Now in its 95th year, the Chicago Auto Show is the nation's longest-running and largest auto show, boasting 840,000 square feet of exhibition space displaying nearly a thousand domestic and imported passenger cars and trucks, sport/utility vehicles, and experimental and concept cars. The event also features numerous accessories and auto-related exhibits, competition vehicles, antiques, and collector cars. Chicago's automotive extravaganza boasted appearances by sports, radio, television, and screen personalities, as well as multiple world and North American automobile introductions. The event holds so many vehicles, it takes a staff of 150 to keep them shiny and fingerprint-free.
Assembled here are some of the highlights of the show, including dozens of new releases and concepts ranging from the high-powered Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG to the sugar-powered Kellogg's Tonymobile, as well as the Chevy Impala SS, Mercury Montego, Mitsubishi Tarmac Spyder, and even a Toyota NASCAR Tundra.
Read the 2004 Chicago Auto Show coverage.
Chevy aspires to continue its truck momentum with the all-new 2005 Chevrolet Equinox, a compact SUV with fresh styling and spacious, flexible interior. On sale in 2004, the Equinox benefits from a Vortec 3.4-liter/185-hp V-6 engine and standard five-speed automatic transmission; buyers may choose between front-wheel or all-wheel-drive models. Ride and handling are enhanced by MacPherson struts up front combined with an independent four-link rear suspension with coil springs. Stopping power is provided by standard vented front disc brakes with dual piston calipers and rear drum brakes, with Bosch ABS system optional. Equinox's functionality is enhanced by flexible seating and abundant storage.
With four decades of Super Sport heritage under its belt, Chevrolet is bringing great performance and design back to its lineup with a new Impala SS, set to debut this summer. Under its sheetmetal is a supercharged, 3.8-liter/240-horsepower V-6 along with a beefed-up four-wheel independent suspension and high-performance speed-rated tires encircling 17-inch diamond-cut cast-aluminum wheels. Chevy promises the Impala SS will returntrue to its legacy as a fun-to-drive midsize sport sedan that provides performance for enthusiasts with room for five, plenty of cargo space, five-star safety, and plenty of amenities.
Chevrolet's mission remains unchanged: offer an affordable, midsize alternative to import sedans. Built on GM's new Epsilon platform (shared with Saab 9-3), the all-new Chevy Malibu makes significant advances over the current model with bold styling, increased creature comforts, and additional refinement. To appeal to consumers of all sizes, the Malibu driver's seat configuration allows flexible adjustments to seat height, steering wheel tilt/telescope, and pedal placement. The five-seat midsize sedan will be offered in three trim levels, with both cloth and leather interiors. Powertrains include a choice between a 2.2-liter/140-horsepower I-4 or a 3.4-liter/200-horsepower V-6 engines. Produced in Kansas, this American sedan will go on sale third quarter 2003.
A contemporary interpretation of the legendary SS formula, the 2004 Monte Carlo offeris enhanced power and responsive handing, thanks to a 240-horsepower 3800 Series II V-6 engine with 90-cubic-inch supercharger, sport-tuned four-wheel independent suspension, and high-performance wheels and tires. Monte Carlo Supercharged SS benefits from MacPherson struts at all four corners, variable-rate power rack-and-pinion steering, electronic traction control, and large-diameter four-wheel disc power-assisted braking with ABS. The Supercharged SS also will feature a race-inspired spoiler, bright stainless steel dual exhaust tips, fog lamps, a six-gauge cluster including boost gauge, and "Supercharged SS" exterior and interior badging when it goes on sale this summer.
Mercury's all-new 2004 Monterey minivan goes on sale in the fall of 2003, providing interior luxury, design, and functionality generally reserved for a luxury sedan. Based on the same platform as the Ford Windstar, the all-new Mercury Monterey will feature heated and cooled front seats, fold-into-the-floor third-row seats, abundant safety technologies, and innovative Mercury features such as forward and reverse sonar parking sensors. Power comes from a 4.2-liter/200-horse V-6 mated to a fast-acting hydraulic automatic transmission, while stopping comes via front and rear vented disc brakes with standard ABS.
