Chicago Auto Show: The latest models
The Chicago Auto Show is known traditionally as the nation's best-attended car exhibition, so automakers ignore it at their own peril.
Chicago doesn't get the array of new vehicle introductions that appear at the Detroit, Los Angeles or New York shows, but as this week's media preview made clear, there's still plenty new to see.
Here are five of the more interesting introductions.
Volkswagen Arteon picks up where CC left off
Volkswagen's CC was one of its most stylish vehicles, and the brand has an updated replacement with a new name.
VW revealed the 2019 VW Arteon at the Chicago Auto Show, a midsize car it hopes will break through in an otherwise weak market. The German brand banks on Arteon's coupe-like design, safety features and peppy powertrain to appeal to consumers who aren't ready to give up on cars.
"Arteon is Volkswagen's brand shaper," VW North America CEO Hinrich Woebcken said in a statement. "This car is the spiritual successor to the CC, but it is bolder and faster."
Arteon has a 268-horsepower, turbocharged 2-liter engine with a standard eight-speed automatic transmission and optional four-wheel drive.
The standard model gets 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, LED headlights and heated leather front seats.
The vehicle is noticeably longer than its predecessor, the CC, with an extra 5 inches in the wheelbase. It's also wider.
Exact pricing and fuel economy were not revealed. The vehicle will arrive at U.S. dealerships in the third quarter.
Nissan hits the slopes with the 370Zski Concept
No doubt about it, it's been a cold, snowy winter in the upper Midwest — and for the Chicago Auto Show, Nissan set out to do something about it.
The automaker unveiled a concept vehicle aimed at demonstrating how wild it can get when a car is loaded with accessories. It's called the 370Zki, as in 370-ski.
The Nissan 370Z Roadster has been turned into a 332-horsepower snowmobile, of sorts. The rear wheels have tracks like on a tank or bulldozer, and the front wheels have skis. The result is that it can go skidding through the drifts.
"Every year, we try to bring some unique winter show cars and trucks to Chicago, which is the nation's most-attended consumer auto show. This year, we've outdone ourselves with the vehicles and the show space itself," Dan Bedore, a Nissan spokesman, said in a statement.
New Ford Transit Connect aimed at Boomers
Ford expects a ready market for the redesigned version of its Transit Connect utility vehicle, but maybe not the one you'd expect.
It's Boomers, many of whom are grandparents who need space to haul the young ones and all their gear.
The seven-passenger van — which doubles as one of the nation's most popular work vans — is marketed as a minivan alternative.
“Not everybody needs the DVD player and built-in vacuum,” Ford spokesman Sam Locricchio said. “You know what? We sell a lot of these bad boys.”
The 2019 Ford Transit Connect is meant to accommodate entrepreneurial small-business needs, hobbies and grandkids. Transit Connect Wagon will offer a diesel engine and new driver-assist technologies, including standard automatic emergency braking.
A new 2-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with auto start-stop comes with the all-new eight-speed automatic. Ford targets at least a 30 miles per gallon highway fuel economy rating with the new 1.5-liter diesel engine.
Karina Shaughnessy, 36, a pharmaceutical report writer from Paw Paw, Mich., said she can’t do without the 2016 Transit Connect Wagon she purchased last June.
“I travel a lot with our three border collie mixes and compete in dog sports, primarily disc (Frisbee) dog sports. So we needed something that could hold three dog crates, two adults, a 9-year-old child and all our stuff while getting great gas mileage.”
The family likes its 2011 Dodge Caravan, but the vehicle lacks needed space. So its 2012 Toyota RAV4, which "only held two dog crates," was replaced. Other sport dog families recommended the boxy Ford.
Toyota goes off-road with Tacoma TRD Pro
Even though a pure off-road vehicle such as the FJ Cruiser is out of its lineup, Toyota is making a play for those who love digging into the dirt with a trio of trucks.
At the Chicago Auto Show, it took the wraps off the trail-tough versions of the Tundra, 4Runner and Tacoma.
The three come with 2.5-inch TRD Pro-exclusive Fox Internal Bypass shocks, but each are specifically tuned to suit the diferent trucks by Toyota Racing Development engineers.
There's other rugged off-road equipment. The Tacoma TRD Pro has an updated front skid plate to prevent rocks, stumps or other obstacles from damaging the truck's underside, and a fancy exhaust pipe with a black chrome tip. There are foglights, projector-style headlights and TRD Pro badging.
Inside, the goal was to make the truck plush. It has an upscale stereo, the Entune Premium JBL Audio with subwoofer amplifier and Integrated Navigation and App Suite, along with TRD Pro-branded floor mats and leather-trimmed seats.
Racing stripes are back — on an SUV
Racing stripes, a fixture on the muscle cars on the 1960s and 1970s, have returned. This time, they're on an SUV.
Buyers of the Dodge Durango's performance versions, the R/T and the SRT, will get factory-applied stripes, and there will be an available performance exhaust system to make the SUV sound hot as well.
Sure, it's just a cosmetic touch, but the idea gives the SUV something to make it stand apart on the road from other non-performance versions. In one glance, other drivers will see who paid more to own the road. It won't come cheap: The stripes will cost $1,195. They'll be available in blue, red, black, silver and a low-gloss metallic.
“Our Dodge/SRT performance enthusiasts are always looking for ways to make their vehicle their own,” said Steve Beahm, head of Dodge's SRT line. “The available stripes and carbon fiber throughout the interior really give Durango a custom look from the factory."
The dual-center exterior stripe design will cover the front and rear fascias, hood, portions of the roof and the tailgate, Fiat Chrysler said.
Contributing: Nathan Bomey; Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press