Friday, February 12, 2016

The 10 Cars You Must See from the 2016 Chicago Auto Show

February in Chicago isn’t exactly a vacation, between the whipping wind, subfreezing temperatures, and oppressively filling and delicious hot dogs. The Chicago auto show, on the other hand, represents a respite from the rest of the annual show circuit, hosting as it does few major debuts despite the excellent venue in the lakefront McCormick Place. We dig it, because covering the show doesn’t require running around like our hair’s on fire in Detroit, Geneva, Frankfurt, Las Vegas—or pretty much everywhere else. And things are even better for consumers, for whom the show’s 60,000 square feet of floor space affords automakers room to park multiple variants of every single model they sell.---This year, however, the show perked up slightly, with notable new-car reveals that included a pair of high-performance Camaros, Kia’s first-ever dedicated hybrid model, and an awesome Toyota Tacoma. While this list might seem like it includes every debut from the show, we assure you that it only includes most of the debuts from the show. But it’s all the stuff you need to see, presented in no particular order. Enjoy!Muscle- and pony-car fans will always opt for the V-8, no matter the other choices available to them. Internet commenters and hacks will scoff at the idea that a V-6—or, worse, a turbocharged four-cylinder—could even be considered fun. Whatever. We think that the more sporting, rear-drive coupes that exist in this world, the better, no matter what they have under the hood. And outside of objective measurements like zero-to-60 times or quarter-mile sprints, the fun gap between (increasingly better) smaller engines and the still-stonking bigger engines in cars like the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro is shrinking. Consider that gap even tighter with the introduction of Chevrolet’s latest 1LE track package for the Camaro.Reintroduced on the previous-generation (fifth-generation) Camaro after more than a decade away, the 1LE package incorporates a track-ready suspension setup, wider wheels and sticky summer tires, mild aerodynamic add-ons, and extra cooling for the engine and driveline. Previously, it was offered only on the V-8–powered SS model. The new 1LE package has been democratized, for it will be an option on V-6 Camaros, too. (Will the upcoming turbo-four-powered Camaro also be let into the Hall of 1LE? We’re told Chevy is considering the idea.) While this technically means there are two 1LE kits, one for the V-8 and one for the V-6, both are similarly tuned to deliver serious on-track performance for not a lot of money. READ MORE >>In updating the three-row Santa Fe for 2017, Hyundai has made the likable crossover a numbers machine. Two, four, six, seven, and four—these numbers refer to the Santa Fe’s expanded choices this year, including two- or four-wheel drive, six- or seven-seat configurations, and four distinct trim levels. Last year, Santa Fe buyers faced only two trim levels, one with six seats and the other with seven. Order-sheet complexity aside, Hyundai also has enhanced its already competent Santa Fe with typical mid-cycle updates like freshened styling to more onboard technology.As before, the Santa Fe’s trim levels bear some connection to the number of seats a buyer can expect. Previously, seven-seat Santa Fes came in “SE” guise, with six-seaters (which swap the SE’s three-across bench for a pair of second-row captain’s chairs) arriving in “Limited” form. (Hyundai sells the similar-looking and shorter-wheelbase Santa Fe Sport with only two rows of seats to cover that market segment.) For 2017, those tenets hold, only with a twist: in addition to SE and Limited trims, there are new SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate specs. Essentially, the new higher-zoot Ultimate versions of the SE and Limited come standard with items previously offered in an “Ultimate” option package. READ MORE >>The Kia Optima is already a pretty satisfying and stylish ride, one that’s offered with a variety of powertrains, most notably a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. With sprightly performance and a remarkable 39-mpg highway fuel-economy rating from the EPA, that model knocks on the door of the 2016 Optima hybrid’s 40-mpg highway number—and does so without the drivability issues we noted with the latter car. For 2017, then, Kia is introducing an improved Optima hybrid that is expected to put a little more space between the new hybrid and the 1.6-liter model in terms of fuel efficiency. And if that’s not efficient enough, Kia also is adding a new plug-in-hybrid model to take on the Ford Fusion Energi and the Chevrolet Volt.The Optima hybrid’s powertrain improvements start with the replacement of the previous hybrid model’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 2.0-liter direct-injected inline-four with 154 horsepower. It’s mated to a 51-hp electric motor for total system output of 193 horsepower at 6000 rpm. While that’s down by six ponies compared with its predecessor, far more important to hybrid buyers is that fuel economy is expected to rise by 10 percent, which should put its EPA combined number somewhere in the low-40-mpg range. Meanwhile, the six-speed automatic transmission is now water-cooled and the oil pump is now electric, helping to optimize engine efficiency by 20 percent, according to Kia. We’re hoping that the previous model’s drivability issues will be solved, as well, something we won’t know until we get a chance to drive the car later this year. READ MORE >>Jointly designed at Kia’s styling centers in Irvine, California, and Namyang, Korea, the Niro HUV (Hybrid Utility Vehicle) is the first car in the brand’s portfolio to make use of its “all-new, dedicated eco-car platform.” Falling approximately into the subcompact-crossover segment size-wise, the somewhat boldly designed Niro is the latest step in the maker’s quest to nearly triple its global lineup of green cars by 2020. It's also Kia's first dedicated hybrid and will aim to lure Toyota Prius shoppers to the Kia fold.Specifically engineered to house a new gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, the platform underpinning the Niro consists of 53-percent high-strength steel, including reinforcements in the A- and B-pillars and roof rails. Even with its relatively wide and low proportions, large wheel arches, rocker cladding, roof rails, and rear skid plate, the Niro still manages to earn a slippery 0.29 coefficient of drag, says Kia. The firm is targeting a combined