CHICAGO AUTO SHOW 2016 Posted on 12 Feb 12:00
Chicago is sometimes known as, “The Second City”, which has a certain sting to it. It lends a certain ‘chip on the shoulder’ attitude that Chicago can have, always trying to prove it is second to none. The auto show season certainly doesn’t help matters. It starts with the Los Angeles auto show, the pre-emptive strike of auto shows. The L.A. show happens at the end of the year, in November, when Chicago is beginning to hunker down for winter. L.A.’s show gets loads of debuts, models that are coming for the next year, all while flaunting gorgeous weather in our faces, just as ours takes a turn for the worse. Then you have Detroit, with the North American Auto show. Detroit being the heart of this country’s auto industry, always saves a few juicy automotive morsels for itself, revealing a new Ford GT or something equally spectacular. By the time the Chicago Auto Show rolls around in February, all the automotive “thunder”, has already been stolen. Usually debuts here tend to be of the more utilitarian variety, a new SUV, crossover or truck of some kind. Thing is, none of that matters to me, and obviously it doesn’t matter to the million plus show-goers every year, it is the biggest show in the country. By this stretch of winter, everyone just wants to get out, and being at the auto show is almost like being outdoors without the bite of subzero wind chills on your face. So here are a few things I was excited to see at the show this year.
Alfa Romeo Giulia, I was drawn to this car almost immediately. Finally seeing the Giulia in person, I simply melted. Honestly, I could not care less about the performance numbers, what gives you more for your money, how poorly it might protect you in a crash, who cares? Just look at it! There are reported delays to the Giulia’s release in the U.S., but seeing one in nearly every color at the show, I took as a sign these delays will be minor. These things are simply beautiful, the styling, the shimmering pearl paint, the heritage/character of that clover badge, it’s just all too good not to have. Crash safety tests be damned, I could die happy in one of these! This car has started quite the Alfa Romeo fixation for me, the 4c, and even the old Giulia from the late 60’s is drawing my eye lately. I think I may need help!
I mention I went almost immediately to Alfa Romeo, so what slowed me? Well, it was Ford actually. Yes the Ford exhibit is right at the entry, but it is telling that it stopped my stampede toward Alfa. I have to admit, I was never a Ford fan in general but as an overall lineup of models, it is hard for me to think of another make that has such a broad range of good, exciting cars to offer.
The obvious draw here is the Ford GT, aside from drawing from it’s heritage as a thumb in the eye to Ferrari, it looks fantastic. It looks as close to bringing a LeMans prototype race car to road car spec as one could reasonably get away with. Then of course the new Mustang Shelby GT350 is special (the GT350r even more special still). Even the compact cars in Ford’s stable get the sporty treatment, with the Fiesta ST and Focus ST, both established as world class hot hatches. When can you remember reading world class hot hatch in reference to any U.S. auto maker? Then there is the new Focus RS, and boy does this make you rub your chin and stare. You are rubbing your chin, because you are thinking: “I could get one of these. They aren’t that expensive. It’s a hatchback, its practical. It’s got all wheel drive for bad weather. Look at those brakes, it’s got to be safe.” The thoughts go on, you can imagine the rest. I never seriously considered owning a Ford, but looking at the Focus RS was like experiencing that scene in Step Brothers; “Did we just become best friends? Yep!”.
Right around the corner is Acura, and for me the only real draw was obvious, the new NSX. Remember when Jay Leno and Jerry Sienfeld were fighting over the first one? That was 2012, can you believe that?! Four long years later, and many ups and downs in the NSX’s ongoing development and it has finally arrived. Since the first one sold at the Barrett-Jackson auction recently for $1.2M, Leno and Seinfeld will be left to fight for #2.
The other intriguing object on display at Acura was their Precision concept car. It brings an obvious forward thinking style, and signals a new design theme for the brand. It is an attractive concept with it’s angular lines, and seemingly jewel studded headlights. The future for Acura is looking promising, and it must be said the new NSX seems to have already been made in the image of this overall theme. It is a welcome sight really, I felt Acura had several disappointing models in terms of styling over the past several years. Between the Precision concept and the new NSX, it would appear Acura is back on track. Now if we could just get a new Integra Type R...
That about wraps up day one for me, obviously this is by no means a comprehensive review of everything at the show, just a few of my favorite stops of the day. Day two coverage to come!