The Truth About Cars » Chicago Auto Show The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chicago Auto Show Chicago 2014: A Wrap-Up From The Floor And A Full Gallery Sat, 08 Feb 2014 17:00:29 +0000 Kia3

After two days of walking the floor at this relatively quiet show, here’s a recap of what has happened:

KIA: Released the new Soul EV, Optima hybrid, and a concept Niro hybrid car. The Soul EV is all electric, zero-emissions with 109hp that should get 80-100 miles on a charge. It will go on sale in New York, California, Oregon, New Jersey, and Maryland this fall, and others locations in demand grows. The Optima hybrid should achieve a combined 38mpg. The Niro is Kia’s take on future city cars.
Verdict: The “EV” version of the Soul seems to take away some of the attractive lines of Soul with its new grill, but the technology is impressive. It is hard to judge this vehicle without any pricing info yet. The Optima hybrid has some nicely done subtle exterior changes including different aerodynamic wheels and bumper vents, yet the car gets the same mileage as the previous model. The Niro is pretty wild looking, but in a world where the Nissan Juke exists, this car needs to be made.

It might have been residual interest from their Super Bowl ad, but the previously-released K900 seemed to still attract a lot of attention from the media. The car is great looking in person and feels like a true luxury sedan inside. A small problem for Kia was that there were also media members mistakenly around the Cadenza talking about it being from the Super Bowl ad. They aren’t the last people who will confuse the Cadenza and the K900, trust me.

Toyota: Showed and demonstrated the 2015 lineup of their TRD Pro Series Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner. They will be available this fall in black, white, or burnt orange. Although nothing was done to the engine, there are a lot of suspension, cosmetic, and interior upgrades. The press event started a little bumpy as they inadvertently sprayed a few in the media with mud (or was it on purpose?) when the Tundra driver did a burnout so we could hear the sound of the TRD exhaust (it sounded good!). After that, the reaction was nothing but positive. The vehicles look mean, especially the 4Runner. There seemed to be more chatter throughout the day about desiring one of the Toyota trucks than about any other vehicle released. Based on their aggressive appearance, I would guess (read = hope) that these will be purchased by folks who will actually use them off-road and less as a grocery getter. These vehicles definitely go against Toyota’s “boring” image that is often mentioned by enthusiasts.

Nissan: Released the new Versa Note SR and displayed a concept Frontier Diesel Runner truck. The Frontier is a 200hp Cummins 4 cylinder that should get about 35% better fuel mileage than the current V6 Frontier. No one noticed or cared about the Versa Note. Instead everyone rushed around the Frontier solely because it was a diesel, even though it may never be made. We were told to give feedback on the idea because it in still just a study. They also mentioned that a major announcement about the Titan will be coming in one year. Personally, I liked the SR version of the Versa. I have never been a fan of the Versa before, but the SR appearance package seems directly targeted at the Honda Fit Sport or Ford Fiesta hatch. I liked what the changes do for the look of the car.

Subaru: The world premiere of the 2015 Legacy. It will be about the same size as the previous model, all-wheel drive, CVT transmission, and can get 36mpg highway. Offered with a 175hp 4 cylinder of 256hp 6 cylinder. There is an optional extensive list of safety features as part of their EyeSight package.
Verdict: The talk from Subaru was all about how the mid-size sedan segment is very “vanilla”, and Subaru has always been there as an interesting alternative. Except that to me, this car looks a whole lot like the Honda Accord. There is nothing wrong with the Accord, but if they were going for an “interesting alternative to all the other vanilla mid-sized cars”, they didn’t do it with the looks, nor did they do it with the mandatory CVT, which is pretty much what Nissan does with the Altima. I think the new Legacy will blend in with every other mid-sized car on the road when it goes on sale this summer.

Chevrolet: Unveiled their new City Express commercial van and a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Silverado Bi-Fuel truck. The van is a reworked version of the Nissan NV200 to offer their commercial customers a smaller work van than the current full size Express. The CNG truck can achieve 650 miles on a tank of combined use. The van looks good and seems like a no-brainer for Chevy. It is still odd that they would release this and still not offer a passenger variant though. For anyone that bought the HHR with side panels, this is the van for you.

