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February 13, 2014

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show: Automakers’ Hot Bodies and Taut Muscles Warm the Windy City

Kia_Niro_Concept-leadBy Sue Mead

Let’s face it, women are buying more vehicles than ever and while many appreciate the look of hot bodies and taut muscles, we also care about what’s underneath a pretty face. There’s plenty of opportunity to experience both at the Chicago Auto Show, the largest auto show in America.

The special reveals for the motoring press have now finished and it’s show time for consumers to get up-close-and-personal with a captivating collection of all-new releases, charismatic concepts, and carry-over-but-updated production models for the upcoming year. In addition to the flashy exteriors in charming colors and under-the-hood ‘might and muscle,’ you’ll find some of the world’s latest and greatest technologies that range from audio, communication, and comfort upgrades to innovative safety features, designed to keep you and your family coddled and protected in your modern-day cocoon.

It’s not unusual to find frigid weather outside Chicago’s McCormick Place in February, when the doors open for the annual Auto Show that started in 1901 and has been held more than any other auto exposition on the planet. Once inside the massive halls bedecked with the sparkling sheet metal of new cars and trucks, you’ll find the temperatures get steamy, however!

But, in case you can’t make it to the show, we’ve selected a few of the top vehicles in each category, so you can stay warm at home!

The show runs through February 17th. Of note, the Auto Show raises over $2 million each year for Chicago organizations, at its annual First Look for Charity.


2015_Subaru_Legacy_frontview_s2015 Subaru Legacy: Subaru is on a roll--and not only in the inclement-weather states, but across the land, with sales soaring for this Japanese manufacturer that specializes in all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicles and makes a smart collection of offerings. New for 2015 is an updated version of the popular, mid-sized Legacy sedan, with improved fuel efficiency that comes as a result of aerodynamic enhancements, a 20 percent better rake on windshield, and a lighter-weight aluminum hood. There are two engine options: a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder and 3.6-liter, six-cylinder; AWD is standard. If you opt for the four-cylinder, you can expect to get a fuel economy of 26/36-mpg city/highway and 30 mpg combined. The newest model also gets a roomier passenger cabin, and more stowage in the trunk that has been enlarged to hold 15.0 cubic feet of cargo.


2015_Kia_Soul_EV-frontview-8080_1_22015 Kia Soul EV: Kia’s updated Soul hit the tarmac last fall and was instantly a winner, with a more grown-up advertising campaign (the hamsters went to the gym, became more svelte, and made it to the Red Carpet!) and a significantly improved small-car, bigger people-carrier. Now, Kia joins the electric vehicle (EV) market, driving its compact hatchback with all-new, battery-electric-power. It’s also the first electrified car from this Korean automaker to be sold in the U.S. The Soul EV should be an urban winner with its 109 horsepower electric motor (210 pound-feet of torque) and an estimated driving range of 80-100 miles. Recharge time for the Soul EV is reported as less than five hours, using a 240-volt charger and outlet.


2015_Lincoln_Navigator-frontview2015 Lincoln Navigator: After a bit of a hiatus, Lincoln has debuted its next-generation Navigator, with a new exterior design that starts with a sleeker front clip and freshly-designed hood, split-wing grille, and an updated back end with a power up/down tailgate. The full-sized SUV is adorned with jewel-like light-emitting diode (LED) lights, as well as high-intensity discharge (HID) adaptive headlamps with LED accents. Inside, you’ll find luxurious leather and additional “customer-focused technologies,” while the changes under the hood bring more power and hauling capability from Ford’s twin turbocharged, direct injection 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that generates 370 horsepower and 430 lb.-ft. of torque, which Lincoln says provides best-in-class towing. ‘Extended-length’ versions give 128.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the first row, 86.3 behind the second row and 42.6 behind the third row. It goes on sale in the fall.


2015_Dodge_Journey_Crossroad-sideview2014 Dodge Journey Crossroad: Dodge says the Journey is America’s fastest growing crossover and the only crossover in its segment to offer the choice of four- or six-cylinder engines, five- or seven-passenger seating, and front- or all-wheel drive. In addition to a wide array of versions, including American Value Package (AVP), SE, SXT, Limited, and R/T trim levels, Dodge unveiled a Crossroad model with a more rugged look and unique features, positioned between the SXT and Limited models. On sale this spring, the newest trim features unique front and rear fascias, redesigned lower side sills, exclusive 19-inch Hyper Black wheels and dark-tinted headlamps and taillights. Inside is a new leather seat design with accent stitching and Liquid Graphite appliques. Journeys are available with a choice of two engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 173 horsepower and 166 lb.-ft. of torque is standard while a 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with 283-hp and 260 lb.-ft. is optional.


2015_Chevrolet_City_Express-frontview2015 Chevrolet City Express: Chevy took advantage of the Chicago Show to reveal its new, small-business-oriented City Express. Designed with "windy city" street smarts and savvy, the versatile-but-small cargo van has been crafted to take on America’s urban jungles, especially when it comes to moving freight of different sizes; it easily accommodates a standard 48" pallet and has a cargo volume of 122.7 cubic feet. Chevy says it’s a “perfectly sized cargo van,” without the “tall wagon” profile. Based on Nissan’s NV, it has a long load floor, vertical body sides, and large side and 40/60 split rear doors, designed with dual opening positions, for easy loading and unloading. It comes in two trims -- the LS and the LT -- and can also be customized to suit specific business needs, with available upgrade packages. Equipped with a 2.0-liter DOHC gasoline engine and a CVT, the City Express has a standard mobile office center console; a fold-flat passenger seatback to create a flat workspace; laptop/hanging file folder storage; stationery tray; dual cupholders; 13 storage spaces; an available 12-volt outlet; and large side door pockets.


