Chicago Auto Show — Drifting into 2011


The 2011 Chicago Auto Show is taking a hit as the city is with bone chilling temperatures and enough snow to bury cars unfortunate enough to parked on the street, just a couple of days prior to opening.

Inside McCormick Center the show is equally under siege. This time buried under the avalanche of introductions recently presented in Los Angeles and Detroit. It’s hard to compete when you come on the heels of nearly 100 world and North American debuts.

With less than a handful of known introductions the Chicago organizers have become facilitators, helping the OEM’s meet with a vast variety of media, from the traditional auto scribes on Feb. 9 to the vagaries and vastness of new and social media on Feb. 10. Those meetings with lots of one-on-one’s make up for the lack of luster of new sheet metal. At least the organizers hope so.

The show is open to the public Feb. 11 - 20.

As for the public, they will have the benefit of seeing lots of new vehicles including the plethora of trucks that traditionally show up in Chicago, and those vehicles that the greater part of the media has already seen plus these highlights:

Chevrolet rolls out a 550-horsepower Camaro

The 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, the highest-performing Camaro and the most technically advanced car ever developed in its class, was unveiled. The new ZL1 continues the momentum of Camaro, propelling it into an entirely new realm of leading-edge performance technology. It is planned to launch at the beginning of 2012.

Motivated by a supercharged V-8 engine producing an estimated 550 horsepower (410 kW), the Camaro ZL1 will be the fastest Camaro ever offered by Chevrolet. And more than just power, the ZL1 features technologically advanced and highly developed chassis and suspension systems that help it deliver balanced, track-ready handling and braking power to complement its high engine output. Rigorous development of the ZL1 is ongoing, and official estimates of the car’s capabilities will be released later in 2011, as testing nears completion.

“Camaro ZL1 is about high-tech performance and design, and is a type of car no one has ever brought to this segment previously,” said Rick Scheidt, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “It’s the most technically advanced Camaro ever, so we’ve chosen a name from the most elite and exclusive Camaro in history.”

The ZL1 name is derived from the all-aluminum racing engine of the same name, which was developed in the late 1960s and installed into a handful of regular-production 1969 Camaros. Only 69 were built with the engine, but they’ve achieved mythical status among enthusiasts, as they represented the pinnacle in Camaro performance – until now. The 2012 ZL1 model is designed to be a major leap forward for the Camaro, bringing a new level of performance capability to the segment.

Acura's newly refined TL that delivers fresh looks, improved performance and upgraded technology was introduced at the auto show. Most apparent are the visual changes that incorporate new front and rear styling, but also present is a new Sequential SportShift 6-speed automatic transmission for improved performance and fuel economy, a revised interior and a host of technology upgrades.

The 2012 TL's refined new look includes a redesigned front bumper with improved aerodynamics, a revised grille, updated headlights and turn signals, a new fog light design and a shorter front overhang. At the rear, a new rear bumper incorporates a significantly repositioned license plate opening and smaller rear reflectors, while updated taillights and a thinner rear trunk edge trim add to a sophisticated new look.

For 2012, two distinct versions of Acura's performance luxury sedan remain: a 280 horsepower, front-wheel-drive TL along with a powerful 305 hp TL paired with Acura's exclusive Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD). The performance-minded 6MT model will continue to be offered in the 2012 TL SH-AWD lineup, helping broaden the TL's appeal among luxury performance sedan buyers.

MotowayAmerica will be driving the new TL on March 1 during the media launch — we’ll let you know more when we get up close and personal with its “innovative refinement.”

Also making its public debut is the 2011 Chrysler 200 convertible, although the car was introduced to the media several weeks ago in San Diego. Featuring new sheet metal and a sharp looking new interior, the highlight on all but the base model is the new Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 and a new six-speed automatic. The juxtaposition of introducing the 200 convertible in the Windy City in the middle of winter is in of itself worthy of attention, and a good chuckle.

Volkswagen introduces 200-horsepower luxury edition Jetta

debuted the new 2012 Jetta GLI. Available in three trim levels, the Jetta GLI has a starting MSRP of $23,495. The GLI Autobahn, with an MSRP of $25,545, adds 18” alloy wheels, sunroof, dual zone climate control, heated V-Tex Leatherette seats and the Fender Premium Audio System.

