The Chicago Auto Show, now in its 99th year, bills itself as the largest auto show in North America, and as we all know, size does indeed matter. But while it may be the largest, the second whistle stop on the annual international auto show tour doesn't usually pack all that show floor space with a glut of spanking new world premieres.
That's not to say there isn't anything hot set to spin at the ginormous McCormick Place on Chi-town's famed Lake Shore Drive. The biggest blockbuster of a debut blowing into the Windy City this year is Pontiac's latest thunder from Down Under, the Pontiac G8. Based on the new Holden Commodore from General Motors' Australian subsidiary, the G8 is one mean looking machine which should help revive Pontiac's tarnished image as a performance division. GM is also bringing its new Saturn (Opel) Astra and two cool special edition Corvettes to the party.
Lots of reskinned trucks and SUVs will be rolling out to the floor, including a trio of updated Nissans, the freshened Toyota Highlander and a dolled-up Dodge Dakota. More refreshed faces will adorn Ford's Mercury Montego and the Freestyle. Also on the stand will be two Scions, the next xB and an all-new model, the xD, and knowing those wacky kids at Scion, they won't be mistaken for anything else.
We'll be rushing around McCormick Place's humongous halls to bring you all the latest and greatest as it happens.
2008 Dodge Dakota
Dodge fans who like the front end of the Nitro are in luck. A version of that chiseled, squared-off nose has made its way onto the Dakota for 2008. While it's a good look for the refreshed pickup, the Dakota SUV improves the look with chrome headlight surrounds. (As if there wasn't enough chrome available on the old Dakota.) Some might think this truck looks better with the base, body-color grille. If that doesn't pique your interest, consider this--the new 4.7-liter V-8 puts out 60 more horsepower (now up to 290) and 10 percent more torque than the previous High Output 4.7, and Dodge claims it'll have better fuel economy, too. (They didn't give us EPA city/highway estimates yet, so we have to take Dodge's word for it.) So, we ask the question Dodge must be asking as well: will these updates get people to buy midsize trucks again?
2008 Ford Taurus X
Ford's latest bold move its version of the rename game, what was Five Hundred is now Taurus and the vehicle formerly known as Freestyle is now Taurus X. The 2008 Ford Taurus, set to hit showrooms this summer, was essentially introduced at the 2007 Detroit show as the refreshed Five Hundred, with a Fusion-like three bar grille, a more powerful V-6 and an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission. The Taurus' new 3.5-liter Duratec V-6 is expected to deliver more than 260 horsepower, (60 more horsepower, a 30 percent increase over the 3.0-liter V-6) and the six-speed automatic transmission delivers up to a seven percent increase in fuel economy over a conventional four-speed auto, Ford says. Five Hundred, er, Taurus, also has a smorgasbord of new and updated safety features. The three row 2008 Taurus X crossover will hit showrooms in late summer with the same powertrain as the Taurus as well as safety upgrades, one-touch flip-and-fold second-row seating and an available power rear liftgate.
2008 Nissan Armada
Like its Titan and Pathfinder cousins, the 2008 Nissan Armada gets some minor exterior updates, including a new front and rear fascias, headlight and fog light treatment and a reworked roof rack. Armada's 5.6-liter V8 is flex-fuel capable and puts out 317 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque with a towing capacity of up to 9,100-lbs. The interior is also reworked, with an optional third row power folding 60/40 seat, a new gated shifter and other updated trim. There are also plenty of technology enhancements, including numerous upgraded sound and entertainment options including available third-row speakers and amplifier.
2008 Nissan Pathfinder
For the first time in its 22-year history, the Nissan Pathfinder finally gets a V-8, a 300-plus horsepower, 300 lb-ft 5.6-liter block that helps push Pathfinder's towing capacity into the 7,000-lb range. The 266-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 is also still available. On the outside, changes for 2008 include a revamped exterior with new 17-inch wheels for the V-6 models and 18-inchers for the V-8s. Inside, the three-row Pathfinder gets a new center stack design, fabrics and materials, Nissan's intelligent Key with twist start and other available goodies including Bluetooth, a DVD entertainment system and a revised nav system featuring a 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive.
2008 Nissan Titan
The 2008 Nissan Titan gets some sorely needed new additions to the lineup, especially with the 800-lb gorilla named Tundra bursting onto the full-size truck scene. There's a Pro-4x model for those looking for more of a sport-themed Titan, along with a long wheelbase version. The Titan also gets a freshened face, new wheels and lip moldings. Inside, you'll find a revised center stack, instrument gauges and new seats with a heated bench seat option. Connectivity-wise, there's available Bluetooth, XM pre-wiring, and an available 8.0-inch DVD screen. Two new exterior colors are also available.
2008 Saturn Vue Green Line
The Green Line is the hybrid version of the Opel Antara-based Vue first seen last November at the Los Angeles Show. The vehicle is powered by an electric generator 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic - the same powertrain found in the upcoming Aura Green Line. Fuel economy numbers weren't given, but gains should be in the 20-25% range.
2008 Saturn Vue Red Line
The 2008 Vue will be the next member of Saturn's performance Red Line lineup. The Vue Red Line will feature a sport-tuned suspension, more aggressive front fascia, 18-inch wheels and Red Line badging. In addition, the vehicle will receive an ebony interior complete with black leather sport seats featuring suede inserts, Red Line logo gauge graphics, and embroidered floor mats.
Power will be supplied by a 3.6-liter V-6 that puts out 250 horsepower 243 lb-ft mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with tap-up/tap-down shifting. Like the regular vehicle, the Vue Red Line will be available in both front-drive and all-wheel drive configurations.
2008 Scion xB and 2008 Scion xD
Toyota launched its Scion division with the 2004 xA and xB, two reconstituted Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) models that resonated with manga-obsessed American youth. The promise was that Toyota would replace the cars with all-new, different models. A third model, the tC coupe, launched for '05, and became its most popular contributor to 170,000-plus annual sales. After four model years, it's time to replace the xA and xB with...cars that look similar to the xA and xB, albeit less JDM. The xA gets a new name, xD. It's based on the Toyota Yaris, and looks ready to take on the Honda Fit, which was imported here mainly to compete with the Scion xA and xB. The xB is much larger and on a new platform, Toyota says.
2008 Toyota Highlander
Toyota dumps the Highlander's box-on-wheels look with the all-new 2008 model, which looks like RAV4's big sibling. The new Highlander is "significantly larger, roomier and more powerful" than the 2002- 2007 model. Available in five- or seven passenger versions, its standard engine is a 270-horsepower/249 pound-foot 3.5-liter V-6 hooked to a five-speed automatic. The 270-horsepower hybrid, introduced at the Chicago auto show, uses a 3.3-liter V-6 and electronic CVT, standard full-time four-wheel drive with intelligence, electronic brake and throttle control, and electronically controlled active steering.
Kia Rondo SX Concept
Kia's Rondo crossover has been sportified by the Korean automaker, with enhancements to the front and rear facias and 18-inch rims among other slick touches that help change the vehicle's character for the better. There's a cold-air intake under the hood and a cat-back exhaust out back to help increase performance. A sport-tuned suspension helps in the handling department, ride height is lowered by some three inches and improved brakes front and back aid stopping power.