The CNG Silverado can change from regular gas to CNG with the push of a button, is available in all cab configurations, and is fully warranted and serviceable at GM dealers. They say there are 1,300 CNG stations in America with more coming. They plan to release a CNG Impala as well.

Volvo: Brought out their 2015 Polestar versions of the S60 and V60 wagon. Basically these are a very limited run of performance cars. They’re beautiful. For a moment, during the reveal, I was thinking that this could be the wagon enthusiasts are always looking for. Then, after talking about how all the development came from Polestar’s race teams, Volvo PR indicated that the cars will only be offered in an automatic. Shocked, I asked what led to that decision and I was told, “It was because we want these cars to be daily drivers, we want you to be able to drink your Starbucks at the same time.” I honestly felt very sad walking away from that. Are brands really afraid of offering Americans stick-shifts because we may spill our Starbucks? Other than that, there are a lot of great things about these cars, including a pretty cool (for parents) integrated child’s booster seat.

BMW: Showed off the new $83K 740ld xdrive, and the X3 xDrive28d. The diesel 7 series will be about $1,500 more than the gas trim and only comes in AWD long wheel base. It is the same engine that powers the X5 diesel. The X3 uses a 180hp 2 liter turbo diesel.

Lincoln: The new Navigator was on the show floor all day, but no one seemed to notice. That’s hard to believe, since the vehicle is enormous. Possibly this was because it has the same exterior dimensions and most of the same sheet metal as the previous model, except for the hood and tailgate. There aren’t many vehicles left like the Navigator, and this one doesn’t stray too far from the previous model. Although it has the family grill, it really stands out amongst all of Lincolns. The V8 has been replaced with a twin-turbo V6 (the only V6 in that segment) that gets 370hp. We will have to wait and see if it will be better, or better-received, than the Escalade, QX80, or LX570

Volkswagen: VW held a press event to announce that they will be entering the Global Rally Cross series with 2 all-wheel-drive 560hp Beetles. They surprised the crowd by having former F1/NASCAR driver Scott Speed and rally driver/Top Gear star Tanner Foust get out of their respective cars, followed by team owner Michael Andretti.

As a huge race fan, it was nice to see a motor sports announcement and the commitment of VW to this racing series. This was better than when immediately following Toyota held an entire press event just to announce they are sponsoring one entrance of Dayton International Speedway.

Maserati: Showed off the star of their Super Bowl ad, the $66K twin turbo V6 Ghibli. The company is confident to the point of being cocky about how great their cars are. Visually it does stand out against similarly priced mid-sized sedans. The Ghibli has some “hips” over the rear axle that gives it a powerful stance.

And that’s all, folks! The next stop for TTAC auto show coverage will be New York in April. Check out the pictures below.

BMW1 BMW2 BMW3 BMW4 Chevy1 Chevy2 Chevy3 Chevy4 Kia1 Kia2 Kia3 Kia4 Kia5 Lincoln1 Lincoln2 Lincoln3 Lincoln4 Lincoln5 Maserati1 Maserati2 Nissan1 Nissan2 Nissan3 Nissan4 Subaru1 Subaru2 Toyota1 Toyota2 Toyota3 Volvo1 Volvo2 Volvo3 Volvo4 VW1 VW2 VW3 ]]> 34
Chicago 2014: 2015 Lincoln Navigator Stars In “2 Grilles, 2 Turbos” Sat, 08 Feb 2014 15:59:40 +0000 2015-Lincoln-Navigator-02

Lincoln has debuted an updated version of its Navigator full-size SUV. Finally.

The new Navigator is set to feature HID headlamps, LED accent lights and a front fascia design more in step with Lincoln’s other offerings. By kissing the chrome, Paul Wall-reminiscent grille goodbye, the 2015 Navigator has a much more stately split grille design that makes for a classier mug.

Replacing the 5.4-liter V8 is Ford’s twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine putting out around 370 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque. This powerplant puts the power down using a six-speed automatic transmission which, coupled with the available 4.10 final drive, will actually tug quite a bit.

