In Transit: Chicago Auto Show roars into town Saturday

On the hunt for a roomy, fuel-efficient, sexy, turbocharged, sweet ride that corners like a magnet on steel with cup holders and a collision-warning system?

You can search for your dream car as the Chicago Auto Show 2017 vrooms into McCormick Place Saturday through Feb. 20.

Consumers can expect to be dazzled once again by a show starring driverless cars, affordable electrics and nouveau versions of beloved classics.

But for the auto industry, there's less certitude with shrinking sales, elusive gas prices and a new administration in the White House.

Auto purchases could dip by 2 percent in 2017, Kelley Blue Book estimates, although a projected 17.2 million in new vehicle sales is healthy by most standards.

“The biggest question is, how are automakers and dealers going to adapt?” KBB analyst Tim Fleming asked. “It's been all growth since 2010. Now we're entering a different cycle.”

Suburban dealer and auto show Chairman Mike McGrath still expects busy showrooms in 2017.

“We're still seeing six- to 10-year-old vehicles being traded, but we're far enough away from the recession that we're getting the three- or four-year buying cycle back,” he explained.

Many customers walking into his dealerships in Barrington and other suburbs want smaller SUVs, McGrath has noticed. The auto show is featuring some 2018 models, including Nissan's Rogue Sport, on sale this spring, and the Chevrolet Traverse, coming this fall.

McGrath is eager for the reveal of the 2018 Lexus LS this week. “It's long overdue,” he said. “That brand hasn't been restyled in 10 years and I'm assuming they're coming to the plate with something special.”

One neat feature on the LS is a pedestrian detection system that can brake and steer around people on foot.

But high-tech lifesavers aren't just limited to pricey picks.

The Lexus LS 2017 version starts at $72,500 but the $18,740 Honda Civic on display at the auto show offers forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems, and collision-mitigation braking with a wallet-pleasing 28 to 40 mpg.

Gas prices are an X factor in 2017, Fleming thinks, and if prices start surging, “it could throw a wrench in all gears now,” given that manufacturers are counting on consumer demand for SUVs and crossovers.

That fuel volatility is one reason to check out some tree-hugging rides at the show such as Chevrolet's electric car, which travels nearly 250 miles on a charge, or Kia's hybrid Niro crossover, experts think.

What else? Expect some big reveals for old favorites such as Ford's latest F-150 truck and Toyota's Camry makeover, described as “sexy” at the Detroit auto show.

“Apparently, the styling is gorgeous,” McGrath said.

Other must-sees popping up at McCormick Place will be Ford's latest Mustang, Kia's sports sedan, the controversial Stinger and Honda's award-winning and revamped Ridgeline truck.

Consumers can also get physical with five indoor and four outdoor test tracks, including new Ram truck and Mercedes-Benz exhibits with a 45-degree incline. Also coming is a mobile app that will offer an interactive showroom map and vehicle information. For more info, go to

Your voice

Thanks to everyone who wrote in with their auto show picks.

Ronald Waner of Warrenville says: “I am a fan of GMC. I currently have a Terrain and previously an Envoy. We are both 70 and keep our cars for several years, so we are looking for something reliable and durable.”

Meanwhile, James Boll of West Dundee calls himself “a retired car guy going through midlife crisis with sports cars. I am also interested in a vehicle that can tow a trailer for a future camper.”

And reader Noah Ring is eager to see the 2018 Mustang. “There had been a lot of criticism on the way it looks and I'm excited to see it in person. Also I'm looking forward to seeing the Dodge Hellcat.”

Gridlock alert

Plenty of public transit is available to reach the auto show, including the Green Line's McCormick Place stop. If you're driving, be aware IDOT is reconstructing ramps connecting Lake Shore Drive and the Stevenson Expressway, so expect delays.

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  Drivers can get some safe thrills on five indoor test tracks, including one sponsored by Jeep, at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. Bob Chwedyk/, February 2015
Nissan's Rogue Sport is among a number of popular SUVs and crossovers coming to the Chicago Auto Show starting Saturday. Courtesy Chicago Auto Show
Honda's new Ridgeline truck coming to the Chicago Auto Show is attracting a lot of interest. Courtesy Chicago Auto Show
The new Lexus LS will debut at the Chicago Auto Show starting Saturday. It contains new automated safety features. Courtesy Chicago Auto Show
The 2018 Toyota Camry coming to the Chicago Auto Show is completely redesigned. Associated Press
Ford's newest Mustang comes to the 2017 Chicago Auto Show from Saturday to Feb. 20. Courtesy Chicago Auto Show
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