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Chicago Auto Show Preview

By Rachelle Bowden in News on Feb 10, 2006 7:30PM

Editor's Note: Chicagoist got David Thomas, online editor of mph Magazine, to give us this report 2006_02_chicagoist-srt4.jpgon what's going down at the Chicago Auto Show so we know what to expect this weekend.

Today the Chicago Auto Show opens to the public at McCormick Place. But for the last two days the press has been crawling all over the huge hall scrutinizing the latest offerings from the world’s automakers.

For the jaded auto snobs, the only vehicles of importance are those that haven’t been seen anywhere else before their Chicago unveilings. But this year’s show didn’t offer many of those thrills. Here’s a rundown of new vehicles (and others that will probably be new to you) so you can impress your friends while battling the masses for seat time.

2006_02_chicagoist-lexus.jpgThe first unveiling of the show was the Lexus ES350. It’s Lexus’ big seller and the new design will sell even better. Then Dodge debuted its first mid-size SUV ever, called the Nitro. This might be an option for Chicagoans looking for a manly alternative to the Jeep Liberty on which it’s based. Dodge also rolled out the high-power version of the Caliber, their replacement for the Neon. This Caliber SRT4 actually packs 300 hp, the same as a Ford Mustang GT. They rounded off their display with a truck concept called Rampage.

2006_02_Chicagoist-si.jpgBut the coolest car revealed on the first day, especially for Chicagoist readers, was a high performance version of the Honda Civic Sedan called the Si. Just like the currently on sale Si Coupe, this “concept” will actually be built and at dealers by the end of 2006. It’s a great alternative to those contemplating the more expensive VW Jetta GLI.

Speaking of VW, they rolled out the all-new Golf. The only problems? It’s been out in Europe for the past two years, no price was given and it still won’t be on sale stateside until summer of 2006. More impressive are VW’s new GTI and the retractable hardtop convertible called Eos. If you don’t see the Eos here, you’ll soon see every Trixie behind the wheel of one in the near future.

2006_02_chicagoist-camaro-concept.jpgThere is actually a lot of very cool metal that dropped at the industry-heavy Detroit show last month but will still be new to 99% of those coming to McCormick. The must-see of that batch is the Chevy Camaro Concept. Even if you’re not a muscle car fan, this sure-to-be-built concept is simply gorgeous. It’s much more pleasing than the completely retro Dodge Challenger concept that also debuted in Detroit. Surprisingly Buick has a winning concept in the almost-ready-to-be-built Enclave SUV.

Shocked that SUVs are still everywhere? Don’t be. The automakers aren't ready to fold-up their SUV shops and there are even quite a few hybrids on display like the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, Saturn Vue Hybrid, Ford Escape Ethanol Hybrid and tons of Ethanol capable trucks, SUVs and cars.

Get familiar with the word Ethanol. It is the next green buzzword. Ethanol is high-octane fuel made primarily from corn and Illinois is one of the few states with an infrastructure for what is referred to as E85 (85% ethanol, 15% petroleum). It burns clean and actually adds performance if not mileage. There was a huge push here the last two days to expand Ethanol use in the midwest and then throughout the rest of the country.

2006_02_Chicagoist-navigator.jpgLincoln has a bunch of new SUVs on display including the Navigator and smaller MKX. Both feature very nice interiors and overly chromed grills. Cadillac’s all-new Escalade (you might’ve seen it at the Super Bowl) is a better done bling-mobile and is worth a look. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

For the upscale shoppers the new Porsche Cayman, Jaguar XK and BMW M Coupe are imperative stops. They’re pretty, pack a punch and are exquisitely designed.

There are literally dozens of other brand new vehicles I’m too tired to run through (this is the largest auto show in the country, size wise, so wear VERY comfortable shoes. I've been hoofing it from one press conference to the next for the past two days and am ready for a long weekend). Feel free to check out mph-online for more information or great car blogs like Jalopnik.

The Chicago Auto Show is open to the public Feb 10 - 19. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors, $5 for kids 7-12, and free for kids under 7. They can be purchased at