The updated interior features a redesigned gauge cluster, a push-button start, SYNC with MyLincoln Touch and plenty of leather and wood paying homage to Lincoln’s brougham roots.

While pricing and other details have yet to be announced, you can expect these to begin hitting showroom floors this fall.

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Chicago 2014: 2014 BMW 740Ld Fri, 07 Feb 2014 05:51:28 +0000 2014-BMW-740Ld-xDrive-02

BMW has debuted a diesel-equipped version of its flagship 7-series sedan in the US. Jack will not be driving one.

The 2014 BMW 740Ld xDrive features a direct-injected, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder diesel expected to return a 25 to 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency. With its 8-speed automatic transmission, 255 horsepower and a blonde hair over 400 lb-ft of torque. The interior features are typical of BMW, featuring all the latest in optional Bavarian gizmos.

We’re told the base MSRP for this big body Beemer will be $83,425. Expect to see them in showrooms this spring.

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Chicago 2014: Nissan Versa Note Gets “Sporty” Fri, 07 Feb 2014 05:51:00 +0000 2015 Nissan Versa Note SR

Nissan has added a few “sports car-inspired” design cues to its practical grocery getter.

Badged as an SR model, this facelifted Versa Note features a new grille design, smoked headlights, dark wheels, ground effects and a nice little rear spoiler. The interior has also been given a little bit of the 370Z treatment with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and suede-like fabric seats featuring orange accents.

While the little 1.6-liter fourbanger delivers the same 109 horsepower as the base model, this car will make for an aggressive-looking subcompact capable of 31 and 40 miles-per-gallon in the city and on the highway, respectively.

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Chicago 2014: S60 & V60 Polestar Performance Models Thu, 06 Feb 2014 22:04:12 +0000 Volvo-V60-S60-Polestar-Models-01

Two new, performance-oriented Volvo models made their North American debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

Billed as the S60 Polestar and V60 Polestar, the bespoke aerodynamic pieces set them apart from your parents’ V60 or S60. Handling is further improved by a combination of high-performance shock absorbers and stiffer springs. Tucked neatly behind the Polestar exclusive 20-inch wheels are Brembo brakes. Polestar models will only be offered in Sapphire Black or Rebel Blue.

The turbocharged, 3.0-liter inline six boasts 345 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque capable of sub-5 second 0-60 times. These numbers are achieved via a new twin-scroll turbocharger, a larger intercooler, a 2.5-inch exhaust system and special ECU tweaks. The only available transmission is a six-speed automatic wih steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

With only 120 examples slated for our shores, we expect Volvo will have no problem selling every one before they’re scheduled to hit select dealerships this June. Additional information, including pricing, is to be announced.

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Chicago 2014: Toyota TRD Pro Live Shots Thu, 06 Feb 2014 21:20:03 +0000 IMG_5645

One nice thing about being the company that builds the Prius: you can get away with stuff like this.

The TRD Pro trucks, discussed earlier today, ring the retro bell hard with the reintroduction of the simple “TOYOTA” script on the grilles. To a generation that remembers unkillable half-tons bouncing across the California dunes with half a million miles showing on the odometer, this is a welcome change.

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Chicago 2014: Chevrolet City Express Van Live Shots Thu, 06 Feb 2014 20:49:54 +0000 IMG_5699

We’re on the floor at the Chicago show, checking out the new Transit Connect and NV200 competitor.

It appears a little larger than the Ford, with 122.7 square feet of cargo room. It’s 4 feet from the floor to the ceiling, and 7 feet from the seats to the tailgate. It should be fuel efficient as since it is powered by a 2.0 liter 131hp 4 cylinder with CVT. I asked if this would ever become a passenger vehicle but was told that is not in the plans at all, mostly because of all the additional safety concerns that go into making it a passenger vehicle. In fact, they rushed to get this together out of necessity from requests from current customers. It will be released this fall. They told me to think of it as 1/2 the size of the Chevy Express, but twice the gas mileage. The interior is basically a work van with lots of hard plastics. Although it wasn’t mentioned during the press conference, this is actually built by Nissan in Mexico and appears to be almost identical to the NV200. Think of it as the Chevy LUV for the twenty-first century tradesman.

