By on February 13, 2015


Obviously, the Ford GT was the big hit from the Chicago Auto Show. But what about the rest of the field?

Hit: 2016 Honda Pilot


During the Honda press event they referred to this year as, “The Year of Honda.” Of course that is a gimmicky line, but when you can back it up with facts it works. They have the best retail selling car in the Accord, best retail selling compact car in the Civic, and the best selling SUV in America in the CR-V. They’re adding a new vehicle to the lineup in the HR-V which has a great use of packaging that easily fits 4 adults along with plenty of cargo, something that other vehicles in the class can’t do. On top of that, they just released the completely redesigned 2016 Pilot.

The initial impressions of the new 3rd generation Pilot are very positive. It seems to take the best styling cues from the front end of the Ford Explorer and the side from the Acura MDX. Though it may not come through in the pictures, it is very easy to distinguish from the CR-V. Without saying any specific numbers they claim it will have the best fuel economy in the class. The 7 or 8 passenger will exclusively be built in Alabama alongside the Odyssey and next Ridgeline.

A new feature in the 2016 Pilot is the option of getting a 2nd row bench or captain chairs, which changes the vehicle from an 8 to 7 passenger. The captain chairs are large, comfortable, and supportive while providing a nice shelf/storage area between them. To access to the 3rd row a simple button is pushed creating a wide opening unlike other vehicles in the class. It is much easier in and out of the back row than the 2nd generation. If the 2nd row seat is pulled forward, the 3rd row could even be considered comfortable. The Pilot will be the first Honda with available 20” wheels. Honda says it is 3.5” longer than the previous version but 300 lbs lighter. The Pilot features an updated Earth Dreams 3.5 liter direct injection i-VTEC V6 and either a 6 or 9 speed transmission. The engine includes cylinder deactivation and start-stop technology.

The Pilot includes 5 USB chargers, LED lights, 2 sunroofs including a panoramic one in the back, and soft materials throughout. It has a pushbutton start with a heated steering wheel and heated 1st and 2nd row seats. Those of you that hate the dual screen infotainment screens used in other Hondas will be pleased to find a single screen in the Pilot with smart phone integration. The rear entertainment now includes Blu Ray capability, HDMI port, A/V outlet, 2 headphone jacks, and a 115 volt outlet. The interior has nice subtle ambient lighting throughout. In the rear, the floor can be set to a higher flat floor load height, or lowered to create more of a well for storage. The rear floorboard is reversible with carpet on one side and rubber on the other. Watch out Weathertech, there will be no selling rubber cargo area covers to Pilots owners anymore! The new Pilot looks to be a huge success for Honda.

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Miss: 2016 Chevy Equinox


Arriving in showrooms this spring, is the new 2016 Chevy Equinox. Or I should say the same Equinox that has been available for 6 years with a new grill and new taillights! There is nothing especially wrong with the Equinox, it just is time for a redesign and this isn’t it. Doing these changes (they do look nice) this late into a model cycle, Chevy appears to be saying they don’t intend to properly update the Equinox for a couple more years. Other minor changes include a larger touchscreen and nicer cloth upholstery. The power remains the same 4 or 6 cylinder engines.

I see a problem when a vehicle has been out 6 years and you are promoting a slightly larger touchscreen as your “new refreshed model.” Chevy seemed to take the easy way out on this one and not invest into a new Equinox at this time. It still features hard plastics throughout the interior and rear seats that don’t fold flat. The additional wifi option is a nice touch though.

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Hit: Kia Trail’ster


The Kia Soul is already very popular, but the newly released Trail’ster concept could take it to a new group of customers. The Trail’ster builds on the Soul by adding an electric all-wheel-drive option, a canvas roll-back roof, and skid plates with an additional 2.5” of ride height. Kia claims it should gain 25-30% better fuel economy city, and 10-15% better highway mileage. I see the Trail’ster competing with the Mini Countryman or perhaps the new Jeep Renegade. Of course this is just a concept so it won’t be competing against anyone anytime soon. They say whether this concept will turn into a production vehicle is based on media and customer reaction to it. To me this is a no brainer Kia, build the Trail’ster.

