The Chicago auto show may not have the same symbolic importance in the automotive world that Detroit, Los Angeles, Geneva, or Tokyo has, but that doesn't mean it's exactly flyover territory for those who follow the industry. Traditionally, a prime location for truck and SUV debuts, Chicago was upstaged by Detroit this year with the Ford Atlas and the 2014 GM full-size trucks, but there are some interesting appearances here nonetheless. First up is the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster, the latest entry in what's becoming a heatedly contested full-size van market. With an unusual front-drive layout for the segment, the ProMaster's packaging makes a compelling case over the more conventionally configured Ford Transit and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Nissan is also making its move in the commercial market with the U.S. introduction of the compact NV200 van, which has its crosshairs set squarely on the Ford Transit Connect. While Ford has moved the TC upscale for the 2014 model year, the NV200 keeps it simple. We'll see which strategy prevails in the marketplace. Less utilitarian, but no less interesting is the unveiling of the Juke Nismo for the U.S. market, bringing sportier styling and more performance to Nissan's segment-shattering small crossover.
Bill Fay – Toyota Division...
Bill Fay – Toyota Division Group VP & GM, TMS, U.S.A
The 2014 Toyota Tundra also made its debut. Despite fevered speculation about new powertrains and radical changes, the 2014 model represents the Tundra's first major refresh since the latest model's introduction in 2007. In this cutthroat segment, will Toyota's changes be enough?
Finally, Kia pulled the wraps of its Cross GT concept, an upscale, premium rear-/all-wheel-drive crossover signaling in no uncertain terms that the former budget brand is ready to take on all comers from every corner of the globe. Packing a high-tech 400-hp hybrid powertrain and a plush leather-lined cabin, it's unlike any Kia we've seen before.
So come check out Truck Trend's coverage of the 2013 Chicago auto show!
Few brands in recent memory have pushed up-market as relentlessly as Kia. While the 2011 Optima was a huge improvement in style and sophistication over its forgettable predecessor, it was a mere glimpse of what was to come. Now with the Cadenza and Quoris headed towards showrooms, and the 2014 Sorento cresting $40,000 in top trim, Kia is not the least bit shy about positioning itself in higher-priced segments. The Cross GT concept shown at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show is the latest example of the brand's push into the premium realm.
If the Cross GT is a preview of a future model, which Kia is neither officially confirming nor denying, it's no cynical stretched and re-skinned Sorento. Kia is claiming the Cross GT is a close relative to the GT concept sedan shown at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, which means it has a longitudinal drivetrain. Unlike the GT sedan, which used a turbocharged V-6, the Cross GT's drivetrain consists of a naturally aspirated 3.8-liter V-6 paired with an eight-speed automatic and electric motor. The claimed combined output of the system is 400 hp and a stout 500 lb-ft of torque.
"We're taking a holistic approach with the Nismo Juke, " said Simon Sproul, Nissan's Corporate Vice President, Global Marketing Communications at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. That means the Nismo-fied Juke's 100 revised components account for 37 percent more downforce than the garden-variety Juke. On sale in March, enthusiasts can also look forward to a higher-spec Nismo Juke RS in the near future, though Nissan execs were mum on more details.
Nismo’s tuning philosophy is apparent in the 2013 Juke Nismo, which receives a horsepower bump, steering and suspension tweaks, and a sportier exterior look. A turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4 still powers the Juke, but is tuned to 197 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque (up from the standard model’s 188 hp and 177 lb-ft). The Juke Nismo is offered in front- or all-wheel drive, with the six-speed manual transmission again only offered on front-drive models. Opt for all-wheel drive, however, and the Juke gets a Nismo-tuned CVT transmission with paddle shifters. Nismo also tuned the Juke’s suspension and electric power-assisted steering system for better response and roll control.
Changes to the Juke Nismo's exterior include unique front and rear fascias with red stripes on the bumpers, a mesh lower grille with chrome insert, LED accent lights, red-striped Nismo side skirts, body-color fender flares, smoked headlights, Nismo roof spoiler, Nismo badging, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the model gets exclusive Nismo seats with more bolster support, Nismo embroidery, and red stitching, a leather- and Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, and a Nismo badge on the painted center console.
If you hadn't figured it out already, the 2013 Nissan NV200 has one competitor squarely in its sights for the U.S. market: the Ford Transit Connect. But whereas Ford is looking at going after the consumer market with the seven-passenger Transit Connect Wagon, the NV200 looks like it's focused on strictly business, with more basic suspension, powertrain options, and trim than the Ford. Taking center stage at the Chicago show is the cargo version, although a passenger version is definitely coming in the form of New York's "Taxi of Tomorrow." Whether there will be a three-row consumer version for the U.S. is unknown.
The NV200 comes in one length and wheelbase for the U.S. market, which coincidentally, is larger than the overseas version. The U.S. spec NV200 rides on a 115.2-inch wheelbase with a 186.3-inch overall length, making its wheelbase 2.6 inches longer and overall length 7.9 inches longer than those of the overseas model. That puts the NV200 right in-between the two versions of the Transit Connect, but closer to the long-wheelbase model, which has a 120.6-inch wheelbase and a 189.7-inch overall length.
Signaling in no uncertain terms Ram's transition from a model within the Dodge family to a legitimate, stand-alone brand is the new 2014 Ram ProMaster van. The new commercial van, based on the Fiat Ducato, thus becomes the first bespoke product for the brand besides the well-known trucks.
Although the ProMaster certainly shares the majority of its sheetmetal and specifications with its European cousin, some significant changes were made in accommodation to North American tastes and needs. The most significant of these was the addition of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 to the powertrain lineup, giving the van a gasoline engine -- in Europe, Fiat offers the Ducato exclusively with diesel engines. Fear not, one of those diesels is making the trans-Atlantic journey, a 174-hp, 3.0-liter four-cylinder VM Motori turbodiesel mated to a unique single-clutch automated manual transmission codenamed M40.
Toyota confirmed a new Tundra would be appearing at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show just a few weeks ago and although we've reported previously that a new Tundra might be coming in 2014, the flurry of speculation and spyshot activity that surrounds the run-up to a new truck, like the sort that accompanied the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, was conspicuously absent. Now we know why. The 2014 Toyota Tundra, though fairly extensively refreshed, is still the same old Tundra. Many were hoping for or expecting more significant changes in the face of mounting competitive pressure from the domestic entries, but powertrains carryover from the 2013 models, with most of the changes coming in the form of new equipment and trim levels.