This year, Chicago is getting is getting a lot of attention. Normally in the shadow of the much bigger and more internationally relevant Detroit auto show (oops, I mean the North American International Auto Show), the Chicago show has long been where U.S. manufacturers and imports alike have debuted their more-mainstream, more-midwest, more-truck-focused offerings. This year is no different. Half a dozen truck makers have held back something special for the Chicago show, and we think a lot of people are going to like what they see. Big names like Hummer and Porsche will be showing vehicles to the public for the first time, while a few others (can you say GMC and Suzuki?) have huge surprises up their sleeves, ready to show vehicles that will stop people in their tracks.

GMC is hoping to reveal a piece of the future of the pickup truck, while Suzuki starts their journey down a path that is likely to include several pickup iterations over the next seven years. Additionally, International Navistar, a hometown favorite, always seems to have something to make the crowd gawk with wide-open mouths. Finally, others will use this show to make announcements we knew were coming, but will still provide some clever problem-solving choices to the work-truck mindedness in us all. Look for GMC to announce a new 2-Mode offering, as well as Ford to blast from the mega horns that they have the highest towing and payload capacities in the segment. Look for all this and more in our full coverage to follow, and don't be surprised if we have to come back with a few updates, even after we.


Vehicles:

2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle
2008 Ford F-650 XUV by Alton Truck Company
2008 GMC Denali XT Concept
2008 Chrome Shop Mafia Ford F-650 Super Duty
2008 Lexus RX350 Pebble Beach Edition
2008 Toyota 4Runner Urban Runner
2009 Chevrolet HHR E85 FlexFuel
2009 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ
2009 HUMMER H3T
2009 Suzuki Equator
2009 Ford Edge sport
2009 Ford Transit Connect
2009 GMC Sierra Hybrid
2009 Volkswagen Routan
International Lonestar


2008 GMC Denali XT Concept

The Denali XT has a unibody architecture and is rear-wheel drive but falls into the Sport-Utility Truck (SUT) category, meaning it straddles the lines between a traditional SUV and pickup truck. Think a flatter, more nimble Honda Ridgeline or Explorer Sport Trac. Denali XT's new, more efficient 4.9L version of GM's small-block V-8 features fuel-saving technologies such as direct-injection technology and Active Fuel Management.The new engine is matched with GM's unique two-mode hybrid propulsion system, giving the SUT good overall fuel economy, which includes an all-electric drive at low speeds. With its unibody structure, the Denali XT is lighter than conventional body-on-frame trucks, with better ride-and-handling characteristics. Likewise, the Denali XT is filled with technologies and features that maximize its flexibility, including a cargo space-enhancing Midgate(r) and height-adjustable suspension. The Denali XT's proportions are framed around a high cowl and 123.4-inch (3,134 mm) wheelbase.

VIDEO:

2008 Chicago: GMC Denali XT Concept Overview Video









2009 Chevrolet Traverse LTZ

Powering the fourth member of GM's Lambda family, the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse, will be by a direct-injected, 286 horsepower 3.6-liter DOHC V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and will be offered with both front- and all-wheel drive. Towing capacity is said to be 4,500 lbs -- respectable for an SUV of its size. In the styling department, GM has taken key elements from its redesigned Malibu right down to the "bold" front end appearance which reflects Chevrolet's current design philosophy. Short overhangs and taut body lines make the Traverse appear smaller than it actually is, while its uni-body construction allows for larger, single-piece body panels and more precise panel fit with tighter tolerances.








2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle



2009 Chevrolet HHR E85 FlexFuel

The 2009 Chevrolet HHR small SUV will become the first four-cylinder model in General Motors Corp.'s North American lineup that can run on either gasoline or E85 ethanol. The HHR will become the latest Chevrolet FlexFuel model when it goes on sale later this year. Chevrolet has more than 2 million of GM's more than 2.5 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road. An HHR running on E85 - a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline - would emit up to 23 percent fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than if running on gasoline, based on a well-to-wheel analysis by the Argonne National Laboratory.

The HHR will be available with an Ecotec 2.2-liter or Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, both of which will be compatible with E85. For the first time, the Ecotec 2.2L is equipped with variable valve timing (VVT), technology that assures precise opening and closing of the valves and accurate control of combustion gases to improve engine performance and efficiency. The Ecotec 2.4L continues to offer VVT.




2009 HUMMER H3T

The production H3T will come with the same tiedown system and bedliner style as found in the new full-size GM pickups, and for those who like to carry ATVs and other loads, the bed measures 48 inches between the wheelwells. It also has top-access bedrail cargo bins on each side for added storage and a bed extender to accommodate longer cargo needs. The trucks we're driving are equipped with the Adventure option package, which includes 33-inch Bridgestone Dueler A/Ts and an electric-locking front differential-both of which are invaluable on this trail.

VIDEO:


2008 Chicago: 2009 Hummer H3T Overview Video









2009 Suzuki Equator

Suzuki's new Equator pickup is based on the Nissan Frontier and will be built at the same factory. Essentially a rebodied version of that pickup truck, the Equator will be available in either Extended Cab or Crew Cab body syles and gets a choice of either the Frontier's 2.5-liter four or 4.0-liter V-6. The eye-catching RMZ-4 Concept version of the Equator looks to the aftermarket for a bit of street cred, and shows that its Nissan underpinnings should open a number of doors for customization. Expect to see the Equator hit showrooms in late 2008.










2009 Ford Edge sport

When we mention factory-customized vehicles, it's usually Scion we're talking about. Not the case here. Ford has brought a factory-customized 2009 Ford Edge Sport to the Chicago Auto Show, that will enter production alongside the standard SE, SEL, and Limited models.

