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2016 Chicago Auto Show Preview

2016 Chicago Auto Show Preview

By Christian Wardlaw, January 31, 2016
Chicago’s annual auto show is the largest in the United States, and is the nation’s longest-running automobile exposition, dating to 1901. Held in McCormick Place on the shore of Lake Michigan, the Chicago Auto Show tends to be a quiet one with regard to new-model reveals, and that is unlikely to change for 2016. However, multiple automakers have scheduled press conferences starting on Thursday, February 11, 2016. Here is our best guess as to what might be shown when the curtains drop.

After showing the well-received Acura Precision Concept at the Detroit Auto Show, Acura could follow up with another concept vehicle showing the company’s design vision for future crossover SUVs. Other potential discussion points include whatever is next for the compact ILX, which still sits on the previous-generation Honda Civic platform, or a minor refresh of the flagship RLX, which is an excellent car in search of equally excellent styling. A TLX A-Spec performance model is also a possibility.

No press conference is scheduled for BMW, but shortly after the Detroit Auto Show the company announced new Competition package options for the M3 Sedan and the M4 Coupe. Given that Chi-town is the wealthiest city in the Midwest, show attendees can expect to find these hotter versions of the M3 and M4 sitting on the floor at McCormick Place.

In addition to displaying the new Silverado Realtree Edition, Chevrolet has a press conference scheduled to discuss something of importance. Sonic and Impala are due for updates, and upcoming performance variants of the redesigned Camaro are the industry’s worst kept secrets. Chevrolet could, however, use Chicago to debut a redesigned 2017 Traverse, which is likely to shrink in size just like the 2017 GMC Acadia that was shown in Detroit.

Ford already announced that the 2017 F-150 pickup truck’s EcoBoost engines would get standard automatic engine start/stop technology to improve fuel economy. Perhaps the automaker will use Chicago, frequently the show for the latest truck news, to announce other improvements planned for 2017, perhaps including a diesel-powered F-150. Alternatively, Ford could reveal the upcoming redesigned Expedition, or show people what it plans to do with the aged Taurus.

Hyundai’s new luxury brand made a splash in Detroit, where the flagship G90 model debuted. The automaker quietly displayed the Genesis G80, too, an updated version of today’s Genesis Sedan. Expect to hear details about the new 2017 Genesis G80 in Chicago.

A new GMC Sierra All Terrain X model recently debuted, and it looks terrific. Expect to see that on display in Chicago. Additionally, GMC has a press conference planned, but what the company might reveal is a mystery. For a long time, GMC has toyed with the idea of selling a small crossover SUV, something to slot beneath the Terrain at a lower price point. Could GMC be planning to plug that hole in its SUV lineup with a restyled version of the Buick Encore and Chevrolet Trax twins?

In Chicago, Hyundai will introduce the refreshed 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport crossover SUVs. Expect upgrades in terms of infotainment and safety technology, and let’s hope the automaker makes structural modifications to improve crash protection. A redesigned dashboard aligned with the company’s current interior themes might also be on the list of improvements.

In just the past few months, Infiniti has introduced two new models (QX30 and Q60) and announced meaningful updates to its best-selling models (Q50 and QX60). Next up for some greater attention to detail: the Q70 flagship sedan. The big news is likely related to installation of Infiniti’s new twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, which makes as much as 400 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque. Steering and suspension upgrades are also probable, and if Infiniti is wise, it will be making changes to attenuate road and wind noise for a more serene cabin.

Though no press conference is planned, Jeep did recently announce a new luxury version of the Cherokee called the Overland, which goes on sale in the spring of 2016. The new Cherokee Overland features a more refined and upscale appearance, premium Nappa leather upholstery, genuine Zebrano wood trim, Berber carpeted floor mats, leather-wrapped dashboard, and a long list of convenience, infotainment, and safety features. Look for it on the show floor in Chicago.

Kia is likely to introduce a redesigned 2017 Optima Hybrid in Chicago. The car should adopt the same next-generation hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies offered in its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Sonata. Additionally, Kia may display a refreshed Cadenza full-size sedan.

Back in 1989, Mazda used the Chicago Auto Show to introduce the MX-5 Miata, now a global sports car icon. This year, Mazda is planning something that requires a press conference. My bet is that we’ll see a mid-cycle refresh of the 2017 Mazda 3, and perhaps even a return of the fabled Mazdaspeed 3 performance variant. Either that, or the company will announce new Signature trim levels for a variety of its models.

Mini does not have a press conference planned for Chicago, but in the past few weeks the cheeky little car company has announced the performance-tuned John Cooper Works variant of the redesigned 2016 Mini Convertible as well as a new ALL4 version of the redesigned 2016 Mini Clubman. They could be sitting on the show floor in Chicago.

By now, you may have heard all about the Nissan Titan XD, a new truck positioned between traditional light-duty and heavy-duty models and equipped with a stout turbodiesel engine. What you haven’t heard about is the rest of the redesigned Titan lineup. You know, the non-XD models. Bet you’ll be seeing those in Chicago.

Ram has been updating and upgrading the current 1500, 2500 Heavy Duty, and 3500 Heavy Duty models for eight years. Aside from the Toyota Tundra, Ram trucks are the oldest ones on the market. Will a new one make a big splash in Chicago, stealing the spotlight from Nissan? Or will we see yet another special edition with different wheels, stripes, paint, and trim? Stay tuned…

What could Toyota be planning to announce in Chicago? The Corolla is due for a refresh, so that’s a possibility. The redesigned Tacoma is screaming for the TRD Pro off-roading treatment, complete with orange paint. The Sienna is aging, and in need of replacement. And the redesigned Prius ought to be getting a plug-in variant. Guess we’re all going to need to sit tight and wait until the Chicago Auto Show.

Additional Research:

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