Chicago 2014: A Wrap-Up From The Floor And A Full Gallery

Matt Fink
by Matt Fink
chicago 2014 a wrap up from the floor and a full gallery

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.

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2 of 34 comments
  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Feb 13, 2014

    “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.” Brilliant further evidence that Volvo has lost its way entirely. What's the deal with the speaker on the arm rest, in the rear LH side shot of the BMW? Is that what they're really doing now? It looks like someone left a speaker there and forgot to install it. I feel the indented TRD logos on the truck will most certainly collect/hold dirt. The Ghibli doesn't have a locking glove box, so that's a nice oversight - but DAYUM that ultramarine color is nice.

  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Feb 13, 2014

    "and others locations in demand grows. " Kewl! "entrance of Dayton International Speedway." Lots of tracks in Dayton, Ohio? "We will have to wait and see if it will be better, or better-received, than the Escalade, QX80, or LX570" It won't be, and you need a (.).

  • Bullnuke It may be awhile before these show up on US shores. The MV Fremantle Highway has just started demo/reconstruction in Rotterdam after the large fire when transporting its last shipment of electric Porsche products.
  • Fie on Fiasler Big, fast and thirsty does not equal good. True luxury is not cobbled together by the UAW.
  • Inside Looking Out I see it as gladiator races - only one survives in virtual world.
  • Crown They need to put the EcoDiesel back in the Grand Cherokee. I have a 2018 and it has been the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. 69,000 miles and only needed tires, and regular oil and fuel filter changes.
  • El scotto Y'all are overthinking this. Find some young hard-charging DA seeking the TV limelight to lock this kid up. Heck, have John Boehner come up from Cincy to help the young DA get his political career going. Better yet, have the young DA spin this as hard as he or she can; I'm the candidate for Law and Order, I defied our go-easy office and leadership to get this identified criminal locked up. Oh this could be spun more than a hyper active kid's top.Now I'd do some consulting work for Little Kings Original Cream Ale and Skyline Chili.