Five Favorites from Two Major Auto Shows This Year

It has been a busy year so far...
All photos by Randy Stern

Two major auto shows in the can. There were plenty of debuts to look through. Now, to decide which ones stood out amongst them all!

Before I do, I need a bit of reflection here. As I said a billion times on here and elsewhere, Chicago is my normal auto show trip to make. The North American International Auto Show was the bonus – a huge one. I had one of the best runs in my career thanks to both shows by having discussions with people I would have never been introduced in years prior. It was great to finally meet a lot of my colleagues and contacts that were only seen on Twitter or elsewhere online. The experiences were indeed off the scale.

Would I do it again? I would rather not touch that question for a while. I figured that I would take one show at a time, but the favor is in Chicago's court. The reason is that I have made inroads with a lot of the people involved in the show from the people in the media room to the contacts at the OEMs. Every year, I found some new experiences to enjoy at McCormick Place. After four media day trips since 2004, the Chicago experience just keeps getting better.

One thing I will have to work on is my travel budget. Though I found an intercity travel strategy – flying into Midway instead of O'Hare – I simply need to expand my accommodations budget and return to the host hotel next year. Oh, and make sure there is more than enough in the per diem budget, too!

And, no more intercity buses! It is not a reflection of Greyhound – they were fine. But, I would rather have been home on Friday evening than rolling in the next day lacking sleep overnight. By now, I am getting used to the latest TSA routine.

Maybe Amtrak…that is, unless they add Wi-Fi to the Empire Builder…

Now that I got all of that off my chest, here are my Five Favorite vehicles from this year's North American International Auto Show and the Chicago Auto Show:

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

2014 CHEVROLET CORVETTE STINGRAY: The undisputed star of the 2013 North American International Auto Show. There are no words to say further about it. There are, but I need more time to absorb this significant machine for General Motors. Besides, it is still a star. It still attracts the cameras and the throng of onlookers everywhere it goes. It will be in Joe Flacco's garage by the start of the 2013 NFL season. The talk continues until it hits the streets – and even afterwards. It is that kind of beacon.

2014 CADILLAC ELR: Perhaps the sexiest extended range electric vehicle below $80,000. It may have a better interior than its plebian brother, the Chevrolet Volt. More front seat room since it is a coupe. The ELR is sustainable transportation that refuses to compromise. That alone makes the Cadillac significant. Let Alicia Keys and Justin Bieber have their Fisker Karmas – the ELR is for everyone else.

2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid 3

2014 INFINITI Q50: Replacing the G/Nissan Skyline is a tough act to follow. Somehow, the Q50 does so by being both alluring and accessible. While the body delights and challenges the eye, there is honest space inside. Four adults would enjoy the comfort of the Q50 for a night on the town or a run a few hours away. You also have a choice of going all-in with the VQ37 V6 or environmentally friendly with the Hybrid option. The promises the Q50 has in store are simply immeasurable.

2014 KIA FORTE 5-DOOR: The Los Angeles debut of the Forte/Cerato sedan put the compact Kia on the map. After speculating that the hatch would be an Americanized C'eed, Kia surprises us again. The Forte hatch is its own design and complete vehicle package. The narrowed trademark grille and the offer of turbocharged power make it more intriguing and desirable in its segment. It could create some shifts in its class, if the price is right.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2014 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE: You can argue as much as you want, there is some significance to the refresh of the Grand. For starters, the dropping of a 3.0litre turbocharged V6 diesel will make the Grand a better choice, despite a narrowing of the fuel pump price gap between regular petrol and oil-burning juice. Secondly, the interior refresh brings more comfort and quality to a vehicle with newly ambitious goals. Perhaps responding to customer feedback also helped improve the SRT version of the Grand – sepia interior, included. The word around this vehicle is a desire to be America's Range Rover. It could be, but it is still a Jeep – and that still speaks volumes in my book.

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