Fresh off its world debut in Detroit, BMW's versatile xActivity concept is a "frame-structure convertible" that combines an open-air driving experience with the strength and function of a sports activity vehicle. The xActivity is powered by BMW's 3.0-liter/225 inline six-cylinder engine linked to a manual tranny, and rides on 18-inch wheels wrapped in 245/45 tires at the front, 275/40 at the rear. The exterior features high-gloss color-changing "Bronze Moss" surfaces combined with matte-finished elements, while the sporty interior mixes natural cowhide with flexible, water-resistant materials and seat covers made of neoprene for practical functionality. Finally, an unconventional loading system partially ejects the cargo when the tailgate is opened to assist unloading.
A modern interpretation of Chevrolet's Super Sport heritage, the Chevy SS concept is an example of what happens when a contemporary four-door family sedan turns into a sporty performance car. A dynamic design, rear-wheel drive, all-aluminum 6.0-liter/430-horsepower V-8 engine, high-performance suspension, and six-piston brakes all combine to build an SS musclecar concept destined to please enthusiasts of any generation. Its independent suspension features driver-adjustable shock damping, and some models will boast GM's Displacement on Demand technology, which shuts down half of the cylinders during most driving conditions for better fuel economy and reactivates them for more demanding conditions.
What's the lightest possible vessel for the Viper engine? How about a four-wheel motorcycle made of billet aluminum? Power-to-weight ratio, along with shock factor serve as the impetus for this concept. Dodge's "bold-faced slap against mediocrity" features a 500-hp, 505 cu. in. Viper V-10, a two-speed gearbox, and four tires. We don't think it's going to corner so well, but Dodge estimates a 0-60 mph time of 2.5 sec. and a "potential" top speed of up to 400 mph (for anyone who wants to test it). It's no wonder the Tomahawk requires 20-inch perimeter-mounted, drilled and machined stainless steel brake rotors in each wheel!
Infiniti's dramatic Triant concept is seem again here in Chicago following its world debut in Detroit. The luxurious sports coupe concept features a long, elegant hood, sharply sloped windshield and hatchback, and oversize wheelwells stuffed with large wheels and tires. Wide, power-assisted gullwing doors grant access to the 2+2 cabin, with an innovative sliding rear seatback that can nearly double the cargo area. High-tech headlights "guide" the light beam around turns with the aid of digital mapping data and GPS technology, while inside voice-based controls operate some cockpit features such as phone, navigation, and audio systems.
The Messenger concept car represents the first expression of Mercury's new design DNA with a clean, technical appearance that begins to establish the look of Mercury products still to come. The long hood houses a powerful all-aluminum 4.6-liter modular V-8 engine paired to a six-speed sequential gearbox. The energetic stance and supple appearance of the Messenger are enhanced by 20-inch front and 19-inch rear turbine-spoked wheels wrapped in Goodyear rubber. Audiophiles will appreciate its THX-certified digital CD/Radio Hi-fi system.
We found this flame-enhanced Mini Cooper at the show promoting an upcoming episode of Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage." In the television program, a new Mini is transformed into a larger-than-life, 300-horsepower snowmobile. A team of five guest fabricators spent five days and less than $3000 creating the custom snowmobile by adding skis under the front end and a pair of deeply grooved traction belts under the rear wheels to grip the snow and ice. The Mini goes head-to-head with a Polaris snowmobile driven by Richard Petty when it premieres on Monster Garage on Monday, February 24, from 8-9 p.m. (ET/PT) on the Discovery Channel. The encore episode airs Saturday, March 1 from 7-8 p.m. (ET/PT)
Chevrolet will expand its range to compete in the entry-level market with the Aveo in fall 2003, competing against the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Toyota Echo. The Aveo is the first fruit from the General Motors acquisition of Daewoo's automotive arm to be integrated into a GM brand product line. The South Korean-built car was penned by Italdesign, and it will be offered in four-door and five-door configurations. Power for the thrifty machines comes from a 1.6-liter inline four producing 105 horsepower. Already on sale in Korea, the Aveo will be in the $9500-$13,000 range when it goes on sale in the States.