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Chicago 2014: Deep Dive with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado Thu, 06 Feb 2014 10:54:11 +0000 2015 Chevy Colorado | Gas 2

A few short hours ago, I was in McCormick Place with a handful of auto journalists and GM’s 2015 Chevy Colorado team. It was a lucky break- a last-minute invitation to meet with some GM brass before the hectic onslaught of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show’s press days and ask them the questions that my fellow alt-fuel/cleantech gear heads wanted answers to.

So, here it is: the 2015 Chevy Colorado, in the 72 dpi digitized flesh and packed with some seriously trick goodies. Will this (and its GMC Canyon twin) be enough to reclaim the compact truck throne, however? You’d better believe it- the Colorado is that good!


2015 Chevy Colorado: the Look

Make no mistake, this is one seriously good-looking trucklet. Chevy’s 2015 Colorado is a true mid-sizer, but the look is more F-150-fighter than Nissan Frontier. Size-wise, more than one of my fellow deep-divers commented that “it’s the perfect size”, and I think it’s just short enough to make a reasonable case for having one in Chicago.

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

As you take a look at the photos of the Z71 off-roader version of the Colorado, look at the soft, velvety look of the black plastics and the crisp inner workings of the headlight. This is a far cry from the old S-10 EXtreme and its “generic level 2″ plastics.

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71


2015 Chevy Colorado: the Cockpit

Inside, the truck’s 2015 MyLink infotainment system is decidedly more Chevy Sonic than Chevy Cruze, and that is a very good thing. All the buttons were logically labeled, there didn’t seem to be any of the convoluted “touch screen + button + more screen-touching” command sequences that made me loathe the Cruze’s MyLink. It had another neat trick, as well: a fully-functional Pandora app.

Is that game-changer? I’m much more excited about my Pandora stations than I am about XM/Sirius, so- yes? Just pretend you can already hear my blasting Shakira and Ke$ha as loud as the Chevy Colorado’s speakers will let me.

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior


2015 Chevy Colorado: Seating

The biggest complaint anyone ever had about a compact pickup (think old Chevy S-10, 90s-00s Ford Ranger, etc.) wasn’t that they weren’t capable enough, it’s that getting in and out of the things was always a pain. It was a pain when I was 23, and it would be a bigger pain today, more than a decade later. I’d never climb over a front seat to get into a side-facing jumper again, and- in a truck that’s the size of the new 2015 Chevy Colorado, I won’t have to.

Ingress and egress seems straight-forward enough. You just open the solidly-mounted, triple-sealed doors, climb into the quality-feeling vinyl/cloth seats, and shut the door with a satisfying, Mercedes C-Class level “whooomp”. Actually, open the door and slam it shut a few more times. It is a hugely satisfying feeling that was totally absent in my 1991 GMC Jimmy, even with the rose-colored lenses of nostalgia firmly in place.






The 2015 Chevy Colorado has a cleverly adjustable seatbelt that adjusts at the shoulder AND at the hip. More comfortable belts are more likely to be worn, so this is a huge step towards 100% adoption of belts- especially out in rural ‘Murica where the Big Gulp comes in more than one size of early-onset diabetes.



2015 Chevy Colorado: the Tough Questions

I hate to tell you this, guys- but I didn’t get the scoop on the 2015 Chevy Colorado’s EPA fuel economy. I can’t tell you what the EPA numbers on the 2016 diesel will be, either. I also couldn’t tell you if the truck is E15 or E20 compatible, because the GM engineer on hand (a lovely, polite woman who I mistook for another journalist, despite the Riot Grrl leanings of my youth) didn’t know. I also couldn’t tell you if GM plans to include the Colorado in its CNG fleet plans, but I was told, wink-wink, nudge-nudge style, to expect a bi-fuel announcement from GM soon.

A few things I did find out? The upcoming V6 version of the 2015 Chevy Colorado- which uses the same 3.6 liter VVT V6 engine used in Cadillacs and Buicks …



… and that, in truck duty, the V6 is expected to be able to haul up to 6700 lbs (!?). That’s more than enough to safely haul any number of RVs, fishing boats, and (dare I say it?) race cars- and the Colorados will be available with fully integrated receiver hitches and easy-to-access wiring for 4 and 7 pin connectors.

