Dispatches from Chicago

The Best New Cars at North America’s Largest Auto Show

February 12, 2018 Cars By Photo by Andrew Connor

Compared to other North American auto shows — specifically those in LA, New York and Detroit — Chicago often gets pushed to the wayside, disregarded as a show almost strictly for trucks and crossovers. Critics aren’t exactly wrong: high-flying concepts, the latest in luxury and beautiful exotics are mostly reserved for other shows. However, Chicago is North America’s largest auto show (at least in terms of square feet) — which means that despite its diminished status amongst other shows it’s still a place to find some new releases that are total gems. Not to mention a vintage car or two.

New Cars

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Toyota refreshed its entire TRD Pro lineup (which includes the 4Runner, Tundra and Tacoma) with new shocks and suspension upgrades. But it’s the latter that has us most excited — how many pickup trucks come straight from the factory with a dust-defying snorkel?

Volkswagen Arteon

Volkswagen debuted the US-Spec Arteon (which will replace the Passat CC) and revealed it’ll be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder churning out 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Given that and the car’s crisp, unfussy lines, we expect this to be one hell of an entry-level luxury sedan.

Ford Transit Connect Wagon

Yes, a van is one of the best releases from Chicago. If you have a large family, the long-wheelbase Transit Connect Wagon will seat seven in comfort, pack nearly 20 cubic feet of cargo and still return a solid 30 miles per gallon (on the highway) is you spec the diesel engine, according to Ford. Practically speaking, it makes a lot more sense than the ubiquitous three-row crossover.

Mopar-Tuned Dodge Durango SRT

Okay, so if a diesel van isn’t your family’s speed, how about this: a three-row SUV with a 475-horsepower Hemi underhood. The Durango SRT debuted at Chicago a year earlier, but this year the brand revealed a number of Mopar upgrades that can be fitted, including upgraded exhaust, lower suspension and — most importantly — racing stripes.

Subaru 50th Anniversary Editions

It was 50 years ago that Subaru first came to the US, and the brand is celebrating with a series of limited edition cars that encompass the whole lineup. Each gets a coat of exclusive Heritage Blue paint, unique wheel designs and other details exclusive to each model. While automotive limited editions can be a mixed bag, the BRZ (250 cars being made) and WRX STi (only 200 being made) could garner interest from future collectors.

Hyundai i30N

Hyundai’s big reveal at Chicago was the new Sonata Hybrid — which is neat. But probably the more interesting of its announcements is its new i30N race car for the Pirelli World Challenge. The hatchback racer was on display near the Veloster N that dropped back in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, clearly signaling Hyundai’s intentions to bring its N performance brand mainstream here in the US.

Lexus LC500 “Structural Blue”

Technically this car was revealed at the end of 2017, but this was our first chance to see how blue the paint on Lexus’s Structural Blue LC500 really was. Given that it took the company 15 years to fully develop it, we’re happy to confirm this car is Eiffel 65-level blue.

Blasts From the Past

Vintage Toyota Trophy Truck

Occasionally, carmakers will bring a vintage car to compliment a new release, but Toyota’s classic, yellow-orange-and-red-liveried Trophy Truck was the clear winner in that department.

1973 Ford Mustang Convertible

Conversely, there didn’t seem much rhyme or reason for Ford to bring this ’73 Mustang convertible other than to ogle the final year of the first generation ‘Stang. Not that we’re complaining.

Chevy Bel Air Chicago Police Car

There’s an obvious joke to be made here about cop engines, cop tires, etc. But we’ll point out this is a Chevy Bel Air — the Bluesmobile was a Dodge Monaco. Still, the cigarette lighter probably works in this one…

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