2014 Chicago Auto Show Winners and Losers
There weren't many high-profile debuts at this year's Chicago Auto Show , but there was plenty to see. From an upscale yet pint-sized Winnebago to a Stanley Cup champion themed Chevy Camaro, show-goers will find plenty to check out. Among the auto show debuts, our editors graded them on their impact at the show and individual merits.
Kia Niro Concept
In a day and age when true concept cars are few and far between, the Niro (above) is very welcome. I love the outlandish hinged doors, color scheme and wheels, but if you look at some of the design elements, especially in front and back, I can see a future Kia Sportage in a few places.
I'm a fan of small urban runabouts, and this one ticks all my boxes. I especially love the brushed metal upper surfaces, which will, of course, never make it to production. I also see some old Isuzu Vehicross in the overall shape, and that makes me happy, too. I look forward to seeing how this translates into a production car, which it almost certainly will, in some form.
Looking nothing like a traditional weak-styled, pastel-painted hybrid concept, the Kia Niro's aggressive appearance and off-road-ready stance sound promising with the indicated powertrain. The 160-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine powering the front wheels and 45-hp electric motor powering the rear could be an interesting competitor to a Nissan Juke NISMO.
The Niro's lifted stance and compact dimensions look great. Tiny crossovers are showing up everywhere these days, and something like the Niro would fit in well with that trend.
2015 Kia Soul EV
The world needs more electric vehicles, and I like that the Soul EV has range that's comparable to Nissan's Leaf without giving up too much in terms of cargo room from a standard gas-powered Soul. Kia also did a good job with the color combinations and light-hued interior of the cars on the show floor.
I'm not crazy about the two-tone paint job, which to me looks like an arbitrary cut-off line on the D-pillar, but the car overall is really well done. Interior space isn't affected too badly by going electric thanks to the flat battery pack, and the interior's changes really do create a much more upscale feel than I've seen in Souls past. The zero to 60 mph in about 12 seconds is rather tepid, especially compared to the Chevy Spark's numbers, but I still look forward to driving this new EV.
The updated gasoline-powered 2014 Soul is an extremely usable small car with plenty of cargo space. The Soul EV carries over much of the same usability despite losing some cargo space and rear legroom while providing range estimates right there with other similarly sized modern electric vehicles.
Automakers face an extra challenge when launching an existing vehicle with a new powertrain, and Kia addressed it with unique paint colors, wheels and some different trim. The problem is it doesn't work — especially the solid panel where the grille used to be. For an all-new electric car, the range estimates need to leapfrog the competition, but that hasn't happened.
2015 Lincoln Navigator
The Navigator may be a decent, pseudo-luxury giant SUV, but it isn't good enough to convince me to pay good money for it. It's especially hard to give it a vote of confidence when the all-new Cadillac Escalade is mere feet away at the auto show, with interior materials that are worlds away in terms of luxury feel.
Journalists are kvetching that the new Navigator isn't aluminum, doesn't look all that different and will get spanked by the sharp-looking new Cadillac Escalade, and they're frankly right. But the redone Navi does exactly what it needs to do for Lincoln: After years of the same product, it gives current owners something new to trade their old models in on when the current lease is up. With a 75 percent owner loyalty rating, the only people buying new Navis are current owners, so for minimal investment Lincoln gets to keep them around for another 36 months or so.
The 2015 Navigator is improved in the right places. The new EcoBoost V-6 is a proven winner in the Ford F-150, and it should complement the hefty Navigator as well. A tweaked interior is plush and comfortable with a third row that's a breeze to get into after folding the cumbersome second row, and the third row is nearly as comfortable as the second row.
I thought Lincoln was on the right track with its grille styling on the MKC small crossover, but the winged design doesn't translate to the much larger Navigator. Ford's full-size SUVs have offered one of the better driving experiences in the class, but I don't see the updated design drawing-in many new buyers.
2015 Nissan Versa Note SR
I like the regular Versa Note a lot — probably more than most of the other editors. And I don't really mind that this is more of a visual upgrade rather than a performance adjustment. I just don't like the visual changes themselves, especially the wheels and grille treatment. I prefer the standard model.
Lipstick on a pig. Nice lipstick, but still.
The regular Versa Note is so far from being sporty or attractive that it's noteworthy the SR add-ons at least make the hatchback seem like it can be a hot hatch. It's too bad the SR lacks performance hardware to match the sport-themed looks. A retuned suspension or even a manual transmission — gasp — would be welcomed.
I like the visual changes, and the SR model on the show floor looked great in its deep red paint job, but I wish Nissan had attempted some performance modifications. Even a few would have been nice.
2015 Subaru Legacy
If the worst thing you can say about the new Legacy is that it is bland in appearance, I'd like to walk you over to the Honda stand to see the Accord, then to the Toyota stand to see the Camry and then Nissan. You get the idea. What sells the Legacy is the 36 mpg highway and standard all-wheel drive that no other automaker can match in the segment. And hey, the Mazda6 is the best-looking sedan out there and no one is buying it.