So, that’s something- no? What do you guys think? Am I right in thinking Chevy’s hit a home run with this new 2015 Colorado, or do you think Nissan and Dodge will out-Darwin it with their 28 MPG full-size diesel half-tons? Let us know what you think in the comments, below. Enjoy!


Originally posted to Jo’s other site, Gas 2.

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2015 Subaru Legacy Revealed Tue, 04 Feb 2014 07:48:44 +0000 2015 Subaru Legacy 01

The 2015 Subaru Legacy leaked late last night. Not bad, Subie.

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Production-Ready Subaru Legacy To Make 2014 Chicago Auto Show Debut Sat, 01 Feb 2014 08:34:17 +0000 2015 Subaru Legacy Tease

After its worldwide debut as a concept at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show last November, the Subaru Legacy is ready to show-off its production-ready ensemble at next week’s 2014 Chicago Auto Show.

Though the teaser doesn’t offer much — as teasers are wont to do — it does offer glimpses of the sedan’s thin A-pillar, raked windscreen, and the matching LED lights up front and down back, all part of Subaru’s new design language. Judging by the lightly flared fenders, however, no 21-inch wheels — like those on the concept in LA — will be offered when the Legacy arrives in showrooms this year.

The production Legacy will debut February 6 at the Chicago Auto Show.

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Chicago Auto Show: Best cutaways of the show Fri, 08 Feb 2013 22:06:20 +0000

What is the best part of a modern auto show? It’s not the constant running from one press release to another. It certainly isn’t fighting your way to the front of the throng to get some blurry photos of the latest sports car. It isn’t even the airport-grade lunches and cheap booze. No, it’s the cutaways. Nowhere else will you find the sheer quantity and quality of mechanical cutaways as an auto show. There are engine cutaways, transmission cutaways, and cutaways of entire vehicles. Click past the jump to see 28 of our favorites from the Chicago Auto Show.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Nissan NV200 Fri, 08 Feb 2013 16:21:18 +0000  

 If the Transit Connect isn’t your bag but you’re looking for a small cargo carrier (or a New York Taxi), Nissan is finally bringing their NV200 to the USA. The small cargo hauler has been on sale in Japan and Europe since 2009 but due to the success of the Transit Connect Nissan has decided to bring it our way. What do you need to know? Click past the jump to find out.

The NV200 is based on the same platform as the Cube and Versa but stretched for American cargo duty. This means the vehicle has car-like ride aspirations, a 2.0L gasoline engine and, you guessed it, a continuously variable transmission. Nissan kept the MacPherson struts up front but swapped the torsion beam setup in the rear for commercial-style leaf springs to bring the payload capacity up to 1,500lbs. Note that an official cargo carrying capacity has yet to be announced.

Nissan tells us that a standard 40×48 inch pallet can be accommodated in the rear, and thanks to doors that fold flat with the sides of the van you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting a forklift in there to do the lifting. Just make sure it’s not a heavy pallet. Cargo carrying is helped by a load floor that is flat all the way to the front, a notable change from the Transit Connect that has a load floor higher than the passenger floor. This means it will be more practical to remove the front passenger seat in the NV for more hauling room.

Interior bits come from a variety of Nissan products with a unique dashboard and Nissan’s low cost nav system can be added as an option. The last, and perhaps most important thing to keep in mind is the engine. The 2.0L four is borrowed from the Sentra but Nissan hasn’t released power numbers yet. Some are suggesting that we should expect it to be detuned for cargo duty to around 135HP, but I hope they are wrong. Also not clear is whether the NV200 will be getting the newer CVT with 2-speed gearset which broadens the ratio spread of the CVT.

2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van-1 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van-3 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van-4 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van-5 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van-6 2014 Nissan NV200 Cargo Van-7


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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon Fri, 08 Feb 2013 15:50:11 +0000

If you were an early adopter of Ford’s compact cargo hauler, news of the 2014 Transit Connect may upset you. Rather than letting the old baby-Transit languish in America like Ford did once upon a time with thee Focus, the new Euro van is coming to America later this year. With new engines, new transmissions and a corporate grille, should you put your purchase on hold?