Featuring a lot more show than go, the Edge Sport retains the same 265 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 as its siblings, but features 20- or 22-inch wheels, an eight-piece body kit, special interior trim, unique exterior colors, and of course, "Sport" badging. Ford obviously recognizes the crossover customization market is hot and this might be a good way to cash in.







2009 Ford Transit Connect

With fuel prices squeezing small businesses, Ford reckons the time might be right to pry light-delivery customers out of their big, heavy V-6 or V-8 powered E-series vans and minivans, in favor of something smaller and more efficient. Enter the Transit Connect, one of those small vanlets you may have seen while vacationing in Europe with a tall box grafted onto a carlike front clip.

Ford's is built in Kocaeli, Turkey alongside its full-size Transit big brother, and available with several engine choices, among which we'll only get a 2.0-liter gasoline offering bolted to a four-speed automatic driving the front wheels. That combo is good for a 19-mpg city/24-mpg highway rating, but there's plenty of room for future fuel-economy improvements with added ratios or a diesel.








2009 GMC Sierra Hybrid

The 2009 GMC Sierra is the latest member of GM's stable to receive the two-mode hybrid system. Like in the Powered by the same 6.0-liter V-8 and two-mode transmission as the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid that was unveilved in November at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Sierra Hybrid is also capable of electric-only operation at speeds of up to 30 mph and has a cruising range of over 500 miles. Overall fuel economy improvement is said to be 25% over the gasoline-only model. Available only as a crew cab with either 2WD or 4WD, the 2009 GMC Sierra Hybrid goes on sale in the 4th quarter of this year.

VIDEO:


2008 Chicago: 2009 GMC Sierra Hybrid Overview Video







2009 Volkswagen Routan

After a multiyear hiatus, Volkswagen is back in the van game with its all-new Routan seven-passenger minivan -- a vehicle the value-conscious German automaker has based around European standards in design, handling, and build-quality.

The result is all very German Town & Country, which shouldn't be surprising, considering the Routan also is based on Chrysler's premier people-mover. In fact, the VW Routan will even be built at the same Windsor, Ontario, plant as its Chrysler cousins. Not to say, of course, that Volkswagen hasn't done its best to add some Wolfsburgesque touches to the quintessential American minivan. The front end of the Routan is unmistakably VW, with a grille and front fascia that could come from no other automotive family. Other distinctly Volkswagen elements include the headlamps, taillamps, and side mirrors. Mask up the front and remove a few lights, however, and what you're left with -- at least on the outside -- is pure T&C.







International Lonestar

International unveiled its new tractor at the Chicago Auto Show with all the pomp and circumstance that new, heart-of-the-market automobiles used to enjoy. The new LoneStar's impressive presence owes much of its charisma to the 1930s-era styling cues of the early C-, and later, D-series International trucks. But the old-school theme stops there. Both Day Cabs and Sleepers sport interiors as modern and inviting as a brand-new den. Over-the-road just became a lot closer to home.








2008 Toyota 4Runner Urban Runner package

Toyota has released a new trim package for the 2008 Toyota 4Runner at the 2008 Chicago Auto Show, aimed at adding style and luxury to its popular mid-size SUV. The Urban Runner package, as it is called, features numerous exterior enhancements, including 18-inch six-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, a unique rear spoiler, body-color front grille, special Urban Runner badging, XREAS Sport Enhanced Suspension badging, chrome exhaust tips, and black-painted tubular side steps and roof rack.



2008 Lexus RX350 Pebble Beach Edition

The RX 350 Pebble Beach Edition will be available in three colors: Classic Silver Metallic, Obsidian Black and Truffle Mica. Truffle Mica is available on the RX only with this special edition package. The RX will feature new and unique design 18-inch wheels and chrome grille, a color-keyed rear spoiler and a special interior trim combination. Customized floormats, featuring Pebble Beach Company's signature The Lone CypressTM logo, are included. On the exterior of the RX, Pebble Beach Edition badging will be on the front fenders. The RX 350 Pebble Beach Edition is offered in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive and marks the first Lexus special edition model built in North America at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the RX Pebble Beach Edition package is $3,880. The base MSRP of the front-wheel drive RX 350 is $37,500 and $38,900 for the all-wheel drive model.



2008 Chrome Shop Mafia Ford F-650 Super Duty

CMT's very own Chrome Shop Mafia, from the hit show "Trick My Truck," had a fully customized F-650 on display. Little is known about the truck itself. Neither the CSM nor Ford media site has any information regarding it. CSM does have a rendering of the heavy-duty Crew Cab truck with a teaser line, "coming soon." Well, it's here and I can't tell you a whole lot. What I can tell you is it features a custom three-tone paint job, leather seats, custom overhead console with video/DVD player, a custom hood, and backup cameras.





2008 Ford F-650 XUV by Alton Truck Company

Another show-stopper is this Ford F-650 XUV just sitting on the carpet outside the Ford area from Alton Truck Company. They call it their XUV (Xtreme Utility Vehicle) and say they sell about 10 or 12 a year, and their most famous purchaser was Shaq (now on the Phoenix Suns). The modified regular cab has a 158-inch wheelbase, a 25,999-pound GVWR, and used a 7.2-liter C7 ACERT torque monster under the hood. And don't forget about the 42-inch plasma TV screen in the rear, with a custom sound system for those outdoor tailgating parties. The Chassis from Ford will set you back about $65K, but the rest of the custom mods will just about double that price. Still, it's a heck of a lot more impressive than a Bentley GT, and they'll only carry two people.