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To Be Determined: 2016 Acura RDX


The RDX is mostly new for 2016 and hopes to build on the previous model’s continued sales success. Usually when a model is about to be replaced, the older model will begin selling less leading up to the release. The RDX however is setting sales records each month despite having been out for 3 years. The 2016 RDX is more of a refresh and it shows in how similar it looks. The new version still has the Acura “beak”, though this one has a 3D design to it that actually almost fits with the styling of the vehicle. There is a whole list of new safety features added to the RDX included in the AcuraWatch safety system, as well as a 9 speed transmission. Overall it looks a little more sporty, gets a more powerful 3.5 liter i-VTEC V6, achieves 1 mpg more, and receives new Jewel Eye LED projector headlights.

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Miss: Nissan 370Z NISMO Roadster Concept


The topless NISMO-tuned 370Z coupe appears to be ready for production, but Nissan says this is only a concept. It has a 350-horsepower 3.7 liter V6, tuned exhaust, upgraded suspension and a body kid. Should they decide to make this car it is said to cost between $52,000 and $57,000 to start, or $10,000 over the NISMO 370Z coupe (which itself is already a $10,000 premium over the regular 370Z). That seems pretty expensive for an increase of 18-horsepower. The base 370Z at around $30,000 is nice and competes with Cameros and other sports cars. Even the NISMO version could compete with the Mustang GT and Camaro SS. But who would be the competitors at over $50,000 for a track focused convertible?

(On a different note, the new Nissan LMP1 racecar is quite impressive in person. I appreciate them bringing this weirdly stunning vehicle for display.)


Hit: Mitsubishi GC-PHEV Concept


Ok, so “hit” may be an overstatement but I’m going to give Mitsubishi some credit for this one. Is it attractive? No. Not at all. But be honest, how many were surprised to hear Mitsubishi had a concept car released? I respect the effort and the attempt to think outside of the box. The reality is most of their products that were designed to compete head-to-head with other mainstream vehicles aren’t selling very well.

The GC-PHEV comes with an AWD 3-liter supercharged V6 with an additional electric motor making a combined 355 horsepower. The GC-PHEV’s main feature is multimedia touchscreen that runs through the middle of the car between four swiveling bucket seats. The other innovation that stands out is the car’s ability to provide emergency electricity to an average home for up to two weeks.

Will this concept be made with its weird table in the middle? No. But could the next Montero look similar to this. Yes. In my opinion Mitsubishi desperately needs to do something to stand out from the crowd, and well, this does it.


To Be Determined: 2016 Toyota Avalon


The 2016 Avalon is a refresh on the version that was released in 2012. It comes in looking a little sportier than before with an almost Audi-like grill. My concern is that the Avalon may be trying to be too many things at the same time. As a previous Avalon owner myself, this model definitely is more attractive. There are 5 trim levels, a hybrid option, and 2 unique suspensions systems (one like in older Avalons is for comfort, the other is more for the driving experience). It received new LED headlights, a much wider grill, and the same 268 horsepower engine as before. Lots of new options are available now including a wood grain dash and 18” wheels. The two very different suspension offerings intrigue me. Is the Avalon the type of car that someone would buy and then choose the tighter suspension? Traditionally, probably not. But with this new aggressive styling, maybe it could work.



Hit: Ram Laramie Limited


Seeing as there appears to be no limit to what truck buyers will pay for top level pickups, why not add some more features and raise the price? The Laramie Limited is already sold, but for 2015 Ram is updating the offering. This begins by adding a new grill with huge “Ram” lettering across it. Just when you thought the font size couldn’t get any larger, you realize “Ram” appears even bigger on the tailgate. There is also a large increase in chrome inside and out, including chrome seatbelt buckles. The new center console features a media device holder big enough to secure an iPad. The interior is jet black and offers new thick carpet with rubber underneath and lots of real wood and leather. This truck is big, loud, in your face, and luxurious. It’s for the truck driver who also likes the finer things in life. The Ram President and CEO said it best at the unveiling, “Like the people who own them, the Laramie Limited knows how to dress up.”

