Chicago 2012: What's New at McCormick Place

2013 GMC Acadia
2013 GMC Acadia. All photos by Randy Stern

The Chicago Auto Show is still considered one of the major exhibitions of the automobile in the USA. Being one of the "majors" on the USA auto show circuit, manufacturers are given the opportunity to debut brand new or revised models to their lineups. Chicago continues to provide this opportunity for the automotive world to see what's new and different for the upcoming model year.

In recent times, manufacturers are no longer tied to the auto shows to create debut events. Also, the number of opportunities for these debuts are being consolidated or reduced for various different reasons. At one time, the Chicago Auto Show organizers were planning to consolidate their press conference schedule into one day. Luckily, they did not do so this year. Who is to say whether they will do this in the future?

Still, there are some debuts to be discussed. Here's the best ones that showed up at McCormick Place…

2013 GMC ACADIA: GMC touted a year full of sales gains for the brand. Both crossovers – the Acadia and Terrain – showed the biggest increases amongst the companion lineup to Buick. Yet, the Acadia has been with us longer than we recall. To improve upon this three-row crossover, some needed rhinoplasty was affixed to the Acadia. Up front is a grille that mixes recent concepts with the Terrain's theme. The front fenders are flared and new LED surrounds adorn the headlight cluster. The rear end sees new LED tailamps, wrap-around rear glass design and other minor nips and tucks. Inside shows improvement in the instrument panel – including a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu-inspired center stack. Everything else remains the same with a few tweaks and upgrades. The 2013 Acadia will come with a Denali model, with more subtle luxurious trim despite the shiny, chromed grille. Power continues from the familiar 3.6litre V6 with 288HP on tap and a choice of front or all-wheel drive. It certainly looks better than before, but there are a few complaints to parse out. In many of those cases, the Acadia will continue to be the standout medium/luxury-level crossover in the marketplace.

HYUNDAI ELANTRA COUPE AND GT: The Elantra was already a good compact sedan. Somehow Hyundai felt compelled to build upon it's recent success. The GT replaces the Touring using the new global i30 hatchback, making for a distinct sports runabout reminiscent of the Mazda3 hatchback. The styling is aggressive with a three-tier grille flanked by familiar Fluidic Sculpture elements. The coupe takes the sedan's Fluidic Sculpture lines, chops off two doors, extend the other two and create a more accessible coupe. Power for both comes from the same 1.8litre engine currently in the Elantra sedan. Expect most of the goodness from the sedan to be experienced in the coupe and GT hatchback – with a bit more aggressiveness inside either model. By adding the new hatch and coupe will broaden the appeal of an already significant model for Hyundai. There will be plenty of buyers clamoring to expand their driving experience with the Oval-H badge up front.

Kia Track'ster Concept 1

KIA TRACK'STER: Think of it as an enlarged Soul with two less doors and more personality. It is not a production vehicle, but a concept to see whether the Soul's lines could be adapted into something even more bold and brash. Kia dropped a 250HP 2.0litre turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive for the concept. That is an audacious way to proclaim what this thing aspires to do – grab speed-hungry hamster-lovin’ youth and throw them in for a ride. It also indicates that Kia wants to be a mainstream purveyor of youth-orientated vehicles with an emphasis on fun over serious road management. Word is that production is highly unlikely for the Track’ster. Then again, there’s always that oft possibility that some of these elements may find their way onto the next Soul. Well…if Kia is that ambitious to "go for it," they might meld some elements off of this concept onto the next generation Soul – at least.

Also introduced were revised models, such as the 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser, 2013 Nissan NV200 van and 2013 Nissan 370Z. Plus, RAM introduced a new trim level called the Laramie Limited. The new trim will emphasize luxury on a more subtle level to become the best cabin in pickup history – period. Volkswagen also trotted out the latest Beetle with a TDI turbocharged diesel under the hood. Acura finalized both the 2013 RDX crossover and ILX premium compact models in production trim.

Though the debuts were on the light side, the show gave those of us who do not go to the major shows around the world a chance to see all of the stuff previously introduced in other shows. That would take another piece to frame up. Trust me, the good stuff does get better…

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