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February 9, 2017

2017 Chicago International

Auto Show (Preview)

SAFETY, in Numbers


by John Miller & Susan Prince

images by Lee Lichtenstein

The 2017 Chicago Auto Show media preview opened Thursday showcasing a distinct trend: Safety, in Numbers. Coinciding with the opening of the 116th edition of the show, major auto manufacturers were releasing sales figures, and the numbers were distinctly upward. The manufacturers, however, chose to play it 'safe' at the nation's largest autoshow and elected not to show much in the way of concepts or prototypes and instead chose to display large numbers of variations of current models. There were some new model introductions and a few eye-catching concepts, but most of the manufacturers emphasized new option packages, colors and configurations of existing models (and de-emphasized the manufacturer offerings of electric and hybrid vehicles).

The Fiat 124 earned rave reviews, and not just because of the model-representative. An adaptation of the current Mazda Miata, it serves up a fun reliable convertible with Italian flair (at a fraction of the price of the better known italian sportscars).

Ford rolled out it's GT from 2016 in a new color scheme. Chevy did the same with its Camaro in a stunning metallic green and the Corvette convertible in a monochromatic white. Chevy brought another green car --its 2017 GREEN Car of the Year, the Bolt, but the Chevy Volt seemed to draw more interest (in the Media preview) than its smaller sibling. Ford also showed some new options on the 2017 Mustang, and in possible misstep, choose to display it across from an eye-popping gumball blue 1972 Ford Mustang Mach 1. The 1972 Mustang is a raffle car for charity and grabbed far more interest than the 2017 edition.

Mazda brought a slew of Miata varieties, but the new hardtop 'convertible' (more of a power targa) was its strongest draw. The car stows its hardtop and becomes an open targa car in under 10 seconds with the push of a button.

Big grills also seem to be in vogue for 2017. Lexus IS the BIG GRILL king, with Audi and Maserati showing strong challenges.

Ironically, trucks, crossovers and SUV's were the emphasis at this 'auto' show. Ford brought its newest F150 variant --a Shelby performance edition. Toyota, Mercedes, Dodge and Jeep all had indoor ride-along test tracks that demonstrated some of the phenomenal capabilities of their trucks ---none of which is likely to ever be encountered by the average owner, but made for spectacular demonstrations. Toyota brought half a dozen prototypes and concept cars, while Dodge showed several concept trucks including the 1500. Even Maserati is getting into the SUV market with it's latest 4-door hatchback. Mercedes was demonstartating its G-wagen while showing its stunning Maybach convertible and Hyundai went to great lengths to establish Genesis as a new brand line by giving it a separate show booth. Genesis had a large number of vehicles on display, but all were just variations of one model...one model that bore a startling resemblance to ....the Mercedes line up. Volvo was showing the very attractive S90 while positioning it directly in front of a ...Moose(???). At Kia, even the dancing mice were scratching their heads at the 'crossover UV' being shown, while VW could not scare up the least bit of foot traffic to look at its all-new Atlas SUV. Nissan draws an award for the most peculiar (and uncomfortable) display at its Titan pickup -- rows of wooden crates for show goers to sit on and admire the truck.

The Chicago Auto Show has a website loaded with info at www.chicagoautoshow.com. (#CAS17) The show opens to the public at 10am on Saturday, Feb. 11, at McCormick Place and runs through Feb. 20th. Admission is $13 for adults ($7 for Seniors and kids ages 7-12).

Parking info can be found at www.mccormickplace.com/maps_direct/maps_dir.html. Lot rates vary and there's always a chance to find a street spot, but Lot A ($23) is the best option. Drive up to Level 3--it has a direct, enclosed skybridge to the main show building and, for those driving an electric vehicle, special designated spots near the door are available. 'Live' webcams are again available on the CAS website (under the MultiMedia tab) -- you can assess the show before you actually go ---but do go, virtual show-going is a sad comparison to the real deal.

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