CHICAGO — great restaurants (we like Prairie and Centro), great architecture, and absolutely the worst weather of any major auto show on the circuit. Ever walk from the Drake Hotel to Water Tower Place in 10-degree cold? Even in that short distance, be prepared to lose a few appendages, especially if there’s a "breeze."
Chicago’s auto show, an annual visitor to the immense McCormick Place, gives auto journalists a reason to brave the chill. It may not be the international four-ring circus that Detroit has become, but it’s a hugely important show for local car dealers. And, on and off throughout the years, it’s been a launching pad for manufacturers with new sheetmetal to show — usually favored by the likes of Mitsubishi and Nissan, who get crowded out by the Ford/GM/DC juggernaut at Detroit.
This year’s double handful of Chicago introductions includes Buick’s foray into four-wheel drive, Nissan’s continuing renovations, and Dodge’s next Stratus sedan, along with a smattering of reinvented trucks. Which of these has you in tachycardia? Take our poll down on the right side of the page and pick your winner from the Chicago show. (Polling ends Monday morning, Feb. 14, 2000, TCCers.)
We’ll be back on Thursday, Feb. 9, and Friday, Feb. 10, with reports from the show floor on all the new-model and concept introductions. Check out our 2000 Chicago Auto Show special report for a complete list of TCC reports from Mikeytown. Meanwhile, we’ll be warming our hands on the hoods of these Chicago debutantes:
2001 Mercedes AMG CLK55
Mercedes AMG CLK55
Take a 347-hp, AMG-massaged Mercedes V-8 and stuff it under the hood of the CLK coupe and you have one blistering two-door rocket. Benz insiders are predicting the CLK55 will be the fastest production Mercedes sold in the United States. You can have one in the 2001 model year here, but line up soon – it’s likely no more than 500-1000 vehicles will be sent over from Affalterbach.
2001 Nissan Frontier
A 200-plus-horsepower, supercharged V-6 engine and updated styling are the main elements of a mid-cycle enhancement for Nissan's compact pickup. With all the extra horsepower (the current Frontier only has 170), expect some styling add-ons and the inevitable graphics package.
2001 Chevy S10/GMC Sonoma Crew Cab
It's better to show up late to the party than never. GM has been selling similar trucks in Brazil since 1994 – they’ll finally show up in U.S. showrooms in the 2001 model year with four full doors a la the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab.
2001 Ford Ranger
2001 Ford Ranger
Ford's compact pickup is updated with a front-end treatment reminiscent of the Explorer Sport Trac and Escape. It may finally get the 4.0-liter SOHC V-6 currently used in the Explorer.
Toyota Tacoma Double Cab
In case you have been on another planet for the past few years, there has been a renaissance in the light truck market – four doors are better than two…or three. Toyota's compact pickup gets four of 'em to help stay in the game.
The name is French, but Buick's answer to the Lexus RX300 is all-American. It uses the same platform as the Pontiac Aztek and the upcoming Saturn SUV (both derived from GM’s current minivans). Powertrains are unknown at this point, but flexibility – including moveable bench seats and plenty of storage – should make this a worthy successor to the bustling Buick wagons of the 1960s and 1970s.