The reasons to buy a Legacy haven't changed: cheap access to all-wheel drive, good crash-test ratings, decent reliability and that's it. The car went from Best New Interior of 1998 to Best New Interior of 2003 with the redesign, but it's still not competitive with the best in the segment. Exterior styling went from upright and boring to derivative and boring. Unless you live in snowy climes, there's still no compelling reason to buy a Legacy versus the other boring sedans in this segment.
The new Legacy will blend into any Toyota or Ford dealership, but at least it's not ugly like the previous Legacy. That car was you, gee, el, why — ugly. The silver-painted 2015 Legacy on the show floor lacks the definition I've see in some of Subaru's video footage of the car driving down the road. Or maybe the video shows definition that isn't there in real life. Either way, at least we're not looking at the awkward, old Legacy any longer.
Styling may not be the most important reason people choose midsize family sedans, but it's becoming a more important one as models like the Ford Fusion make waves in the segment. Subaru is a practical brand and the new Legacy has a practical look, but it would have been nice to see the automaker take some risks with the design, because there is reward to be had when done right.
2015 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar
A performance Volvo? Sure, why not. A limited-edition cap of only 120? Why? The upgrades will likely make the well-rounded Volvos unbelievably firm on the road. Maybe we need to just tell folks how incredibly quick the T6 engine is in the cars you can already get at any dealership — at a pretty good price, too.
Ultra-fast, super-powerful sport wagons are cool. The American public doesn't think so, but the Europeans do, and they know a good thing when they see it. All the benefits of a sport sedan with room for more junk in the trunk? Sign me up! Just not in that Blue Man Group blue... I detest that color.
I've never looked at an S60 the way I looked at the S60 and V60 Polestar. The stance, wheels and aero enhancements all look the part of a proper sport sedan. The specs match up, too, with zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, all-wheel drive and 345 hp. I can't wait to see both the sedan and wagon in black.
Volvo has a history of producing performance wagons, and the new V60 Polestar does that tradition proud. I love the look, especially the meaty wheel-and-tire combo, and the car's performance potential looks impressive. For the wagon-averse, there's the S60 Polestar sedan. Nice job, Volvo.
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Where To Find the Concept Cars at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show
Some of the most exciting, intriguing and unique vehicles you'll see at auto shows are, without a doubt, concept cars. However, automakers aren't churning out the wild concepts of old much these days, and you'll have to look hard to find any at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show. We scoured McCormick Place's show floor during the press days, leading up to the public opening on Saturday, and found seven concept cars. Yes, only seven even though there are 41 automotive brands with their own distinct booths.
Here is a list of the seven concepts and where they are located within their various brand booths:
Acura TLX Prototype
Location: It's toward the rear on the left side of the Acura display area.
Cadillac El Miraj Concept
Location: You can't miss it in the Cadillac display area.
Honda FCEV Concept
Location: It's right at the beginning of the Honda display area.
Kia Niro Concept
Location: Check out this aggressive-looking vehicle on Kia's main stage.
Toyota FT-1 Concept
Location: Find it in the center of the Toyota display area.
Toyota i-Road and FV2 Concepts
Location: Head toward the back on the right side of Toyota's display area to find both concepts.
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What You Can't Miss at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show
First, let's start off with what won't be missed — those not coming to town for the 2014 Chicago Auto Show get to skip Chicago's latest bout of wet-blanket weather, a seemingly endless merry-go-round of heavy snow and subzero temps. Those who do brave the elements are in for a treat — several of them, actually. There's plenty to see at this year's show, from hot concepts to significant production vehicles.
The 2014 Chicago Auto Show opens to the public on Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 17 at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive. Be sure to check out the redesigned for 2015 Subaru Legacy and Kia's futuristic hybrid crossover concept, the Niro . Continue below to check out the Cars.com editorial team's list of 2014 Chicago Auto Show must-sees.
Nissan Frontier Diesel
Matt Avery, multimedia editor
"Check out the see-through hood on the Nissan Frontier diesel."
Nissan NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow
Aaron Bragman, Detroit bureau chief
"If you're heading to the Chicago Auto Show, you should check out the Nissan stand and their Taxi of Tomorrow, decked out in Chicago cab colors. You're likely to see these popping up around the city in the not-too-distant future. Based on the company's NV200 van, it's designed specifically to be a taxi — and is a massive improvement over any Crown Vic you've ever been in."
Ford Mustang Dynamometer
Joe Bruzek, road test editor
"Check out the Ford booth to see a current-generation Mustang GT measure rear-wheel horsepower as it runs through the gears (up to 140 miles per hour) on a set of dynamometer rollers. The dyno operator on the floor tells us they're running the dyno once an hour, so stop by the booth and check it out. This isn't the first time Ford has brought its dyno, but it's still a joy to watch and hear."