Toyota announced plans to expand its involvement in NASCAR beyond the Goody's Dash series to include a bold effort in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004. Supplying a six truck field, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) will design, develop, and build a pushrod, cabureted V-8. These 358-cubic-inch engines will produce 650 horsepower, which party-crashing Toyota hopes will be enough to propel the full-size truck into victory lane. The Tundra NASCAR trucks will make their speedway debut next year in Daytona.
With the updated Lancer product line now spanning up to the approximately $29,000 Evolution, Mitsubishi will fill the gap between the O-Z Rally model and the turbocharged flagship with the new-for-2004 Lancer Ralliart. Dipping onto its corporate heritage and parts bin, Mitsubishi is using its inhouse performance arm to push the Lancer into sporty territory. Priced under $18,000, the Lancer Ralliart will boast 160 horsepower (up 30 hp from base), sport-tuned suspension, improved brakes, body kit, Evolution bucket seats, and Ralliart interior trim pieces. This feisty model will be on sale fall 2003. In addition, Rallisport components will be offered through dealers, allowing enhancements eventually for the full portfolio of Mitsu vehicles.
GMC continues its tradition of professional-grade trucks by introducing the all-new Canyon midsize pickup to the lineup. Destined for production by year-end, Canyon offers a choice of two Vortec engines, the standard 2.8-liter/175-hp Vortec inline four-cylinder or an optional 3.5-liter/220-hp inline five-cylinder powerplant, linked to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Space and function options are many, as the truck is available with two- or four-wheel-drive; regular, extended, or crew cab configurations; and with a choice of heavy-duty or offroad suspension. Canyon's 6-foot cargo box (5-foot cargo box on crew cabs) also features two-tier loading and a locking tailgate.
When it emerged at the recent SEMA show, the Trailblazer was among the first products to showcase Chevy's new family of SS vehicles. Rounding out a full Super Sport collection, the Trailblazer offers muscle truck performance in a sporty package. Lower ride height, 20-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in Goodyear rubber, four-piston brake calipers add handling to the power offered by its 6-liter/245-hp Vortec V-8 engine and heavy-duty transmission. The SS package is completed by special badging, new front and rear fascias, and tinted crystal-look taillamps outside, and leather interior with SS-specific instrument panel and drilled aluminum pedals inside.
A powerful name from Mercury's past, the Montego, will return next year as a contemporary sedan, one of the four all-new Mercurys to be introduced over the next three years. The upscale Montego flaunts elegant modern lines with a distinctive "waterfall" grille flanked by high-intensity discharge headlamps. Interior details include a two-tone instrument panel accented by a satin aluminum steering wheel, and soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. Underhood, the 3.0-liter V-6 Duratec engine mates to a choice of two transmissions, including a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that provides smoother operation and improved fuel economy.
First seen in Detroit, Ford's Freestyle FX concept crossover vehicle claims to be like no other vehicle, conceptualized as an all-things-to-all-people, no-excuses concept version of the production Ford Freestyle, scheduled to arrive in 2004. The fact is, it's built from the Volvo V70 platform with a flexible configuration that allows it to be transformed from a six-passenger sportwagon to either a four-passenger sedan or a four-passenger truck-like vehicle with a cargo bed. The collective result is a sporty, tough design sure to draw second looks from passersby. Go-power is provided by a 3.0-liter Duratec V-6 engine linked to a new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and it rides on 20-inch aluminum wheels shod with Goodyear run-flat tires.
Inspired by the well-received Mitsubishi CZ-3 Tarmac sports hatch concept that appeared at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show (but was never seen in North America), the Tarmac Spyder concept is aimed at young, spirited consumers who are enthusiastic about cars and passionate about cutting-edge style. Under its bulging sheetmetal lies a 2.0-liter/300-hp turbocharged and intercooled engine linked to a five-speed Sportronic transmission. Removing the detachable hardtop reveals a futuristic 2+2 interior furnished in metallic surfaces and rich red leather. Color DVD flat-screen displays link to a high-power audio system and a side-mirror video camera allows passengers to view their favorite run around the track as if they were living in a racing videogame. Mitsubishi claims its compelling Tarmac Spyder provides a real look at the future of things to come.