In a word: yes. The new Transit Connect isn’t just more stylish than its predecessor, it comes with a host of improvements for people and cargo hauling alike. Payload remains somewhat low at 1,600lbs but cargo room is up thanks to an extended wheelbase model. Ford is even tossing in their 6.5 inch version of MyFord Touch.

If people carrying is your goal, that extended model will now haul 7 passengers and Ford improved interior parts quality. While the last Transit connect was slathered in hard Euro plastics, the 2014 model borrows from Ford’s Focus, Escape and Fiesta parts bins. The result is a mini-van that looks like one of the family and finally doesn’t have any painted metal showing on the inside.

Under the hood Ford is using a naturally aspirated 2.5L four cylinder or a force-fed 1.6L four borrowed from the Escape and Fusion. Assuming the 1.6L doesn’t get recalled, the boosted four’s broad torque range coupled with Ford’s 6-speed automatic should improve the Connect’s performance on the road. Ford is claiming the combo will also be good for 30MPG on the highway which is impressive for a commercial vehicle, as long as they can meet their claim.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Nissan Versa Note Fri, 08 Feb 2013 03:46:23 +0000

Another Detroit début languishing at the back of a booth is the 2014 Nissan Versa Note. Nissan’s discount hatch, which replaces the Nissan Versa sans-note is still singing the discount tune undercutting both the Honda Fit and the Fiesta.For hatch back duty Nissan fitted the Versa with a new nose that looks a bit less premium than the sedan. Click through the jump for more.

Pricing has been announced for Nissan’s small 5-door and it starts at $14,000 plus a $780 destination fee which is a far cry from the sedan’s starting point of $11,990 but about $700 cheaper than the current Versa hatch. The only engine offered is the same 1.6L four cylinder 109HP engine from the Versa sedan mated to the same standard 5-speed manual transmission or Nissan’s latest CVT which incorporates a 2-speed gear set to increase the ratio spread.

Lips were tight at Nissan about bringing the supercharged 1.2L three cylinder engine from Europe or the 1.5L turbo diesel. Overall equipment levels are higher than Versa sedan, so if you’re looking for the cheapest ride from Nissan it’ll have four doors, not five. Nissan has announced the Note will be capable of 40MPGs on the highway with an undisclosed but likely lofty city figure.

Nissan hasn’t refreshed the Versa interior for the note, although there are different fabric choices available. Overall the Versa cabin is full of hard plastics, but I have always held that it is totally appropriate for the low price point. Helping those who are parking-challanged Nissan is now offering their cheapest all-around monitor system from the Infiniti product line. Also on offer is Nissan;’s new app-enabled navigation system based on the systems found in the Sentra and Altima.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Cadillac ELR Thu, 07 Feb 2013 23:39:17 +0000

TTAC writers will stoop to any trick to get access to cars. This may be my last post at TTAC because I bribed my way into the ELR and may be removed for ethics violations (a Diet Pepsi was involved.) Fresh off its début in Detroit the ELR may be old news, but since none of the TTAC staff had seen one in the metal, I knew my duty.

Is it a “Cadillac Volt?”  Yes. But what that means is thankfully different now that GM seems to be shunning badge engineering. So it’s a Volt with a different body, different interior, different infotainment systems, a more powerful motor and plenty of tweaks, so it’s not really a Volt at all.

What do you need to know?

It’s a two-door, two-plus-two coupé that places style and efficiency on the same high pedestal. Power is up from 149HP to 207 while torque takes a more modest increase from 273 to 295. Cadillac hasn’t released any weight numbers but we were told that the weight would be largely the same as the Volt since the battery pack is essentially the same. The ELR seems to focus more on handling than economy with wide 245-width rubber all the way around on 20 inch rims.

Did you sit in it?

That’s where the soda bribe came in. The interior is oddly enough the best that Cadillac has made yet. It shares the steering wheel design with the XTS and ATS but the cheap plastic airbag cover is replaced by a leather/suede version. The dashboard is full of angles as you would expect from Cadillac but the materials choices are higher than expected for the most part. As often happens things get a bit less harmonious down on the center console but on the whole it’s a marked improvement.

