The formula for success at an auto show is the same as at the new-car dealership: Pack a room with a variety of new products loaded with creature comforts, plus the latest and greatest electronic gadgets that operate at the touch of a button or the sound of a voice, and people will flock through the doors.
The Chicago Auto Show offers a host of new products available or on the way soon. Though high-mileage and high-performance models are on display, muscle is most prominent because, as those in the industry are quick to point out, until someone mandates an end to excitement, sportiness and above-average performance are what always have and always will attract consumers.
Here are some of the exciting vehicles scheduled to appear at the Chicago Auto Show, which is open to the public Saturday through Feb. 17 at McCormick Place. The hope is that they will entice consumers to reach for their checkbooks.
Several less costly, more fuel-efficient cars are at the show, but it’s a safe bet more people will pause to gawk at the Z06 than at all the economy cars on display combined.
With a 6.2-liter, 625-horsepower supercharged V-8 teamed with a seven-speed manual or new eight-speed automatic, this is the more potent offshoot of the 450-horsepower Corvette Stingray.
Wider tires and wider stance are designed for optimum performance handling, as is a new competition bucket seat with large side bolsters for more lateral support during aggressive motoring.
Redesigned and re-engineered, the best-selling vehicle in the industry during the past 32 years went on an aluminum diet to shed 700 pounds in order to boost mileage.
Body panels are now aluminum, which, historically, has cost more than steel, though no word yet on price — either to buy or repair.
Engines (all with six-speed automatics) include a new 2.7-liter twin turbo EcoBoost V-6 with automatic stop/start at idle, 3.5-liter normally aspirated and 3.5-liter twin turbo EcoBoost V-6s, and a 5-liter V-8. The 6.2-liter V-8 is gone. EcoBoost engine grille shutters close at cruising speeds to reduce drag and boost mileage.
Neat features include 360-degree exterior cameras to help navigate narrow roads or off-road trails; integrated cargo bed loading ramps; cargo box brackets/cleats to secure storage bins; remote tailgate lock/unlock/release using the key fob; and power outlets to charge tools on-site or while driving. On sale in fall.
Kia Soul EV
Add another battery-powered, no-gas entry due out after its Chicago Auto Show debut. Kia claims up to 120 miles driving range before the need for a five-hour battery recharge using a 240-volt outlet or about 25 minutes using a fast charger.
Being eco-friendly, the Soul EV uses interior components and trim incorporating recycled materials, such as plastic and fabric. It will be powered by a 190-horsepower lithium-ion battery pack, with estimated 0-to-60-mph acceleration in about 12 seconds and a top speed of 80 to 90 mph.
No word on pricing. There is speculation the car will roll out in battery-friendly, warm-weather climes first.
After the near-luxury, $35,000 front-wheel-drive Cadenza comes a high-luxury $50,000 rear-wheel-drive K900 flagship this spring. It will share platforms with the Hyundai Equus from Kia’s partner.
Power comes from a 3.8-liter, 311-horsepower V-6 or a 5-liter, 420-horsepower V-8 with eight-speed automatic. Why a $50,000 luxury flagship? To keep consumers in the Kia family — when age and income levels demand a boatload of luxury pampering — from wandering over to Lexus, Infiniti or Acura.
Neat touches include heated (and cooled) leather seats and heated steering column to keep fingers and tush toasty; heated (but not ventilated) power reclining rear seats; sunroof; and lane departure and blind spot warning systems.