My annual trip to the Windy City for the Chicago Auto Show Media Preview took place earlier this month, coinciding with a major winter storm that sent many members of the automotive media heading for home sooner than planned. I stayed, braving the storm, but took an early shuttle from the hotel as a precaution and arrived at O’Hare six hours before my 7 p.m. flight, which was delayed by an hour after I got there.
The Chicago Auto Show is the largest car show in the U.S., and it’s worth the extra effort it sometimes takes to travel there and back.
Here’s a wrap-up of highlights from the Media Preview. This isn’t even close to being everything on display at the show, but it does include the manufacturers who gave presentations to the media during the preview.
The 2018 Fiat 500 is more powerful than the previous version. All models now have a 1.4-liter turbo engine producing 135 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. That’s a boost of 34 horsepower for this year. The standard transmission is a five-speed manual, with a six-speed automatic transmission available as an option.
There are three models in the Fiat 500 lineup: Pop, Lounge and Abarth. On the high-performance Abarth, the turbo engine delivers up to 160 horsepower and 183 lb-ft of torque.
Updates for Pop and Lounge models include standard 16-inch aluminum wheels, a performance braking system, sport suspension, rear backup camera, body-color front and rear fascias, side sill ground effects, sport spoiler, fog lamps and “Turbo” badging on the liftgate.
FORD TRANSIT CONNECT
Ford’s Transit Connect is available in cargo van and passenger wagon versions, in short-wheelbase or long-wheelbase configuration. The passenger model accommodates up to five people in the short-wheelbase model, up to seven in the long-wheelbase model, and a substantial amount of cargo with the seats folded.
The Transit Connect offers new premium packages for 2018. Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and a rearview camera are now available for the XLT Cargo Van and Passenger Wagon. Automatic headlamps with configurable daytime running lamps are standard on the XLT and Titanium Passenger Wagon, and optional on the XLT Cargo Van. A second-row fixed glass option available on the XL and XLT Cargo Van now includes a steel mesh window guard. On the XLT Passenger Wagon, there is no extra charge for the upgraded wheel option.
Hyundai’s big news at the Chicago Auto Show was the announcement of its partnership with Bryan Herta Autosport, creating a factory-sponsored racing team from its new N performance models to compete in the 2018 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car Racing (TCR) class.
Two versions of Hyundai’s i30 N TCR racecars (currently available to customers in Europe) will be fine-tuned by Bryan Herta Autosport, who will also develop all aspects of the team, including vehicles, technicians, drivers, coaching and management.
Michael Lewis and Mark Wilkins are Bryan Herta Autosport’s team drivers.
The TCR season begins March 23 in Austin, Texas. There will be six double-header weekends in the series for 2018. The event nearest to the Puget Sound area will be in Portland on July 13 through 15 at Portland International Raceway.
For the first time, Nissan is offering a factory-authorized suspension lift kit for Crew Cab 4×4 models of its Titan and Titan XD full-size pickups.
The lift kit, which includes adjustable coil-over shock absorbers, provides a suspension lift of up to three inches. It was developed by Icon Vehicle Dynamics, a California-based company.
The kit is completely bolt-on, requiring no cutting or drilling. It’s available through Nissan dealers, can be installed in less than four hours, and doesn’t void Nissan’s truck warranty on other Titan and Titan XD components. The lift kit is covered by a separate warranty offered by Icon Vehicle Dynamics.
The Icon Vehicle Dynamics suspension lift kits are scheduled for availability at Nissan dealerships this spring.
A customized version of the all-new Ram 1500 was the manufacturer’s main attraction at the Chicago Auto Show, the result of a collaboration between Ram and Mopar.
Modifications to the outdoor-sport-themed 2019 Ram 1500 on display include a 2-inch lift kit, off-road wheel flares, off-road beadlock-capable wheels and off-road style running boards. A cold-air intake system, vehicle graphics, and Mopar 5-inch dual exhaust tips complete the look. (The intake is scheduled for availability later this year.)
The truck’s 5 feet by 7 feet bed has a Mopar feature that will be available soon: a Ram Rack for securing large items to the truck. The adjustable rack system mounts to the available production bed utility rails, and the rear rack slides all the way to the front rack.
The three-wheeled motor vehicle manufactured by Polaris Industries comes standard with a GM four-cylinder engine producing 173 horsepower and 166 lb-ft of torque, paired with a five-speed manual transmission. And the Slingshot’s curb weight is only about 1,750 pounds.
Those stats automatically bring safety to mind. Slingshot’s safety features include a reinforced steel tubular frame, anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, electronic speed-sensitive steering, three-point seatbelts and forged aluminum roll hoops.
For 2018, a new Grand Touring LE model is available, equipped with a Slingshade roof, quilted comfort seats, and a Ride Command infotainment system with turn-by-turn navigation. The Grand Touring LE model is distinguished by its color-matched rear fender, Matte Cloud Gray and Indy Red paint, and a Limited Edition Graphics package.
2018 marks Subaru’s 50th year in the U.S., and in recognition of that milestone the company has produced limited edition versions of each model.
The limited edition cars are based on the high-level trim of each model and have a new Heritage Blue exterior color, unique wheel finishes, and 50th Anniversary badging.
Other distinguishing features include satin chrome exterior trim, black upholstery with silver stitching, and silver seatbelts with 50th Anniversary logos embroidered on the front seats.
Exterior side mirrors are also finished in satin chrome on all models except WRX, STI and BRZ.
Production of these 50th anniversary models will be limited to 1,050 units for the Crosstrek, Forester, Impreza, Legacy and Outback; the WRX, STI and BRZ will have a combined total of 1,050 units. They are available now at Subaru dealerships.
2019 TRD Pro versions of the 4Runner, Tundra and Tacoma were center stage at the Toyota display.
The next-generation 4Runner and Tundra TRD Pro models have all-new Fox shock absorbers, and the Tacoma TRD Pro has a new air intake option. There’s also a new TRD Pro roof rack on the 4Runner, and the Tundra version gets rigid fog lights and BBS wheels.
The new Desert Air Intake adds a distinctive look to the Tacoma but is highly functional, taking the engine’s air intake away from dust that accumulates inside the wheel well during off-road driving, which increases filter life and benefits engine health.
Three exterior colors are offered on the 2019 TRD Pro models: Super White, Midnight Black Metallic, and Voodoo Blue. The blue color is exclusive to the TRD Pro models.
An all-new VW model, the 2019 Arteon, made its U.S. debut at the Chicago Auto Show. It’s a midsize sedan powered by a 268-horsepower turbo engine joined to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and is available with all-wheel drive as an option.
Standard features of the Arteon include 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, full LED headlights, blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert, and adaptive damping. Smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink is also standard.
Available features include Volkswagen Digital Cockpit, ambient lighting, a panoramic sunroof, massaging driver’s seat, heated rear seats, and a Dynaudio premium audio system.
Among the available driver assistance features are adaptive cruise control, lane assist, park distance control, park assist and area view.
The 2019 Arteon has three trim levels: SE, SEL, and SEL Premium. It is scheduled to arrive at local dealerships in third quarter 2018.
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association.