Enjoy the comfy interior of the Chicago Auto Show
Now that the sport world has crowned its 2019 Super Bowl champ (yeah, yeah, Tom Brady and New England again), it's time for the Super Bowl of auto shows to take center stage.
No heart-stopping double doinks or blatant pass interference non-calls, just scores of crisp, gleaming vehicles at beck and call chasing the winter blues back into hibernation in a warm (leave the bone-chilling 25 below zero wind chills outside) climate-controlled atmosphere.
"A successful show begins with an unmatched consumer experience, and that's exactly what Chicagoans have come to expect at the Chicago Auto Show," said Ray Scarpelli Jr., chairman of the 2019 Chicago Auto Show and proprietor of several Lake County dealerships.
This year marks a remarkable 111th edition of the Chicago Auto Show. It's the largest auto show in North America, held more times than any other auto exposition on the continent. McCormick Place remains a showcasing gem, a venue other auto shows across the country can only envy from afar.
Its enormous footprint through two exhibition halls invites a multitude of indoor test tracks, bringing experiential marketing to new heights. More than 1,000 vehicles are on display to compare and contrast. Ticket prices for the 10-day event that runs through Monday, Feb. 18 (Presidents Day), remain unchanged from last year.
The show continues its family-friendly atmosphere, appealing to multiple generations of car buyers and enthusiasts eager to learn about emerging propulsions and future direction. This event is also a bridge into the past.
Each year, the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, sponsor of the show since 1935, includes an intriguing pictorial of past shows (and fashions). The Cadillac display includes a two-door 1959 Eldorado Biarritz with graceful tail fins, open-air construction and sleek body.
Mazda and Acura both salute 30th anniversaries of the MX-5 Miata and all-aluminum NSX prototype, respectively, two Japanese roadsters that debuted three decades ago in Chicago and helped define each automaker. Both Acura and Mazda include original 1989 models at their displays while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brings back a 1984 minivan, the seed that blossomed into a front-wheel minivan revolution. In 2018, Chrysler and Dodge minivans held a strong 55 percent share of the U.S. minivan market.
A key differentiator between the Chicago Auto Show and others: the sheer number of test drive opportunities both inside and outside McCormick Place. FCA returns its Camp Jeep indoor drive track in the South Hall (now in its 15th year) and Ram Trucks returns to the indoor test track after a year hiatus.
Land Rover welcomes a mountainous indoor test track for the first time ever in Chicago in the South Hall, so attendees can enjoy seat time within the all-new 2020 Range Rover Evoque crossover.
Kia Motors America returns for a second year with a woodsy-themed indoor track in the North Hall spotlighting its all-new three-row 2020 Telluride crossover.
All indoor displays allow multiple riders inside the vehicles while a certified chaperone pilots behind the wheel.
As in years past, a growing number of automakers offer test drives outside of McCormick Place. 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 (Ford, Volvo, Mazda, Volkswagen and Subaru).
Driving simulators provide opportunities to enjoy time behind the wheel, even if you're not quite of legal driving age or have yet to procure a legal state license. The Ford display in the South hall includes a commercial truck simulator and a second version mimicking a ride through the rugged outdoors in an F-Series Super Duty. FCA's driving simulator takes a sportier turn with a Bob Bondurant racing school theme.
If crawling or walking is more your speed, Ford's display also includes a "rope bridge" kids should enjoy. The tubular bridge stretches above mid-size Ford Ranger pickups. The Chevrolet display includes virtual reality goggles, for those who enjoy interactivity sitting down.
Automakers utilize the powerful marketing opportunity of the Chicago show to introduce new products and breaking news to the masses. Thursday's media preview festivities included:
• Subaru debuted a next-generation 2020 Legacy mid-size sedan built from a new global platform and assembled down I-65 in Lafayette, Indiana. The sedan includes an available turbocharged engine, best-in class rear legroom and new ST trim.
• Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel greeted on-hand Ford assembly plant workers and attending media to tout Ford's $1 billion investment to upgrade Ford's Southeast side Torrence Avenue assembly plant (opened in 1924 to construct the Model T) and nearby stamping plant. Ford expects 500 new jobs to open up at these facilities thanks to the cash influx.