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Miss: Toyota Camry and Corolla Special Editions

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When the press release from Toyota announcing they have new models coming out states, “Toyota to create turbulence in windy city with sporty Camry and Corolla special editions” a certain expectation is set. The Camry was just released in 2015 and the Corolla in 2014, so I’m not sure why they felt special editions was needed already. Telling us that these new special edition models will create driving excitement sounded great. In the end though, I’m not so sure. These appear to just be slightly different trim levels released very early on in a model’s cycle.

The Camry Special Edition is based on the SE trim level with a few other features like a sunroof, sport seats, and different wheels. Only 12,000 will be made.

The Corolla is based off the S Plus trim level and adds unique wheels, red trim, and paddle shifters. Only 8,000 will be made.

Both are nice cars, but don’t necessarily create turbulence or driving excitement.


Hit: 2016 Ford Interceptor Utility


What’s not to like? It’s a Chicago built police utility vehicle that is now being used in 80 countries around the world. Respect is given to Ford for using a 25 member police advisory board to create the exact features and performance that law enforcement need. For the 2016 Interceptor that means a 365 horsepower 3.5 liter ecoboost 6 speed V6 that is specifically tuned for faster closing speeds. It also includes a new feature where if someone approaches the Interceptor from the rear it automatically raises the windows and locks the doors. If you are looking for a vehicle with reinforced door panels, unfortunately this is not for sale to public. Be sure to watch in a year or two when police forces begin selling them used.

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45 Comments on “Hits and Misses From the 2015 Chicago Auto Show...”

  • avatar

    I don’t think we should give Mitsubishi a trophy just for showing up, really what they showed was an insult. A so-called fullsize crossover that’s as small as an 80s compact SUV with a lift kit and body skirts. Instead of spending money building something that will never make it to production, they could have offered a real product that had a real chance as selling.

    I don’t even understand the point of a special edition Corolla that looks worse than a regular production model.

    Honda Pilot is as me-too as it has ever been, but that sells so you can’t really dock them for that.

  • avatar

    Spot on on the Pilot, I think. It looks as good as it needs to, the interior appears nicely done, and it should sell well. If anything, I think it will take a bite out of MDX sales.

    Why bother with an MDX? Other than an only-slightly-more-desirable brand name you get the same engine, basically the same technology, and you don’t get things like a panoramic sunroof. The looks are similar enough now that not even that is a selling point.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with this. This new Pilot is every bit as nice as the MDX, so why get the MDX when the Pilot can be had for at least $5K less?

      • 0 avatar

        Honestly, I don’t know why the MDX seems so intentionally downmarket. I know Honda doesn’t think it can sell expensive Acuras, but why not try with the MDX?

        Give us avant garde styling, give us real flipping woodgrain. Give us turbos, and creative/fashionable colour combinations, give us massive sunroofs and fancy technology. Otherwise, why bother?

    • 0 avatar

      Better AWD, better suspension, and (if you get the Advance trim) much nicer leather.

    • 0 avatar

      The Honda Pilot has piqued my interest, but I am worried that it will be handicapped by puny brakes like every other Honda this millennium (except the S2000). Honda brakes were adequate back in the days when it had a focus on light weight, but that stopped in 1998 with the 5th gen. Accord. That Accord was equipped with the same brakes as the last Integra, which it outweighed by over 500 lbs.

  • avatar

    370Z Nismo convertible for C7 money – I know what I’m buying and looking at existing 370Z sales numbers, I think others agree – with their wallets.

    Sorry, paddle shifters on a Corolla S don’t “excite” me. Putting the 2.5L 4-banger from the Camry in a Corolla in XRS trim? That would be exciting – and paddle shifters would be also, thank you.

    Ya, I was wrong on the Equinox. I read on Automotive News the new Equinox on Delta II doesn’t come until 2017 as a 2018, and the Buick Envision hasn’t been released despite all the rumors. Something is up with the Theta replacements. Meh – they can milk the Equinox another year and with the death of the Captiva, even if sales go down, Avis and Hertz will gladly help out. ;-)

    I like the looks of the new Avalon – but I’m partial to big ass sedans – I also like the move away from the Predator face, alas all the front clips on everything is looking the same. Damn pedestrian safety rules, you’re interfering with God’s work and natural selection damn it!

    • 0 avatar

      “I read on Automotive News the new Equinox on Delta II doesn’t come until 2017 as a 2018, and the Buick Envision hasn’t been released despite all the rumors.”