2014_BMW_740Ld_xDrive2014 BMW 740Ld xDrive: Perfect for the female CEO and designed to ferry her family in high style, the sport-performance minded German automaker unveiled a luxury-laden, clean diesel-powered version of its fancy flagship 7 Series sedan. This top-of-the-line model comes with longer wheelbase and is powered by BMW’s 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo diesel engine, with 255 horsepower that propels it to an estimated 0-60 mph of 6.1 seconds. Fuel efficiency has not been determined but BMW is expecting it to be in the 30s. The price tag? Starting at $83,425.


2015_Volvo_S60_Sedan_Polestar-frontview2015 Volvo Polestar S60 sedan and V60 wagon:  Volvo pumps up the jam adding Polestar editions with race-ready and AMG-styled performance to its S60 sedan and V60 wagon. Both models are four-wheel drive versions that come equipped with 345-horsepower turbocharged six-cylinder- or T6- engines-from vroom power. Volvo says that the souped-up vehicles will charge from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and can reach a top speed of 155 mph. the Scandinavian automaker will enhance the desirability of these Polestar editions by producing only 120 of these vehicles in total.


2014_Hyundai_Veloster_REFlex-frontview-40406_1_12015 Hyundai Veloster RE:FLEX: Hyundai took the wraps off of the newest addition to its popular Veloster lineup. On sale early this spring, the Re:Flex will be offered in a limited production run of 3,000 units only, for exclusivity. The small, sporty and swoopy-styled hatchback is punctuated with projector headlights w/LED accents, LED taillights, illuminated door sills, 18-inch alloy wheels w/PVD chrome finish, chrome hood accents, chrome door handles and RE:FLEX badging on the exterior and floor mats. Power comes from this Korean automaker’s 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine and six-speed EcoShift dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. Buyers get a choice of black or red full leather seating in a cockpit that features piano black interior accents, a 450-watt Dimension premium audio system with eight speakers including a subwoofer, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and alloy pedals. Exclusive is Ice Pearl paint.


2015_Nissan_Frontier_Diesel_Runner_012015 Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept: One of the most-talked about new models at the show is Nissan’s new compact truck: the Diesel Runner, with power that comes from a 2.8-liter Cummins turbo diesel producing approximately 200 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque; Nissans says this four cylinder should get a 35 percent improvement over the V6-powered Frontier. It is shod with special wheels wheels from the Frontier PRO-4X and has a bed cover among other touches.


2013_Cadillac_Elmiraj_ConceptCadillac Elmiraj: This two-door hardtop concept is Cadillac’s newest vision of the future, but it could be called “Back to the Future,” as designers also integrated touches from The General’s cars of the past. Already a familiar sight on the auto show circuit, the Elmiraj has clean body lines and an expressive use of lights on top of a long wheelbase. The rear-wheel drive prototype is all about performance and is powered by a 4.5-liter twin turbocharged V-8 that delivers an estimated 500 horsepower. Stepping inside, you’ll find the top section of the instrument panel forms a single line accentuating the full width of the car, while the lower half has been styled with touches that create a glamorous cockpit. Backlit titanium trim arches punctuate a swath that is penned from the cowl to the doors, dividing the sumptuous upper camel leather from the Brazilian Rosewood wood veneer trim.


Ford_C-MAX_SolarEnergi-ConceptFord C-Max Solar Energi: Consumers with a scientific bent, as well as buyers looking to save the planet will like this plug-in hybrid vehicle that is recharged by the power of the sun, sporting a solar-paneled roof. When it’s fully charged, Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to have a combined total range of up to 620 miles; this includes up to 21 electric-only miles. Like today’s electric models, the concept has a charging port so it can also be charged by connecting to a charging station, or with a cord and plug. The Blue Oval automaker claims the Solar Energi could reduce yearly CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from today’s average U.S. car owner by as much as four metric tons – or the equivalent of what a typical U.S. house produces in four months.


Kia_Niro_ConceptKia Niro: Fitting nicely into Kia’s future product lineup, the Niro has the style and ‘cool factor’ to become the next hip urban car.  Motivated by a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine with 160 horsepower, the electric hybrid crossover has large ‘butterfly’ doors that open up towards the roof-think Mercedes Gullwing! There’s room for four inside to sit on seats that are covered in a ‘techno silver’ quilted fabric. In back, a 50/50-split bench folds to create a flat stowage area that is accented by a carbon-fiber-lined cargo floor. A large screen in the center of the dash displays live images from video cameras attached at the front, rear, sides and interior of the concept making it a Go-Pro to Go!


Toyota-FT-1_Concept_7294Toyota FT-1 Concept:  Toyota’s race-car inspired FT-1 Concept made its debut from the gaming screen to reality at the Detroit Auto Show Show, and has reappeared in Chicago.  Devised by Calty Design Research in the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo game environment, the FT-1 is influenced by Toyota’s 2000GT and FT-86 (Scion F-RS), the car has “function-sculpting” design language shaped by the wind into a curvaceous, muscle body form, says Toyota’s designers, and the body’s athleticism is expressed by taut surfaces and dramatic fender forms. At high speeds, a retractable rear wing deploys and tilts forward to create additional downforce. The front engine rear-wheel drive configuration locates the cockpit far rearward within the wheelbase to improve weight distribution. The driver navigates with an F1 inspired steering-wheel, with an integrated delta-shaped display zone and a color heads-up display.


For further information on the 2014 Chicago Auto Show and to see a complete listing of the vehicles unveiled and on display at the show, go to


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