The Titan King Cab is built on an all-new truck platform and also features Nissan's newly designed Endurance 5.6-liter DOHC V-8 that makes more than 300 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a standard five-speed automatic transmission it's got a towing capacity of up to 9400 pounds, and will be available in two- and four-wheel drive with standard power-assisted rack and pinion steering, along with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS. Rear doors open nearly 180 degrees to allow easy access to a roomy interior boasting power-adjustable front seats with available driver's seat memory system, heated front seats, and flip-up rear seat. Production is scheduled to begin this summer.
As if the long-awaited Cayenne wasn't hot enough, Porsche has released a spicier turbo-powered version, too. Under the hood of this Porsche pepper reside eight cylinders working with two intercooled turbochargers to make 450 horsepower, allowing 0-62 mph sprints in 5.6 seconds and a top test-track speed of 165 mph. To showcase the new SUV and to benefit The Hope Foundation, a leading cancer research organization, Porsche used the Chicago Auto Show to promote its 2003 Cayenne Crossing Drive for Hope, an event that connects with Porsche's "Cayenne Crossing" initiative launched at last year's Chicago show. Beginning May 5, 2003, three Cayenne turbos will embark on a cross-country journey on behalf of The Hope Foundation. The cars and drivers will visit the restored trailways created through the Cayenne Crossing Initiative and test the performance of Porsche's first SUV both on and off highway.
Subaru's popular Forester SUV gets a boost with a new higher-performance 210-horsepower turbocharged and intercooled 2.5-liter boxer engine. Due to arrive in showrooms this summer, the Forester 2.5 XT brings sporty performance to the small-SUV segment, and features four-wheel independent suspension, variable-ratio power rack-and-pinion steering, and 16-inch six-spoke alloy wheels and tires. Buyers may choose between a standard five-speed manual transmission and an optional new four-speed Direct Controlled Electronic Automatic Transmission. Typical of Subaru models, the Forester is equipped with standard full-time All-Wheel Drive, as well as four-wheel disc brakes and a sophisticated four-channel / four-sensor Anti-lock Brake System.
Significantly larger than the current Tundra Regular and Access Cab configurations, Toyota's new 230-inch-long Tundra Double Cab makes its world premier in Chicago promising exceptional utility and more comfort. Its bed is nearly a foot longer than the current Super Crew model, and a full four inches has enlarged its depth as well. The Tundra Double Cab also offers the segment's first vertical power-sliding full-rear window. Combine that with fully retractable power windows on all four doors and an optional power sliding moonroof, and the Tundra Double Cab offer passengers such a wide-open feeling of space and roominess it may as well be a convertible.
Pushing the performance boundaries, Mercedes-Benz unleashed the supercharged E55 AMG in Chicago. One of the highest performance sedans the world has ever seen, the E55 boasts 469 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Think about it: more power than a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 or last year's Dodge Viper. Oh, baby. The handbuilt engine features a Lysholm-type, belt-driving supercharger peaking at 11.6 psi and maximized by an intercooler. The resulting power can propel the E55 0-60 mph in a claimed 4.5 seconds and reach a 155-mph top speed. The torque is managed by a five-speed automatic transmission programmed with sport-minded SpeedShift for quick gear changes, handled automatically or controlled manually via steering-wheel mounted buttons. Complete AMG treatment upgrades the brakes, suspension, wheels, exterior, and interior. And don't forget that engine.... The E55 goes on sale in May 2003 at $76,000.
Celebrating the Rabbit-based hot hatch that fueled a sport compact phenomenom, Volkswagen will build 4000 commemorative 20th Anniversary Edition GTIs, each featuring a 1.8-liter/180-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine matched with a six-speed manual transmission. The chassis is fortified with a lowered, sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels wearing Z-rated rubber, and four-wheel disc brakes with distinct red calipers. Exterior aero enhancements and special red badging further distinguish this special model. Inside, this GTI features Recaro bucket seats with embroidered logos, striped seatbelts, "golf ball" shift knob, perforated leather and aluminum trim, and a production number plaque. The 20th Anniversary car goes on sale in the spring for $23,225.