• Tailgate competition heats up. Ram Trucks showcased a Ram 1500 light duty pickup with a multifunctional 60/40-split tailgate that swings open similar to side-by-side refrigerator doors. Ram also showed off a Ram Chassis Cab work truck in a new Limited trim with upmarket interior.
• Volkswagen introduced a compact 2019 Jetta GLI edition that goes on sale this spring with dual chrome exhausts, black honeycomb grill, rear spoiler and 18-inch alloy wheels.
• Making its U.S. debut, the next-generation, 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. This compact crossover includes all wheel-drive and six drive modes standard. It's also available with a mild gas-electric hybrid power plant. Expect a $42,650 starting price and spring availability at dealers.
• Nissan debuted a 2019 Pathfinder Rock Creek edition (a value-driven $995 extra) and a 2020 Rouge sport trim for its popular compact crossover.
• As alluded to earlier, the 30th anniversary edition of Mazda's MX-5 Miata, the world's best-selling roadster, debuted to enthusiastic cheers. Only 500 are available in the U.S. in 2019, so order early if interested.
• An even more limited edition Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Italia made its North American debut. This convertible bests the MX-5 Miata as only 15 units are available.
• Toyota debuted a 2020 Sequoia SUV TRD Pro, featuring Fox shock-absorber suspension and an array of off-road equipment designed by its Toyota Racing Development division.
Also of special note …
Some noteworthy production and concept vehicles make their way to Chicago directly from earlier shows. History gets rewritten in 2020 when Detroit shifts its North American International Auto Show to early summer from January, allowing Chicago's extravaganza to "own" the winter months.
The Chicago-built Ford Explorer crossover receives a sixth-generation makeover in the 2020 model year, debuting last month in Detroit along with a gas-electric hybrid variant. Both deserve a hometown welcome.
A 2020 Toyota Supra roars into Chicago reclaiming a storied name from the past. Toyota's luxury Lexus Division brings along a Lexus LC coupe convertible concept, looking awfully close to production ready.
Volkswagen doubles down with a revamped 2020 Passat, a confidence builder for the mid-size sedan segment with new body styling and re-imagined interior.
Jeep's much-hyped, all-new 2020 Gladiator debuted last fall at the L.A. auto show and boasts a pickup bed along with removable side doors and roof panels.
Hyundai in 2020 brings along a flagship three-row vehicle in the form of the all-new Palisade with seating for eight.
Lincoln's all-new mid-size 2020 Aviator three-row crossover starts rolling of Ford's Torrence Avenue assembly plant in Chicago later this year. Aviator (sharing underpinnings with Ford's Explorer) also comes equipped either with a traditional gas engine or as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).
The official auto show social media hashtag #CAS19 allows instant interaction via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat platforms. Showgoers may instantly share their experiences in real time with family, friends and the world at large. Free high-speed Wi-Fi is available across the expansive show halls making sharing and connecting a snap.
Returning for a second year is the 21-foot BUZZ HUB wall with real-time trending feeds located off the Grand Concourse in the North Hall.
Several interactive show displays also offer the chance for weary walkers to sit down and relieve aching feet in lounge-like areas, which also offer recharging plug ports aiding exhausted portable electronics.
Parking and shuttlingMcCormick Place operates three main parking lots: A, B and C. Lots A and C cost $21 per day while Lot B is $15 per day. All lots reduce pricing to $10 after 6 p.m. Cash and credit cards accepted.
Every day: The Chicago Auto Show provides shuttles from the Soldier Field parking lot to Gate 27 at McCormick Place every day of the show.
Saturdays, Sundays and Presidents Day only: The auto show operates free shuttle bus service to and from the Millennium Park Garage/East Monroe Garage in downtown Chicago and McCormick Place. This shuttle runs from 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekends and Presidents Day (Monday, Feb. 18) only.
Metra option: The Chicago Transit Authority will operate buses (regular CTA rates apply) stopping outside the Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station and traveling back and forth to McCormick Place. "Auto Show Bus" or "Metra Stations" appear in front digital destination signs depending upon the direction traveled.