EPA fuel-efficiency rating of 50 mpg. READ MORE >>European-style vans like the Ford Transit and the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter are practical and efficient, but it’s hard to think of them as really cool. Mercedes appears out to change that with the Sprinter Extreme, which turns its workingman’s van into a he-man’s dump truck.Unveiled at the Chicago auto show, the Sprinter Extreme was constructed with the help of none other than Renntech, the venerable tuning company founded by Hartmut Feyhl of 1980s AMG fame. READ MORE >>Nissan just redesigned its massive Titan pickup for 2016, and so logic would have it that anything based on the Titan—e.g., the Armada SUV—might also get redesigned, adopting the Titan’s new underpinnings, powertrains, and so forth. In this case, logic would be half right: The 12-year-old Armada did just get redesigned. But this time around, it’s not based on the Titan—it’s gone on Patrol, literally. The Armada is now based on the global Patrol SUV, which we get as the current Infiniti QX80 but have never been offered with Nissan badges. That said, we’ve always loved driving a Patrol when we got the chance, say, while tackling sand dunes in the Middle East or slogging through African rainforests.Basing the new Armada on the Patrol means its wheelbase has shrunk by 2.1 inches to 121.1, while length actually grows by 1.2 to 208.9. Width is up 0.6 inch, and the new Armada is 2.2 inches lower than before. The chassis is considerably different, too, with the frame-rail width increased from 2.4 to 3.9 inches in certain areas and the whole thing riding on a four-corner control-arm suspension. The new body boasts a 20-percent increase in torsional rigidity, according to Nissan, as well as acoustic glass on the windshield and front side windows. As before, the Armada will seat eight as standard, with a 60/40-split third-row seat that folds flat into the floor. READ MORE >>During the summer of 1984, Huey Lewis and the News’s landmark Sports album was everywhere. That year also happened to be the dawn of the Minivan Era. In retrospect, the small van’s absolute reign as family hauler was short, as by the mid-’90s, families with two or fewer children were buying Ford Explorers to haul their broods. Which brought us to today’s Crossover Epoch, where the Hyundai Santa Fe is available for seven-passenger duty, while those with a smaller brood can opt for this freshly updated two-row Santa Fe Sport.Featuring a revised front fascia that looks a mite more Tucsonian and a reworked rear with new taillights and exhaust outlets, the Santa Fe Sport also wears fresh silver accents on its new rocker panels and newly available LED DRLs. Most of that can be coated in a freshly available Nightfall Blue paint job, if you’d like. Hyundai is also offering updated 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheel designs. READ MORE >>Everybody knows that crossovers are kinda wimpy compromises that offer a carlike ride and a trucklike ride height. Americans, however, don’t see themselves as wimpy people. We are, after all, a nation of rugged individualists, shopping at Target, eating at Applebee’s, and digging that subversive Macklemore cat. But sometimes, the trek to Bennigan’s gets a little more hairball than one might like. With that in mind, Nissan has unleashed this trio of Winter Warrior concepts.For this year’s Chicago auto show, Nissan took a Rogue, a Murano, and a Pathfinder; wrapped them in chrome-red vinyl; hogged out the fender wells a bit; and affixed Dominator tracks from American Track Truck. The units themselves are 48 inches long, 30 inches high, and 15 inches wide, offering an increase in ground clearance, as well as giving Nissan’s CUVs significantly less ground pressure than they’d have with silly ol’ pedestrian wheels. Which means they can traverse the gnarest of powder without getting stuck. The tracked-CUV thing has become a trend for Nissan of late, as it previously showed off a Juke NISMO RS and another Rogue so equipped. READ MORE >>As truck names go, “Power Wagon” is just about perfect. Just saying it conjures visions of manly men doing manly things with chainsaws, possibly in the woods, and certainly while wearing flannel shirts. Whereas the very capable Ford Raptor is focused on performing YouTube-worthy feats of high-speed derring-do, the Ram Power Wagon has long been a hard-core beast for people with things to do and stuff to haul in some of the most rugged terrain extant. To tarnish this storied legacy would be unfortunate. Thankfully the folks at Ram agree, as the updated-for-2017 Power Wagon hit the stage at the Chicago auto show prepped to continue its reign of heavy-duty off-road prowess.Looks aren’t everything, and that’s good because the 2017 Power Wagon, which is based on the Ram 2500 HD Crew Cab, has adopted a version of the plastic-fantastic blacked-out fascia that debuted on the 2015 Ram Rebel. The hood gets a gloss-black graphic, and Ram dipped into the design of Power Wagons past and surfaced with an optional aft-of-the-cab thick vertical stripe and lettering treatment of the type that was so popular in the 1970s. Order your Power Wagon in Bright White, Flame Red, Bright Silver, Blue Streak, or Granite Crystal, and you’ll get gloss-black graphics; opt for a black Power Wagon, and you’ll get bright silver graphics. Additional touches include a large “RAM” logo and “Power Wagon” decal on the tailgate, plus black bezels for the taillamps. The front and rear bumpers get the powder-coat treatment, and, just as with the previous Power Wagon, a 12,000-pound Warn winch sits poised for action behind the front bumper. New for 2017 are 17-inch forged-aluminum wheels with matte-black centers, wrapped with 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires. READ MORE >>Given Toyota’s performance heritage and existing lineup of all-terrain-themed models, its introduction of a hard-core version of the new Tacoma pickup is hardly surprising. Yet here it is in the form of the 2017 TRD Pro, which goes on sale later this year as the successor to a similar model based on the last-generation Tacoma.As with that previous Taco special, as well as the current 4Runner and Tundra TRD Pro models, this new truck represents a concerted effort to ratchet up the truck’s off-road capability. But don’t be fooled. While it does deliver on its mission, the TRD makeover is less comprehensive—albeit less expensive—than the one applied by Ford to create the beastly F-150 Raptor. READ MORE >>
from Car and Driver Blog

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