With rumors swirling of a next-generation RL featuring a strong hybrid IMA powerplant, anticipation was high for Chicago. Turns out, the RL lives on in current form with minor updates. Big news was the RL becomes the first luxury sedan to offer both a navigation system and XM Satellite radio as standard equipment. The downside is, the RL remains the weakest powered luxury contender with a 225-horsepower V-6 and four-speed transmission in a V-8, five-speed segment. The new voice-recognition nav system features 130 verbal commands, new graphics, database with seven million points of interest, and a seven-inch monitor. The XM radio works with a 10-speaker Bose system with a six-disc CD changer. Other interior enhancements for 2004 include a redesigned center console and steering wheel, along with fresh brushed metal and wood trim accents.
The German automaker gets an early jump on the 2004 model year with the introduction of its bread-and-butter 3 Series coupe and convertible. The front end has been revised with a wider kidney grille, modified hood, tighter front apron, and new headlights. More than cosmetics, these high-tech lamps can now follow the road directed by data from steering angle and direction, road speed, and yaw rates. At the rear, the taillamps feature adaptive braking light technology enabling the intensity to reflect the braking input. Full-on emergency braking will have the taillamps illuminated as brightly as the dedicated brake lights. The coupes and convertibles will now come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, and the six-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox offered on the M3 will be optional when the cars go on sale in April.
Suzuki's $90 million investment in GMDAT, the new General Motors and Daewoo automotive venture, has returned immediate dividends with two sedans that will play a key role in tripling American Suzuki's sales by 2007. Designed by Pininfarina, the Forenza will overlap the more daring Aerio products as a more traditional economy vehicle. Expected to be priced in the $12,000 to $15,000 range, the Forenza will compete with the Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, and Toyota Corolla. Its edge will be value, with standard equipment including eight-speaker stereo with CD and cassette players, integrated audio controls on steering wheel, and four-wheel disc brakes. To find its position in the Suzuki line, the Aerio will be billed as the sporty range, with the 2.0-liter/119-horsepower Forenza being the mainstream choice.
Penned by Italdesign, the Verona pushes Suzuki into new territory with a midsize sedan that targets autodom's biggest sellers, the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. Wider than the Altima and Camry, the Verona has passenger space bragging rights over its competitors in several categories. The Verona will face off against the entry-level, four-cylinder models with a small-displacement V-6. The 2.5-liter aluminum DOHC engine produces a modest 155 horsepower and it is packaged with a four-speed automatic transmission. No manual trans will be offered. While it may not out-muscle the big dogs, the numbers the Verona will truly compete on include dollar signs, with the price range expected to be $16,000 to $19,000.
Volvo treats it flagship 2004 S80 sedan to a several mid-cycle updates. Most obvious, the exterior has been freshened with a restyled front fascia, grille, door mirrors, side molding, deck lid, and smaller taillamps with LED brake lights. Inside, the S80 benefits from redesigned door panels, instrument panel, interior trim, and optional three-spoke steering wheel. Also, the S80 will be offered with Active On-Demand AWD system borrowed from the S60, promising improved foul-weather performance and road stability. Essentially, the S80 will remain a front-drive vehicle until traction loss has the system route up to 65 percent of the power near instantly to the rear wheels. The S80 borrows the active Four-C suspension from the S60 R, providing the driver with Sport and Comfort settings, while working as a sophisticated load leveling system, as well.
Following the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile's greasy tracks, cereal giant Kellogg's has created its own PR-stunt vehicle showcasing its most recognizable characters. A less integrated design than the segment-leading Weinermobile, the 23-foot Tonymobile is essentially a hot-rodded flat-bed truck piled 13-feet high with charaters. The company claims the 285-horsepower Tonymobile will Snap-Crackle-Pop from 0-60 mph quicker than a bowl of sugar-covered corn flakes saturates in a bowl of whole milk. The Tonymobile will follow its nose across the country, promoting the Kellogg's products and brands with appearances, contests, and even merchandise. For more information on when the 9500-lb commercial will be breakfasting near you, visit: tonymobile.com.