The Chicago Auto Show 2018 Posted on 10 Feb 09:10
The Chicago Auto Show is the harbinger of the start of car show season, and perhaps more distantly spring. In the case of this weekend, when over 10" of snow descended upon us, a very distant harbinger of spring. Nonetheless, we in Chicagoland flock to the show as a welcome respite from the cold temperatures out side, as well as a break from seeing even the loveliest cars become salt encrusted eyesores on the street. As always Chicago Car Life brings some preview coverage of the show, so whether you plan to wait out the worst of the snow, or plan to hibernate until the spring thaw, enjoy some of my favorite sights of the day!
The Cadillac Escala is a concept car that, according the the Cadillac spokesperson on hand, represents the future of Cadillac design language. With a phenomenal profile that looks nearly production ready, it is a design I am greatly looking forward to. In the U.S., a common saying for something thats the best of it's category, is that it is "the Cadillac of___". That being said, I have always felt like the brand trailed other rivals when it came to that feeling of true luxury, and being a class of it's own. What this Escala concept does in my opinion, is correct that shortcoming, as it looks as classy and luxurious as some of the finest luxury brands today. The brushed aluminum trim, they call it a soft chrome, glides along the Escala's graceful lines. The angular, geometric pattern of Cadillac's in recent past are still present, but have been softened to great effect, creating a look of unmatched grace and elegance. The interior too, is all class. Instead of leather and suede heavy adornments that are ubiquitous in the segment, here Cadillac turns to a fabric trim that presents like a linen twill Armani jacket. It was no surprise when I mentioned this to the spokesperson then, that she mentioned Cadillac looking to the fashion industry for the design cues of the interior. The Escala looks poised to bring meaning back to things being "the Cadillac of" once again.
Another car that made an impression, was Infinit's Q Inspiration concept car. With smooth svelte lines, a cabin set rearward of a long hoodline, it's overall footprint was reminiscent of a much larger, futuristic Jaguar E-Type. The front fascia is an organic looking structure, thin headlights, gaping grill, all highlighted with beautifully rendered slits the resemble the gills of a shark, or underside of a mushroom cap with wonderful beauty. The rear of the car is a smooth uninterrupted bow of gorgeous white paint, pencil thin tail lights and luminescent Infiniti badging, simply lovely. That white paint is a star here too, with a deep pearlessence beyond any other white pearl paint I have seen before. Rather than just giving a glittery-white effect as most do, this has a deeper almost mother of pearl shimmer to it. Picture light being reflected onto the car, from a small wind swept pond along side it, it's as beautiful and serene as that sounds. It is a subtle effect you only notice up close, but it is incredibly striking. I'm not sure how close to production any of the features of the Q Inspiration are, I suspect we may see it distilled down a bit before it hits production, but if they can retain the essence of this car, they will have quite a formidable sport sedan.
Last year, I griped a little about BMW's display and the offerings on hand. They had a fairly tiny footprint on the overall floor space, and zero of their M cars on display. In fact, they only brought a handful of their electric vehicles, keen to emphasize the future thinking direction of the company. While this does make perfect sense from a financial and environmental perspective, the car nut in me lamented the lack of performance cars from the brand that fancies itself the "ultimate driving machine". Well, this year, that was not to be a concern, as BMW was back with the M cars in a big way. A gorgeous eggplant purple M4 just drew the eye in, which was no small task considering it's surroundings. An M5 wrapped in a matte finish that looked almost like a dark shade of rose gold, an M3 shod in kryptonite green, an M2 in American flag inspired graphics (sadly not shown here due to some technical issues), and an i8 in burnt orange; all delivered the promise of ultimate driving machines. Bravo BMW, bravo!
Another bit of redemption came from Kia. During the Stinger GT's debut at the show last year, I was a bit cold on the new model. I just wasn't crazy about the styling, and it just didn't feel all that special to me at the time. This year however, thanks to some widebody treatment and the revelation of how the car has performed to date, I have warmed considerably to the Stinger. The pair on display, one in a shouty orange, the other in a no less head turning deep blue, really impressed me as a good looking car. Perhaps the Stinger is an acquired taste, or a design just slightly ahead of it's time, but I think I am starting to come around. The Stinger that was given the widebody treatment by West Coast Customs, certainly helps things, as the widened fenders really bring out a wonderfully aggressive character in the car, and dare I say it, it cuts a sexy overall figure. Kudos to you Kia, and my apologies for doubting you!
Hyundai, along with Kia under it's umbrella seem to really be making a push to earn street cred in the performance and tuner realm as well. With the creation of a new N division, it represents a new depth in the brands offerings. The first car to get the N treatment is the funky Veloster hatchback of course. The Veloster N certainly looks the part here, it's lighter than powder blue exterior with red highlights and 275 horsepower four cylinder engine, it would seem poised to challenge a fairly crowded and competitive hot-hatch segment. To further the point, Hyundai also brought a full race prepped version of the Veloster right along side it. Their tuner appeal did not stop there, as they also had a modified Elantra on hand.
Which brings me to another thing I loved about the show; the sprinkling of local tuner presence throughout. In this case, the tuner was Blood Type Racing, who made a name building fast Hyundai's. They decked out a Hyundai Elantra, which I admittedly would not have pegged as a candidate for tuner treatment, and it works! With an assist from Auto Art, the little Elantra is coated in a head turning orange, further accentuating it's widened fenders and large carbon fiber wing. An aggressive front splitter and a beautiful set of SSR wheels round out the package nicely. Originally shown at SEMA late last year, the car certainly looks fast, and the way BTR conjure performance out of these machines from South Korea, I have no doubt it can back up those looks. The other car touched by BTR, was also first shown at SEMA, is a Ford Focus ST. Covered in a chameleon/oil slick gloss paint , wearing directional spoke design B Forged Wheels, it looks fantastic. With B Forged, Auto Art, and Blood Type Racing involved in the build of these cars, it is nice to see Chicagoland aftermarket businesses have some representation on this stage.
Porsche has been a solid bet to bring something amazing to the show every year, and they certainly kept the streak alive this year. The 911 GT2RS with the Weissach package, is about as serious a performance machine as you will see. The brutality of high performance often demands functional compromises that can rob beauty of a cars aesthetic, but Porsche manage to use this brutality of function to enhance the beauty and character of the car. Such an impressive machine to behold, it is aggressive without being vulgar, graceful with a hard edge, and the present day pinnacle of 911. Sliding in and out of it's cockpit is akin to climbing into a LeMans GT car for your next three hour stint negotiating Circuit De La Sarthe. The seats are paradoxical, essentially carbon fiber bucket shells wrapped in soft comfortable leather, they are racing seats that shouldn't be comfortable but they are incredibly so. Ah, that seat was a hard place to leave, I'll have to settle for Forza Motorsports 7 when I get home.
Then there is my continuing love affair with Alfa Romeo. I've gushed about the brand ever since their return, and have eagerly awaited a trip to their display at the show for each of the three years now. Although nothing new to offer this year, I didn't really need it, these cars are simply breathtaking inside and out.
So that is a taste of what there is at the huge Chicago Auto Show this year. A big thanks to Hex Hernandez for the assist/save in providing some of the photos as well! Keep scrolling for a few more of my favorite shots of the day, and by all means get out and see it for yourself, enjoy!
-photos: Robert Sixto and Hex Hernandez
-writing: Robert Sixto