The top of the line Jetta GLI Autobahn with navigation adds the RNS-315 navigation system and keyless access with push-button start technology for an MSRP of $26,445.

GLI features the 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, generating 200 horsepower and 207 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1,700 rpm. The GLI is offered with a six speed manual transmission as standard equipment. While EPA figures are not yet available, it is expected to deliver 31 mpg highway with the manual and 32 mpg highway with the DSG automatic.

Hyundai flexes its performance muscles with the introduction of “Hyundai Speed” brand and a Veloster Rallycross car. Veloster, the new sport hatch will come to market later this year.

The rally car will be another Hyundai racing project by driver Rhys Millen and his X-Games team. The racing Veloster will sport 500 horsepower and 600 lb.-ft. torque set to an all-wheel drive system.

Also introduced is a sport Genesis sedan — the 5.0 R-Spec. The new 5-liter V-8 sports a gas direct injection 429-horsepower engine matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Subtle details and 19-inch wheels highlight the R-Spec.

Dodge introduces new line of performance R/T models

Dodge is turning up the heat in the full-size SUV segment, introducing a new affordable performance package for the all-new 2011 Dodge Durango SUV — the Dodge Durango Heat.

Designed to complement the performance-tuned Durango R/T, the new Heat package delivers aggressive styling, a high-performing 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with 295 horsepower and a surprisingly affordable price.

From minivans to muscle cars, the Dodge brand also introduced an entire lineup of new R/T performance models at the. Whether it’s a Charger, Challenger, Journey, Durango or the Grand Caravan, Dodge now offers R/T models that deliver power, performance and modern technology that combine to create the heart and soul of each vehicle. The expanding muscle car market is going to be “Green With Envy” as Dodge announced a first-time, limited production run of the 2011 Dodge Challenger R/T Classic and SRT8, 392 models featuring Green With Envy exterior color.

The 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8. The Dodge delivers an exceptionally mean version of its flagship sedan to the tune of 465 horsepower from an even larger Hemi V-8. The engine grows from 6.1 liters to 6.4 liters with 465 lb-ft of torque.

The SRT8 arrives this fall as a 2012 model and will be priced slightly higher than the 2010 car. There are changes to the body, which gets a new grille with blacked-out parts. The car rides on 20-inch wheels. The hood scoop is replaced up front by more of a domed setup.

The inside is marked by heavily bolstered seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and electronic gauges that track 0-to-60-mph times and lateral g-forces in the center touch screen.

Buick debuted a hybrid version of the Regal using the eAssist system introduced late last year in the brand’s LaCrosse. Expect the added cost of eAssist to be hidden in a more option filled Regal. While eAssist is standard on all LaCrosse trim levels it will be a stand alone Regal model, joining the GS, turbo and base Regals. The hybrid Regal could reach some lofty fuel economy numbers. Buick is awaiting the official EPA report that could show as much as 37 mpg.

Chrysler Group’s truck brand RAM introduced two new vehicles today that will come to market in the second quarter. First on stage the RAM 1500 Tradesman pickup powered by a 390 horsepower 5.7-liter HEMI with 470 lb.-ft. of torque.

With the standard class 4 trailer hitch the Tradesman will tow 10,400 pounds. Starting at $22,780 including destination the new every day, every man work trucks is also available as a 4x4.

Next up the RAM 3500 Heavy Duty which can be described with the simple adjective – more. More torque – 800 lb.-ft. generated by a 6.7-liter Cummings Turbo Diesel, standard with the automatic transmission; more combined gross weight rating of 30,000 pounds; more trailer tow with a 22,700 pound rating; and more braking with new, larger and enhanced exhaust braking.

Cummings known for durability should handle more than 300,000 miles of service according to RAM executives.

Lexus might not be introducing a new model but it plans to stage its prestigious LFA high-performance vehicle among a number of high performance versions of its line-up. Highlighting the display will be a custom built CT200h built by Five Axis noted for its go fast attitude and aggressive styling. The CT features a wide-body kit, lowered suspension, Stoptech brakes, and a graphic, unique paint scheme. The interior is supposed to be equally spacing and super hi-tech.

— Ted Biederman