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posted: 2/10/2018 6:00 AM

Indoor fun with tons of stimulations to ward off the slog

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  • Actor and Wheaton native Jim Belushi, left, helps Ford executive Mark LaNeve unveil the new Transit Connect at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.

      Actor and Wheaton native Jim Belushi, left, helps Ford executive Mark LaNeve unveil the new Transit Connect at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • The Ford F-150 Raptor at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.

      The Ford F-150 Raptor at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
By Dave Boe
Special to the Daily Herald

If summer has its dog days, winter certainly can lay claim to slog days. Looking outside, conditions remain, well, rather white, the NFL has finally crowned a champ (congratulations Eagles) and March Madness is a month away. February delivers a hearty helping of Ho with a humble slice of Hum.

A sure cure for slog days is quality time spent with family and friends surrounded by modern modes of motive.

While most large cities provide an auto show for its local motorists, Chicago's Auto Show is recognized worldwide for its consumer focus and large, eager-for-information crowds. Chicago also benefits mightily from the sparkling, welcoming, world-class McCormick Place complex. Both the North and South buildings combine together for this annual event, providing a large canvas (more than 1 million square feet) for automakers to display their artwork.

The Silverado LTD on display at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.
  The Silverado LTD on display at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

"As a major auto show, we're proud of the fact we can turn an empty exhibit hall into a show-ready event with glistening automobiles ready for media and public consumption in just less than two weeks," said Chris Konecki, Chicago Auto Show director of show operations.

Konecki is one small cog inside the well-oiled Oakbrook Terrace based Chicago Automobile Trade Association, the nation's oldest and largest metropolitan dealer organization. Since 1935, production of the Chicago Auto Show has fallen into the capable hands of CATA, which comprises more than 400 franchised new-car dealers throughout the greater Chicago area.

Data mined by CATA reveals the average daily visit to the show stretches about four hours with 65 percent of attendees in the market to purchase a new vehicle.

The show opens to the general public today with the closing bell extended to Monday, Feb. 19, Presidents Day. The Daily Herald is a proud participant of this family-friendly opportunity as scads of school-age kids have an open day to explore and learn. The show floor opens at 10 a.m. each day of the 10-day run.

The Kia test track at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.
  The Kia test track at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
Enjoy the ride

A key differentiator between the Chicago Auto Show and others: the sheer number of test drive opportunities both inside and outside McCormick Place. Both Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Toyota return indoor drive tracks in the South Hall, with displays this year conveniently adjacent to one another. Jeep off-roaders and Camry sedans will highlight each respective test track.

Joining the indoor test-track attack this year: Kia Motors America with the chance to experience both the Sportage and Sorrento crossovers. The Kia display is tucked inside the North Hall. All three indoor displays allow multiple riders inside the vehicles while a certified chaperon pilots behind the wheel.

As in year's past, a growing number of automakers offer test drives outside of McCormick Place. Cadillac, Ford, Kia, Volkswagen, Mazda and Subaru all offer licensed drivers of the appropriate age a chance to enjoy a test ride on public roads adjacent to McCormick Place. To sign up for an outside ride, sign up at each specific automaker's display.

Getting social

The official auto show social media hashtag, #CAS18, allows instant interaction with mobile apps from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Showgoers may instantly share their experiences in real time with family, friends and the world at large.

The 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.
  The 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

This year, tweets and photo bombs have a larger presence in the all-new BuzzHub. It's a 21-foot wall broadcasting real-time trending feeds. The BuzzHub plaza, located near the entrance to the North Hall off the Grand Concourse, is also home to numerous kiosks where showgoers can participate in Best of Show voting and watch live radio broadcasts emanating from the show.

Several show displays offer the chance for weary walkers to sit down and relieve aching feet in lounge-like areas that also offer recharging plug ports for portable electronics.

Making news

Several automakers utilize media preview days held two days prior to the public opening to offer the media a glimpse of what's coming down the production pike and other newsworthy tidbits.

Activities kicked off with the Midwest Automotive Media Association Thursday breakfast welcoming keynote speaker Thomas Doll, president and COO of Subaru of America Inc. "The Subaru brand has enjoyed nine consecutive years of growth by delivering the vehicles people want to drive," Doll said during his opening remarks.

Also making news during the kickoff breakfast: The 2018 Honda Odyssey minivan earned honors as the MAMA Family vehicle of the Year.

The Lexus LF-1 concept vehicle at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday.
  The Lexus LF-1 concept vehicle at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place on Thursday. - Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Other notable newsworthy nuggets from subsequent press events during the day:

• Wheaton native Jim Belushi helped introduce the redesigned 2019 Transit Connect wagon, a versatile, minivan-like entrepreneurial transport taking aim squarely at the baby-boom generation and available in five- or seven-passenger editions.

• All nine 2018 Subaru vehicles will offer a limited number of 50th anniversary editions clad in light blue with chrome hub caps. Subaru of America was founded in 1968 offering the quite diminutive (and on display at the show) 360.

• Volkswagen's mid-size 2019 Arteon sedan made its North American debut sporting exterior styling closely mimicking a coupe silhouette and available with two-wheel or all-wheel drive. It's expected to dealers later this summer

• Toyota debuted 2019 TRD Pro editions of the 4Runner SUV, Tacoma mid-size pickup and Tundra full-size pickup. Think of TRD Pros as flagship off-roaders with heavy-duty shock absorbers and a signature black grille.

• Hyundai Motor America announced the expansion of its Hyundai Shopper Assurance program offered at select franchised dealerships nationwide.

Keep an eye on …

Other notable next-generation-type car, crossover and sport utility vehicle updates coming in the 2019 model year worthy of a look include Toyota flagship Avalon sedan, Hyundai's quirky Veloster coupe, Kia's compact Forte sedan, Volkswagen's mid-size Jetta, Jeep's multi-terrain Cherokee, Mercedes-Benz' trendsetting G-Class, Honda's returning Insight hybrid and BMW's diminutive X2 sport activity vehicle.

The three top-selling pickup truck brands in the U.S. (Ford, Chevrolet, Ram) have significant product redesigns/reintroductions in the 2019 model year, building upon already red-hot momentum. Last year, full-sized pickups accounted for about 14 percent of the U.S. market, the highest level since 2005.

Ford welcomes back the mid-size 2019 Ford Ranger after a seven-year hiatus in the U.S., while Chevrolet celebrates 100 years of truck retailing (1918-2018) with a redesign of its full-size 2019 Silverado 1500. The 2019 Ram 1500 now rates as the most aerodynamic light duty with a notable fuel economy improvement.

What's next?

A show favorite over the years has been the wide array of prototypes, or concept vehicles. Some concepts resemble a futuristic sketch just off the drawing board, while others are closer to production reality. Lexus is hyping the LF-1 Limitless concept, a crossover looking, very much production ready vehicle. The GMC truck display includes an All Mountain Concept of its Sierra pickup sans circular wheels. Instead it sports triangular, belt-like grippers. Don't expect one in dealers anytime soon.

Chicago-based ambulance provider MedEX Ambulance Service debuts a high-tech Concept Ambulance with supplies and services usually reserved for hospitals.

Order in advance

Tickets may be ordered online in advance by visiting www.chicagoautoshow.com and clicking on the Tickets tab along the top. Also, tickets may be purchased through the Chicago Auto Show mobile app, downloadable through the Apple App Store or Google Play. Downloading the app allows users to register to win $20,000 toward the lease or purchase of a new Buick Envision or GMC Acadia crossovers.

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