The doors to the Chicago Auto Show swing open to the public this Saturday, but members of the media got a sneak peek at the new models Thursday. Chicago Auto Show Chairman Colin Wickstrom, Vice Chairman John Hennessy and Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder spoke with ABC7 about what’s new this year.
The first thing you’ll notice at this year’s auto show is the layout is different, making it easier for show goers to shop and compare.
“Sales in the U.S. have increased steadily and 2015 was a record year,” Wiesenfelder said.
With gas prices so low, the biggest trend is the luxury SUV.
“Hyundai spun off its Genesis brand and now it is its own luxury brand, not just the name of some luxury models,” Wiesenfelder said.
Speaking of luxury… there’s Lotus, Lambourghini, McLaren, Bentley and more. This area of the Chicago Auto Show is a high-end car enthusiast’s dream!
“Dawn is a beautiful addition to the Rolls Royce family coming out this year and quite frankly it’s the sexist Rolls Royce we’ve ever made,” said Jerry Spahn, Rolls Royce North America.
Rolls Royce Dawn is a sexy four-seater with a drop top that lowers in 22 seconds while you’re driving up to 30 miles per hour. Depending on your preferences, it’s more than $400,000 – and this year’s Dawn is already sold out.
“The average age of a Rolls Royce owner today is probably around 45 and we expect with Dawn being a more versatile and social car that we’ll have more and more women coming in to the Rolls Royce family,” Spahn said.
And then, there’s the Bugati, priced at $2.6 million. It goes from zero to 60 in fewer than 3 seconds. Auto dealer Joe Perillo said he witnessed a professional driver hit more than 200 mph on a track in Europe.
“First he made a test run and the second time he came back he was doing 250 mph and a shock comes right up and actually blows you over,” Perillo said.
This year’s Bugati is priced at around $3 million.
Among the masses, sub-compact SUVs and crossovers are still very popular. Kia introduced its brand new hybrid crossover, the 2017 Niro, and the newly designed 2017 Chevy Trax makes its debut at the show.
Wiesenfelder introduced the Chrysler Pacifica, the first-ever hybrid minivan with several family-friendly features. He also showcased the Buick Avista, a sleek, sporty concept car that Wiesenfelder said has impressed many people so far.
He also compared the Chevy Volt to the Chevy Bolt, which will be out next year. They’re both electric cars. The Volt can travel more than 50 miles on a charge. When the gas engine kicks in, it can go about 40 miles per gallon. The good news is, it can run on regular fuel instead of premium. But what’s special about the Bolt is that is can travel about 200 miles on a charge. After government credits, the total cost is about $30,000, which is relatively affordable for an electric car that can go that far.
Wickstrom said there were major changes to the layout of the show this year, aimed at enhancing the consumer experience. Many people who are expected to attend this year’s show are looking to buy a car, Wickstrom said, so the floor is set up in a way that makes it easier for people to compare vehicles. There are also fun indoor and outdoor tracks for people to take test drives.
As part of the showroom redesign, the test tracks are now right next to the vehicles, and Toyota has a brand new one with the RAV4. Test tracks are one of the more popular attractions at the show. One takes you from the icy winter roads in Chicago to the hills in San Francisco – and even simulates bumpy pavement that feels like potholes in Chicago.
Concept cars are always a crowd pleaser. Check out the Nissan Winter Warrior that’ll surely get you through a Chicago winter! For eye candy, it’s the Acura Precision concept – in the style of the Acura NSX production – which ranges in price from $156,000-205,000.
Wickstrom also encourages people to attend a gala Friday night, called First Look for Charity. The event raises money for 13 charities and features a raffle with a free car as a prize. To buy tickets, visit www.firstlookforcharity.org.