Cadillac hasn’t announced the important things like sale dates or pricing yet, but you can be sure with wide rubber and a lead foot that the ELR won’t have the same range or economy as the Volt. Does that matter? No. This is what GM should have built first, luxury buyers are more likely to want to pay for gasoline/electric novelty.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Fiat 500L Thu, 07 Feb 2013 23:21:46 +0000

What happens when foreigners have been in America for a few years? They start getting fat like Americans. And so it is with the 2014 Fat 500L which has gained mass, two doors and a plumper overall visage. We found a red model strutting its chunky stuff at the back of the Chicago Auto Show For some reason we weren’t allowed inside, but we were able to caress it through the open windows.

Fiat kept referring to the 500L as some sort of MINI Clubman competitor, but I tend to think only shoppers of the Countryman CUV will be looking at the larger Fiat. On the outside the 500L looks slightly overinflated with suspicious looking bulges everywhere. The inside is a different story however with interior bits that put MINI to shame. Not that they are overly luxurious but MINI’s parts bin is a hard plastic wonderland.

Fiat says the 500L will be front wheel drive only for the moment, although the rumor mill indicates the platform has been designed with AWD in mind. The same 1.4L turbo engine from the 500 Abarth is found under the hood giving the baby crossover 160HP and 184lb-ft of twist. Also on board is a 6-speed manual or Fiat’s dual dry clutch transmission. Infotainment options are also taking a step in the right direction bringing Chrysler’s slick uConnect system to an optional 6.5-inch touch scree in the dash. I spent some time playing with the display system and it looks to be better in my opinion than MINI’s rendition of iDrive and light-years ahead of what’s in the current 500. So far, nobody is talking pricing.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 RAM ProMaster Cargo Van Thu, 07 Feb 2013 20:26:55 +0000  

Car guys with a commercial leaning seem to usually wax poetic about the old Dodge Ram vans. Chrysler’s four speed automatic transmission may not have been the most reliable cog-swapper ever built, but the 318 engine will run forever. Chrysler gave up on the van market in the middle of the last decade to focus on getting raped by Mercedes other projects. Enter the 2014 ProMaster.

Dodge’s, er, I mean RAM’s new full-sized cargo van is a thinly disguised Fiat Ducato from Europe. Rather than a complete redesign on the same theme for the American market like Ford did with the Transit van, Fiat and Chrysler have decided to keep the changes to a minimum. This of course means the ProMaster is a front wheel drive van. Yes, you heard that right, front wheel drive. This means you won’t find a V8 under the RAM’s tiny hood, instead you’ll find Chrysler’s latest 280HP 3.6L V6 engine or a Fiat 3.0L four-cylinder turbo diesel. The diesel is rated for 174H and 295lb-ft of torque. Sending power to the ground is a heavy-duty version of the 6-seed transaxle from Chrysler’s minivans with the V6, or a 6-speed Fiat “automated manual” transmission if you decide to burn oil.

RAM is claiming that the ProMaster is capable of an impressive 5,145lb cargo capacity and a towing rating of 5,100lbs when properly equipped. While some may scoff at the FWD design (and I wonder what a fully loaded van on a steep hill will be like), the benefits may outweigh the concerns. RAM is claiming best-in-class fuel economy, smallest turning circle (36 feet), largest cargo hold, lowest step-in height, lowest load floor and tallest ceiling height. Trying to allay some fears RAM is tossing in a 5 year 100,000 mile powertrain warranty and 10,000 mile or 18,000 mile oil change intervals depending on your engine choice. There is of course some uConnect love, plenty of European Fiat parts going on inside, Brembo brakes (I took a double-take as well) and the uncertainty of reliability and pricing. Commercial shoppers look like they are in for some tough decision-making in 2014.