SRT Viper GT3-R Le Mans
Robby DeGraff, associate editor
"If you're a fan of true, pedal-to-the-metal automotive racing make sure to swing by the SRT exhibit area and see the new SRT Viper GT3-R Le Mans race car, packing monstrous 640 horsepower and insane aerodynamic and track-ready enhancements. Still caked in the dust and dirt from its impressive GT-class third-place win at this year's Rolex 24 (hour) race at the Daytona International Speedway."
Cadillac Elmiraj Concept
Jennifer Geiger, news editor
"It's hard to walk by the Cadillac stand and not do a double-take at the Elmiraj Concept. Although we've seen it at a couple auto shows in the last several months, the stylish coupe continues to turn heads with its long, sloping hood, imposing grille and striking headlights. It should be called the Cadillac Elegance."
Toyota TRD Pro Series and test track
Mike Hanley, research editor
"The Chicago Auto Show has a number of indoor test tracks, but the giant seesaw in Toyota's off-road course sets its track apart. Toyota debuted TRD Pro Series trucks at the show, and you can take a ride in them as they crawl around the course."
2015 Lincoln Navigator
Kelsey Mays, consumer affairs editor
"What not to miss at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show? The 2015 Lincoln Navigator, or specifically its third row. Yes, it's a warmed-over version of a 7-year-old SUV, but it retains a mammoth way-back seat — and that's rare in three-row SUVs no matter how big they are."
Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Series
Eric Rossi, multimedia manager
"You have to see the 4Runner TRD Pro with the same 'TOYOTA' spelled-out grille that my 1989 Toyota truck had."
Chevrolet Stingray Black Widow
Matt Schmitz, news editor
"So it's gimmicky. So it's unapologetic product placement. So you've already seen the latest-generation Corvette. So be it. The Black Widow Stingray from the upcoming 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' is something for non-car-shoppers, movie geeks and anyone else who finds themselves at an auto show but doesn't necessarily share the enthusiasm for cars of the people they're with."
Evan Sears, photo editor
"Get your Tron on."
2015 Lexus RC 350
Dave Thomas, managing editor
"I still think the Toyota FT-1 is what most people want to see at a proper auto show, but the other option is Lexus' new coupe, the RC. I find the red RC 350 on the show floor to be a stunning vehicle. The auto show is where you can just admire a car's visual appeal and not worry about how much it might cost, how confusing the multimedia system might be and how bad the visibility probably is. It's just cool to look at, and that's one big reason to go to an auto show."
2014 Lingenfelter Reaper Package
Mark Williams, Pickuptrucks.com editor
"Check out the Lingenfelter/Southern Comfort Reaper. It's a modified Chevy Silverado 1500 meant to go head to head with Ford's SVT Raptor. Finally, Chevy versus Ford in the desert.
"Also, you have to get to the Toyota off-road park and sit inside one of the new TRD Pro Series vehicles. You climb a mountain, ford a lake, crawl onto a massive teeter-totter and navigate a few nasty logs. My favorite is the Tundra, but the 4Runner is nice too."
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2015 Dodge Journey Crossroad Photo Gallery (24 Photos)
Visitors to the 2014 Chicago Auto Show who are interested in the new trim level of the 2015 Dodge Journey will find themselves at a Crossroad . The SUV's midlevel trim wears exterior additions including black chrome trim on the grille, headlights, roof rails and front bumper. That's in addition to smoked headlights and taillight lenses, dark lower sill trim and 19-inch Hyper Black dark wheels.
Standard interior features include leather seats adorned with a new pattern. The Crossroad is set to come to a dealership near you in the spring. Check out the gallery for more; Cars.com photos by Evan Sears.
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Hyundai Unveils 2014 Veloster RE:FLEX at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show
Hyundai's Veloster sports coupe has always been a fun little oddity, with its one big driver's door and two smaller passenger doors, and in turbo form, it can be quite entertaining to drive as well. To keep interest up between redesigns, the company has come up with a few specials editions, the latest just introduced at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show.
The Veloster RE:FLEX is a follow-up to last year's RE:MIX special edition, and it will be only a trim, paint, and equipment package.
Outside, styling is unchanged, but the RE:FLEX comes in an exclusive hue, Ice Pearl, as well as four common colors shared with other Velosters. Projector beam headlights are standard, as are LED accents and taillights, fog lights, illuminated door sills, 18-inch alloy wheels with a dark chrome finish, special badging, and chromed hood accents and door handles.
Two leather seating color options are available for interior, black or red, with piano-black interior accents as standard. A 450-watt, eight-speaker audio system with a subwoofer is included, as is a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, alloy pedals and automatic-up driver's window.
No mechanical changes are planned for the Veloster RE:FLEX, and the package can only be had on the non-turbocharged 1.6-liter version with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Pricing has not yet been announced for the package, but production will be limited to just 3,000 units when the car goes on sale this spring.
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