The CarsDirect Chicago Auto Show Round-Up

By

Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - February 24, 2016

Introductions

Although it's very well attended by the public, the Chicago Auto Show hasn't been a major venue for premieres and newsmaking. That may be changing, though, with a variety of introductions, announcements and trendspotting at this year's show.

Toyota Tacoma

The Tacoma TRD Pro returns with an all-new look and a new 3.5-liter V6 engine that injects 278 horsepower. The TRD Pro package adds goodies like Fox internal bypass shocks, retuned front springs and rear leaf springs, a transmission cooler, a TRD shifter knob and floor mats, black leather seats with “TRD” logo, and more.

RAM Power Wagon

Based on the 2017 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty, the Ram Power Wagon returns ready to take on all you can toss at it. Its 6.4-liter HEMI V8 spits out an impressive 410 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque while its 17-inch wheels wrapped in 33-inch Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac tires dig in. An articulating front suspension with a sway-bar-disconnecting system allows for ample suspension travel, and its 12,000-pound winch pulls you (and others) out of sticky situations.

Hyundai Santa Fe

For the 2017 model year, the Santa Fe lineup gets a refreshed look that includes a new front grille, new LED daytime running lights, new available LED fog lights, new headlights, new rocker-panel design, new wheels, and a new rear-end design with new headlights. Inside, the new Santa Fe gets a standard 5-inch color LCD display audio system on the Sport model, and the three-row Santa Fe gets a 7-inch LCD unit with Android Auto.

2016 Nissan Titan

The Titan XD’s little bro, the Titan, finally debuted with its more compact dimensions. This rig measure 228.1 inches long (14.7 inches shorter), 77.2 inches tall (1.5 inches shorter), 79.5 inches wide, and it rides on a 139.8-inch wheelbase (11.8 inches shorter). In addition to being smaller than the XD, the Titan loses the diesel powerplant and gains an optional 5.6-liter V8 with 390 horsepower. A standard V6 will debut at a later date.

Kia Niro

The Kia Niro brings the usefulness of a hybrid utility vehicle to the Kia lineup. This lifted hatchback boasts an aerodynamic rating of 0.29 Cd, 53 percent high-strength steel, a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that delivers 146 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque, an electric motor that helps push fuel economy into the 50 mpg range, and plenty of desirable features.

Kia Optima

The Optima Hybrid twins debuted with similar sleek looks and impressive fuel economy numbers. The hybrid model increases its fuel economy by 10 percent over the previous generation thanks to its new 2-liter engine and 38 kW electric motor. These units combine to create 193 horsepower while the 1.62 kWh battery allows for a short electric-only range. The plug-in model uses the same gasoline engine but bumps the electric motor’s power to 50 kW. What’s more, the plug-in can travel up to 27 miles on electric power alone, delivering a total range of 600 miles.

mercedes benz sprinter

Mercedes-Benz expanded its Sprinter lineup to include a simpler and less-expensive version of its work van. This Worker model starts at just $32,495 and comes only with the bare essentials and a few niceties like a four-speaker AM/FM audio system. Inside, the Worker still has a 137.4-inch cargo floor and 66.5 inches of standing room inside, making it perfect for a work van. Under its hood, it continues with the 2.1-liter diesel four-cylinder that produces 161 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque while delivering more than 23 mpg.

Chevrolet Trax

The Trax enters the 2017 model year with a new, more modern look up front and on the rear. Also new in 2017 is a more upscale interior that introduces a new one-piece dash topper and a better-placed 7-inch touchscreen. New safety features, like side blind-zone alert and rear cross-traffic alert make their debut as well.

Nissan Armada

The Armada gets a full redesign in 2017 that includes a migration to the same platform that the Infiniti QX80 rides on. Also new is a retuned version of the 5.6-liter V8 that produces a more competitive 390 horsepower. Given it now shares more of its DNA with the Infiniti QX80, there are plenty of more upscale features available, and its ride will be better than ever.

Chevrolet Camaro

The 1LE handling package returns to the Camaro lineup in the 2017 model year. It is only available on V6- and V8-powered versions of the sports car. On the V6 models, this kit adds in the Camaro SS’ dampers, rear cradle mounts, ball-jointed rear toe links and stabilizer bars, lightweight 20-inch wheels, four-piston calipers, and more. The V8-powered models gain stickier rubber, six-piston calipers, Recaro front seats, and more.

Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The Colorado Z71 and Silverado 1500 Z71 models will gain a new Midnight Special Edition Package that includes an all-black front end, black side moldings and beltline moldings, black-painted wheels, special “Z71” badges on the doors, a black spray-in bed liner, and black bowties.

Ford Explorer

For the 2017 model year, the Explorer will gain a new aesthetic package for its midrange XLT trim. Dubbed the XLT Sport Appearance Package, this kit includes 20-inch Magnetic Gray wheels, Magnetic Gray-colored grille, mirrors caps and rear applique, Ebony Black body cladding, a black roof rack, an “Explorer” hood badge, Dark Earth Gray leather seats, and Explorer logo mats.

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News

Hyundai stacks up the awards: Hyundai piled up a nice stack of awards at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, including MotorWeek’s Drivers’ Choice Award for “Best Small Utility” and U.S. News & World Report’s Best Compact SUV for the Money awards going to the 2016 Tucson, the Genesis and Santa Fe winning Consumer Guides’ Automotive Best Buy Awards, and the entire brand winning Kelley Blue Book’s 5-Year Cost to Own award.

Nissan gets two awards of its own: The Nissan Titan XD and Maxima both took home MotorWeek’s 2016 Drivers' Choice Awards in their respective categories.

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Trends

Trucks galore: The Chicago auto show was chock-full with debuts and news about pickup trucks. Not only did the Titan, Tacoma TRD Pro and Ram Power Wagon debut, but there were tons of other small debuts, including the Honda Ridgeline showing off what Honda Accessories are available for it, a new Off-Road package for the Ram 2500, a new Z71 Midnight Edition package for the Silverado and Colorado, and the lower-cost Sprinter Worker.

Hotly-anticipated hybrids: Alternative fuels are the future of the automotive segment, and three highly-anticipated alternative-fuel models debuted in Chicago. The Hyundai Optima and Kia Niro deliver on the traditional-hybrid side of things while the Optima Plug-In Hybrid gives the redesigned sedan a little EV range to go along with its new, more economical gasoline engine.

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

Follow On: Twitter | Website