2005 Chicago Show: TCC’s Top Picks

February 13, 2005

2005 Chicago Auto Show Index by TCC

Greg Sanchez

Greg Sanchez

Greg Sanchez
TCC en Español Publisher

Best New Concept: Dodge Nitro. Superb and unique SUV that is definitely Dodge, with the big, crosshair grille and the slanted roofline reminiscent of the Magnum wagon. You could sense the aaahhhsss and the uuuhhhsss amongst the journalists when the Nitro hit the stage.

Best New Production Car: Mercedes S65 AMG. I have always been a sucker for powerful luxury sedans, and this puppy has got it all together for me. Not to mention all the fun you can have out there with any and all tuners!

Most Significant Production Vehicle: There I go again, in my eternal romance for the new Corvette Z06 — Chevrolet got it right this time, building the fastest, most powerful car ever offered by GM. Everything in this new C6 is comprised of an unprecedented level of capability and technology, and perhaps one of the greatest performance values on the market anywhere.

2005 Dodge Nitro concept

2005 Dodge Nitro concept

Best Press Conference: Dodge Nitro. No surprises here! The folks at DaimlerChrysler sure know how to put a press conference together filled with expectations, excitement and a great entrance. Between the mariachis, the gigantic condiment bottles, and the great product introduced… they remain the leader!

Worst Press Conference: International Trucks. Who is going to buy this thing anyways? Who cares? The CEO sounded like Sly Stallone, and during the Q & A, every time one of the journalists would ask their vice-president of sales and marketing something, he would reply: “Hey Bill, Hey John, Hey Pete… would you take this one?” What was that?

Who’s On Top: My hat off to DaimlerChrysler and their line-up of exciting products. And how about that test track throughout the entire

McCormick Place
? I went back to the show with friends over the weekend and there were huge lines — about a two-hour wait — for this attraction. It seemed like everybody wanted to test-drive a Chrysler product. Good job guys!

Who’s In The Barrel: Let’s hope the new Buick Lucerne is not the final straw for Buick’s comeback or shall we say — revitalization. Let’s hope Buick does not follow in the footsteps of Oldsmobile.  

Personal Best: Once again, my heart bleeds for the fast luxury sedans or coupes. The new SL65 AMG swept me off my feet! Stunning! This is a spectacular, coach that embodies sporting luxury with exhilarating driving dynamics. Can’t wait to see what Lexus will answer with.

Prediction for 2005: I’m very much sold on Alternative Fuel Vehicles. The next decade shows potential for biofuel and hybrid vehicles and to a certain extent, diesel. Many people think that such mainstays as natural gas and propane are dead, but I don’t agree with that idea. In fact, many of these markets from around the world are steadily growing and here in the states, proponents of these fuels are working to expand their positions and to carve their own niches in the marketplace.

Marty Padgett

Marty Padgett

Marty Padgett
TCC Editor and Producer

Best New Concept: Honda Civic Si. Honda’s latest Civic has squandered some of its fast-n’-furious reputation with the tuner crowd, but the looks of the new two-door could woo them back, particularly with a 200-hp engine under the hood. The rapid aging of the Focus — without any inkling that Ford will jump back into the game with a new compact anytime soon — can’t hurt.

Best New Production Car: Honda Civic Si. C’mon… you and I both know they’re not kidding.

2005 Kia Sedona

2005 Kia Sedona

Most Significant Production Vehicle: Kia Sedona. Ford can’t build a minivan with any character. GM has “sport crossover vans” that practically wear a sell-by date on their sleeves. So how is it that Kia brings on a minivan with flip-fold rear seats, side curtain airbags, a great warranty and yes, even power sliding side windows in the side doors? It will be embarrassing for 2/3 of the Big Three if Kia ever can import as many as they can sell.

Best Press Conference: Dodge. As usual. The sight of muscle guys, construction workers, execs, and Chicagoopera fat ladies pouring out of the Mega Cab was as close to a Village People reunion as I’m willing to be, and just as oddly compelling.

Worst Press Conference: Anything that starts at 7:30 a.m. Even on a Tuesday night in Chicago, there’s something going on to keep you out past midnight.

Who’s On Top: International. I mean, if you had Ashton Kutcher as a customer, wouldn’t you be totally psyched? Plus, they can roll over any other vehicle on display including the HUMMER. Physically, no one even comes close.

Who’s In The Barrel: There’s no good news at Mitsubishi, still. No press conference when your North American manufacturing hub is two hours down the pike? Couldn’t you have saved the Eclipse, instead of burying it at Detroit?

Personal Best:

McCormick Place. Detroit may eventually be shamed into building a world-class casino/car museum/convention center — but Chicagoalready has the best auto-show facility on the planet. All the room you want, a hotel on site, Starbucks, and a lake view. Now if they’d move the show to May…
Prediction for 2005: The Toyota FJ Cruiser, though it looks cool, is just slightly off the mark. They only want to sell 40,000 of them, but with Xterra and Element already on the ground, who’s left in the market?
Biggest News Story: International, again. Can there be a plus-sized, boutique-brand aesthetic on the rise with HUMMER? Size still matters to some of you out there, we take it.
TCC Team
TCC Publisher and Editorial Director
Best Concept: Dodge Nitro. Continuing Chrysler’s leadership in over-the-top design, with a wild blend of SUV, muscle car, and hot rod cues. But we have to give a close second to the Portico, which shows that Hyundai is intent on continuing to develop a very competitive design language all its own.

Best Production Car: Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG. More than 600 hundred horsepower, more than 700 lb-ft of torque. Look now. That thing won’t stand still for long.

2006 Buick Lucerne

2006 Buick Lucerne

Most Significant Production Vehicle: I’m going to go counter to my colleagues and give the nod to the Buick Lucerne — not because I think it’s a spectacular vehicle, but because it probably has more riding on it than anything else introduced in Chicago.

Best Press Conference: Not to stroke the ego of that comic-cum-PR-chief Jason Vines, but darn it, you just don’t want to miss their intros, and both Dodge events were a hoot. Again.

Worst Press Conference: International Truck. All right, I know, cut ’em a break. They don’t roll out new product very often, but the best moment in the show was watching the CEO squirm on stage when the curtains wouldn’t open to reveal the new trucks.

Who’s On Top: Toyota is the company to beat these days, though there’s a level of corporate arrogance beginning to resemble that of General Motors, the company it’s intent on toppling, in the old days of domestic oligopoly.

Who’s In The Barrel: A real surprise choice here, I think, considering how long I would have put Mercedes in the top spot. But the German maker is a mess, despite some wonderful product. Quality is a challenge, as is the U.S. dollar. Hello? Anyone in charge here?

Personal Best: I keep waiting for all that chrome on the Chrysler 300C to start to tarnish in my eyes. So far, it hasn’t. Despite the earnest professions of several key competitors, Chrysler’s on-the-edge design is still a joy to look at and seems likely to maintain a long-term appeal.

Prediction For 2005: This may be too easy of one: Toyotawill continue gaining ground, while GM and Ford will post sharp declines — again — in market share. Chrysler will be the only “domestic” maker to report a gain, thanks to vehicles like Nitro and 300.

Biggest News Story: This might also qualify as best scam, but for the moment, we’re absolutely fascinated with endlessly optimistic entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin’s plan to import one million Chinese-made cars annually. Let’s see if he fares any better than he did with the Bricklin sports car and the Yugo.

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