All the other details: Pricing hasn’t been announced. It will be built in Saltillo Mexico. The diesel uses urea. Yes, t does look a little funky in person.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Chevrolet Impala Thu, 07 Feb 2013 18:56:05 +0000
So you want a Cadillac XTS but think the price tag is too dear? Chevrolet has an answer with the 2014 Impala, the Caddy’s kissing cousin. By all appearances, the main-stream model is the more attractive and sensible model as well. In between stuffing my maw with leftover breakfast muffins and a Kia sponsored mimosa I tripped across Chevy’s full-size sedan. No, this isn’t the RWD Chevy we’ve longed for, this is Malibu to the max.

The Impala isn’t vastly different from the rest of the Chevy lineup in style, but on first glance it seems to have pulled the best styling cues from Chevy’s design bag and placed them all on one car. GM had two top-of-the-line Impala LTZ models on display (complete with booth babes) and one cloth-seat equipped model for our perusal. In addition to the cohesive design, the Impala doesn’t come off strangely proportioned like the Cadillac XTS did when we last reviewed it.

 I still don’t understand why Chevy is going premium when Buick exists, but that’s a story for another time. Despite the logic of the lineup, the Impala wears the best Chevy interior in terms of quality. All the interiors on display dripped with stitched pleather, plenty of cow-hide and lots of convincing faux-wood trim. As nice as the new Toyota Avalon on display next door was, the Impala beat it in terms of style, feel and parts quality. Whoda thunk that? How does it drive? You’ll have to wait or the Truth About That for a while.

Shoppers will find GM’s 2.4L Ecotec engine with eAssist from Buick’s lineup, GM’s new 2.5L 195hp four-pot or the ubiquitous 3.6L 303HP V6. There will be no fire-breathing Taurus SHO competitor we’re told. Pity.

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Chicago Auto Show: Ford Transit 250 Thu, 07 Feb 2013 17:47:36 +0000

Ford’s commercial booth is very quiet at the Chicago Auto Show despite having on display the biggest news in commercial vehicles at the show. OK, so a new cargo van isn’t that exciting, I’ll give you that. While Ford had their cargo hauler locked, I was able to get a few impressions.

First off, my GOD the Transit looks like a hungy animal from the front. Second impression? This thing is huge.  A quick look at the frame display Ford had on the show floor appears to dash any hopes of finding a V8 under the hood of the transit for a while at least, there just isn’t any room. On the bright side it looks like engine serviceability will improve somewhat thanks to the smaller and shorter engines.

The new Transit appears to have a very low load floor for an (as labeled) 3/4 ton van. In side it also appears that Ford ripped the shifter and gauge cluster out of the current generation Focus while the infotainment options appear to come from the new Fiesta. By the looks of the screen you can bet MyFord Touch will be on offer instead of the cumbersome and awkward mini-computer system that Ford was selling in the Transit Connect for a while. Size wise the Transit appears to compete head on with the likes of the Sprinter and forthcoming RAM van.

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Chicago Auto Show: 2014 Nissan Nismo Thu, 07 Feb 2013 17:37:18 +0000  

 Nissan’s motorsports division doesn’t think it has enough brand awareness in America. To counter this perception, Nissan tossed out a few NISMO (NISsan MOtorsports) models at the Chicago Auto Show. First up we have the Juke NISMO which is Nissan’s oddly shaped small crossover vehicle. The NISMO treatment makes the Juke look even more conspicuous on American roads with shapes and styles never before seen on a production vehicle. Whatever you do, don’t look up Juke in the Urban Dictionary while at work.

Thankfully the NISMO package isn’t just a styling exercise, Nissan also tosses in some cabin upgrades, faux-suede trim and a power boost. The same 1.6L engine is found under the funky hood but now cranks out 197HP and 184 lb-ft of torque. The CVT and 5-speed manual remain the only transmission options and of course AWD can be had for a price. While this is a far cry from the fire-breathing Juke R, it may help you escape the hoards of villagers with pitchforks.

Far more attractive is the Nissan 370Z NISMO gets extensive braking, suspension and styling tweaks in addition to a 350HP version of Nissan’s 3.7L V6 engine. Nissan promises improved downforce and even more fun out on the track. That should just about compensate for the extra 6.2 inches in length the NISMO Z brings to your garage. (Thank the re-tweaked front end for that.)

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