initial reaction to the 2014 Toyota Tundra full-sized pickup truck as it rolled out at the Chicago Auto Show. The world’s number one automaker took ruler, saw, and jackhammer and sharpened – dare we say “masculinized” the flagship truck. Now the Tundra sports a front grille blingy enough to rival a Cadillac Escalade; front bumper long and deep to seat a professional football team; and square wheel wells usually found framing doors that are very large doors. Inside, the Tundra gets a new dash and infotainment design while updating its previous all-that-plastic look of ’07 to today’s more luxury style (for a truck, that is).

Power wise, the 2014 Toyota Tundra continues to be offered with a six-cylinder engine generating 270 horsepower with 278 lb-ft of torque coupled to a five-speed automatic, and two V-8 engines. The 4.8 –liter V-8 provides 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque while the 5.7-liter version ramps up to 380 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque. Both V-8 engines come equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. Those in the know about trucks were disappointed by the news; while the Tundra’s exterior and interior refreshes are nice, competitors are on the move with more powerful and even more fuel-efficient power trains like eight-speed transmissions and turbo charging. Toyota did add more safety features in the Tundra including standard backup cameras and optional blind-spot detectors.

The 2014 Toyota Tundra goes on sale sometime in the third quarter of 2013 (September). Pricing will be announced at that time. Look for AutoComparison.com to drive this behemoth against domestic offerings from Ford (F-Series), Chevrolet/GMC, and (formerly known as Dodge) Ram as well as the Nissan Titan.

Kia

Kia debuted two vehicles at Chicago: the refreshed Kia Forte 5-door (formerly known as a “hatchback”) and the Kia Cross GT concept crossover. The only significant concept vehicle to grace the Chicago Auto Show, the Kia Cross GT concept reveals two things about the Korean automaker: 1) it’s not boring and 2) it’s moving upscale.

The Kia Cross GT concept can be likened to a crossover version of the automaker’s stunning GT Concept coupe, which made its debut at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. We could especially see the ‘semblance in the both concepts long hood, sweptback roof, and – of course – the “tiger nose” grille fronting all Kia production vehicles. The Cross GT concept, obviously, is considerably larger than the coupe concept, and roughly the size of Kia’s full-size Sorento crossover. It’s looks much more aggressive looking than the Sorento, being wider and lower. Some of the more interesting features found on the crossover concept include hexagonal-shaped sunroof and backward-opening (i.e., “suicide”) rear passenger doors.

Kia has been moving upscale in all its vehicles the past few years, and you get a glimpse to just how close it in straddling the premium/luxury market in the Cross GT concept. And green. According to the automaker, it uses recycled walnut and renewable wool felt throughout the concept’s futuristic interior, while the leather seats and wrapped steering wheel are tanned with vegetable oil. The concept is a full hybrid, coupling an electric motor and a 3.8-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine.

Kia continues to be mum about a production version of either the GT Concept coupe or Cross GT concept crossover. We at AutoComparison.com are rooting for both to go into production. We’ve enjoyed our ride-and-drives of current models, and like the automaker’s direction with its concepts.
The rest of the debuts at the Chicago Auto Show featured primarily new trim models for existing models.

Ram

Chrysler created the separate Ram Truck Division back in 2008 shortly after partnering with Italian automaker Fiat. Ram Trucks inherited all the trucks and commercial vehicles from Dodge, and includes the former Dodge Ram 1500, 2500, and 3500 trucks; full-sized cargo vans, and commercial vehicles. Ram expands the latter at the Chicago Auto Show with the debut of the 2014 Ram ProMaster. A full-size van, the ProMaster is effectively the replacement of the Dodge Sprinter, which was discontinued in 2009.

Competitors against the Ram ProMaster include the long-in-tooth Chevrolet Express, newcomer Nissan NV, and enthusiast-fav Ford Transit. We’re still in discussion here at AutoComparison.com about driving and writing up a comparison of these full-sized monsters. What do you think?

Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Beetle GSR is back! The “Yellow Black Racer”, the 1972 VW GSR (which stands for Gelb-Schwarzer Renner) is one of the rarest Beetle models, with only 3,500 built for the German market at the time. VW still only intends to build 3,500 of the 2014 model, which goes on sale worldwide sometime in the third quarter of 2013. Sporting the classic yellow body and black stripping, the 2014 VW Beetle GSR will be powered by a potent 210 horsepower, 2.0 – liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is also available.
The U.S. is expected to get roughly half of the new models. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but expect it in the low to mid $30,000s.

Jeep

Chrysler refreshes several models of its SUV-only brand; specifically, the Jeep Compass, Grand Cherokee, and Patriot. Both the Compass and Patriot lose their Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs), which are replaced by six-speed automatic transmissions. Fuel economy goes for both vehicles while noise level goes down. All Grand Cherokee models look even more bold and aggressive (if that’s even possible) for 2014, and have better fuel economy figures than last year’s model.

Nissan

Nissan unveiled several vehicles at the Chicago Auto Show, new trims to existing vehicles. Nissan provided more details of its NV200 Compact Cargo Van including pricing ($20,835 for the S and $21,825 for the SV trim), standard and optional features, which includes cruise control and navigation. The 2014 Nissan NV200 is expected to go on sale in sometime in April.

The 2014 Nissan JUKE NISMO and 370Z NISMO are sports-tuned versions of the crossover and sports car, respectively. Nissan also unveiled the winner of its “Project 370Z” which it introduced back at the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. 370Z fans customized on-line their dream sports car, which resulted in a 500 horsepower monster.

Finally, the automaker unleashed the 2014 Nissan GT-R Track Edition. Limited to only 150 units, the affectionately named “Godzilla” roars at 545 horsepower and has a sports-tuned suspension and braking system.

The NISMO JUKE is expected to go on sale sometime next month while the NISMO 370Z should be arriving at dealership towards the end of the second quarter at the earliest. The GT-R Track Edition will be available in May.

SRT

Chrysler’s Street & Racing Technology division, which is currently occupied by the lone SRT Viper, finally got some more products. The Core Dodge Challenger is yet another trim to the Dodge Challenger family. Sporting a 6.4-liter V-8, the Core Dodge Challenger is aimed at the pure car enthusiast who just has a need for speed without all the luxury accruements (and price tag) of a pure SRT model. This is also true with the Core 300 SRT where you get the same engine and SRT tags. The Core Dodge Challenger starts around $40,000. The Core Chrysler 300 SRT begins around $45,000.