      I think that’s outdated news. GM is phasing out Delta II, although recently-released models such as the Captiva will utilize it for some time longer. Likely, though, the next Equinox will join the upcoming Cruze and Verano on the modular D2XX platform…

  • avatar

    The rear cupholders in that equinox are so depressing…. so 1998

  • avatar

    The new Pilot is just mind-numbingly bland, but that (or even ungainly design like the previous CR-V) hasn’t stopped Honda sales (at least for its core models); the greenhouse is more Chevy Traverse than MDX.

    The GT looks even better with that color scheme with the dual stripes down the middle.

    The refresh to the front end of the Equinox is a fail, just as it was for the Cruze.

    • 0 avatar

      He man, at least it isn’t hideously ugly like the new Highlander.

      • 0 avatar

        It doesn’t even look like they TRIED with the new Pilot. What is wrong with Honda designers? The current Accord is handsome and understated, but everything else is horrible. Why would anyone in their right mind choose this when the Santa Fe, Pathfinder, Sorento, and Explorer are all infinitely more appealing. It amazes me that Honda can get away with this design and people will still flock to it.

  • avatar

    It’s nice that Ford put a fresh new face on the ol’ Exploder, but they should have done something about the rest of it.

    At least black hides the fat rolls better.

  • avatar

    Yippeee! I will now buy that Honda. First time ever with very big inch wheels. That is all I needed (and kept me from buying in past). Who do I send the check to?

  • avatar

    Maybe Toyota’s trying for Sideshow Collectible geeks with the special edition trims?

  • avatar

    As if February isn’t cold and grim enough, but every one of the interiors in the photos was as grey and grim as a winter’s afternoon. Was there some unspoken rule against color in Chicago? Nothing but 50 shades of grey, not one of them any less dreary and depressing than the Ford cop wagon’s.

  • avatar

    Wow. This is harshing my mellow … I’m still goin’. Honda copping style from FORD? Be still, my sarcastic fingers. Oddly, the Avalon looks VERY dull in white (especially from the side). Nothing new about the Camry that I can see .. special edition price, I’d guess.

  • avatar

    I think the new Honda Pilot is decent, and it is likely I will be picking one up. I am hoping they still offer the base LX model, and it still has the manly steel wheels. I am glad the new Pilot did not pickup the so tacky fish mouth grill used by so many other brands. However, I don’t see the Explorer in the Pilot. Personally, I find the looks of the Explorer gastly and I am glad the Pilot does not resemble the Explorer. The Pilot front end is CRV and last gen Highlander, and the rest is Acura MDX and last gen Highlander. FYI … Perhaps I am a minority, but I think the last gen Highlander was a gem so I am drawn to the Pilot. Hoping the new 6 speed transmission is as bulletproof as the 5 speed transmission in the current Pilot. The new Pilot is pure Honda.

  • avatar

    I think the press materials said that all wheels for the Pilot will be aluminum for the next generation. However, it is likely the bolt pattern will be the same, the brakes aren’t huge, so if you want a set of steelies for winter or other reasons, you can still find them on ebay or elsewhere like I did for my current Pilot.

  • avatar

    I am definitely all about finding and RDX for my next vehicle in a couple years.

  • avatar

    What’s the last photo in the Honda section (the dashboard with the asymmetrical air vents)?

  • avatar

    Is the Camry special edition a 4 banger or a six? I like the look on the new Avalon, ES sales should take a hit for a while. Nissan needs to rethink their target. The new Acura nose is a pleasant change. Not my favorite thing but far less offensive than the last one.

    Is there any way to get a Camry SE 4 with sport seats without the sunroof? That could be my next car if I break my current ride.

  • avatar

    Is Mitsubishi trying to stake a claim to fame by coming up with car names that can’t even be pronounced or spoken aloud? iMiev, GC-PHEV? I’m not sure I got either of those right, and I have no interest in learning what the names actually are. Good job, Mitsubishi, on making your crappy cars even less accessible and memorable.

  • avatar

    I agree on the Nissan Z. Who’s paying $50+K for that? Nissan needs a redesign now.

    Surprised you called the Ram Laramie Limited a hit. Looks gaudy and overwrought in the press-photos but hey, I’m not there in person.

    The Pilot looks like a sure-fire win. I think it looks leagues better than the Pathfinder, Traverse, CX-9, which are all dated. The Highlander doesn’t have a usable third row and the angry-because design is so 2012. If the last gen is anything to go buy, it has the packaging, modern powertrain, all the luxury goodies. The interior needed that upgrade 5 years ago. All-in-all, as Lie2Me says, why buy an MDX again?

    The Explorer. I really liked the look of the current CUV, especially in Sport Trim. It was the ideal SUV design for the modern era. The new Explorer looks…different for the sake of being different. Yes it needed to be updated, but…not like this.

    If the Impala and Maxima can be aggressive, why not the Avalon. The Avalon says: we know you’re not insecure like the ’16 Maxima driver, but you like style and you don’t trust GM (nuff said). It’s a refresh that keeps you in the showroom.

    The Mitsu GC Montero Concept is nice from the side, but unrealistic. In a society in which people already don’t take them seriously, they need realism.

    The Kia Trailster is right on the money!! Build it now! Kia has it’s ear to the ground because this what the small crossover segment is craving. Both urban and rugged at the same time.

    I didn’t think the RDX, like the ILX, was worth it’s premium over it’s Honda counterpart. This attempts to rectify that. The current one looks dated, this one looks kinda current. So the TBD verdict is spot on.

    The Equinox, I agree, it’s a lost opportunity. GM skimps on refreshes of their bread-and-butter, best-selling vehicles in the hottest selling segments (Traverse, Cruze, Equinox) and that is not what GM of all companies can afford to do! If you’re going to keep dated vehicles on the market, take inspiration from quality refreshes, like the 2006 vs 2010 Fusion or Sebring vs 200. This is so half-assed.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Thanks for the feedback. Your own take on each model was fun to read. I said the Ram was a “Hit” for the fact that I think it will prove to be a smart move for Ram. There seems to be a certain number of people that will pay an astronomical amount of money for a truck. Seems like a good idea to package a bunch of new options all together into one crazy top of the line model that I assume has a ton of profit margin built into it.

  • avatar

    That Pilot sounds fantastic. And all those features sound very expensive. How much will it cost? In 2008 I paid $24,500 for my new Pilot EX-L (after $5K+ November 30 discount). Today, KBB says it’s worth $17K in a private party sale. The only thing that ever broke on it was one TPM, which went away after new tires. $8K of equity cost in six years. My 650i has lost $65K of equity over the same time frame.

    Yesterday I showed the pictures of the 2016 Pilot to my wife and asked her if she was interested in replacing hers with this new one with cool features and better engine and transmission. She says “Nooooo, I LOVE my Pilot. I’m going to keep it for years”.

    Sorry Honda. Your cars are too good to get another sale from me now.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      I don’t think Honda minds not getting another sale from you right now as long as you keep giving such positive reviews of their products for people to read! Your comments make me want a 2008 Pilot.

    • 0 avatar

      I too bought a 2008 Pilot in 2008. Tanking economy, huge price increases in fuel meant Honda was giving them away.

      I’d say those days are over.

  • avatar

    The Ford GT is such a massive hit, design-wise but also in the sense that it lifts the whole Ford brand in a way the Corvette for instance never managed to do so for GM. Can’t wait to see it return to Le Mans in 2016.

  • avatar

    Well, I didn’t know the standard 370Z comes in at $30K – that seems like a pretty good price. I believe then, that the 370 is cheaper (including inflation) than the older versions like the 280 and 300. But the interior of that thing needs an overhaul. It’s using 8 year old bits in there and it’s very obvious.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Nissan’s website currently has the 2015 370Z coupe for $29,990. I agree about the styling. It’s a nice car, but needs an update. Instead, every year Nissan keeps coming out with a low number of unique special versions (NISMO, 40th Anniversary Edition, Black Edition, BRE Edition, etc…)

  • avatar

    “Respect is given to Ford for using a 25 member police advisory board to create the exact features and performance that law enforcement need.”

    I’d like to quibble with the use of the word ‘need’ here. ‘Want’, certainly, but ‘need’ to me implies that we’re all somehow less safe because current police vehicles don’t have enough closing speed…

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