The Chicago Auto Show hits the home stretch this week as gearheads, new car shoppers and the simply curious check out the latest and greatest on wheels.
But taking in this sprawling McCormick Place show calls for comfortable shoes and patience as big crowds make the million square feet used by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association seem a bit snug.
There’s nearly 1,000 vehicles are on display — from tiny, two-seat Smart fortwo models to slightly larger Fiats and on to big pickup trucks and tony Lexus and Range Rovers. And don’t forget the cool concept cars scattered throughout the floor.
The 108th edition of the show, which runs through Sunday at the lakefront exhibition hall, is the largest in North America and typically draws as many as 1 million visitors through an 11-day run.
FIRST LOOKS — Automakers often use these events to introduce new models and the 2016 Chicago show is now exception. The 2017 Dodge RAM Power Wagon debuted last Thursday, emerging from behind a screen and demonstrated handling while being driven down five metal stairs. Other introductions included a new Kia hybrid crossover and a newly designed 2017 Chevy Trax. Hyundai, meanwhile, spun off its Genesis brand into a standalone luxury division.
BEST SHOW EXPERIENCES — You can take a test ride on one of three indoor tracks in the South Hall. Jeep shows off handling on a deliberately bumpy course obstacle course. Fiat Chrysler’s multi-brand track will take you from Zero to 60 on a short straightaway. Toyota will show how its Camry handles slippery conditions on a court featuring a see-saw bridge. Lines will likely be long but its worth the wait and the drivers are friendly and knowledgeable. Six manufacturers — Ford, Kia, Mazda, Scion, Subaru and Toyota — offer outdoor test drives.
WHO’S LOOKING — A Foresight Research study found 68 percent of past Auto Show attendees were considering new car purchase. So CATA reorganized the floor space to place competitors closer to each other. Premium brands are now together in the South Hall, volume brands can be found in the North Hall and test tracks are together on the east side of the South exhibition space.
DON’T GET BUSTED — Visitors can dream of a life of luxury while checking out a $2.6 million Bugatti Veyron Vitesse, climb behind the wheel of a $500,000 Lamborghini Aventador Roadster or examine vehicles from Rolls Royce, Bentley and other super premium brands. Sleek models dressed in black security garb and handcuffs hanging from their belts hover nearby. Real security personnel are also visible but discrete.
CUTTING EDGE — Northern Illinois University engineering students are showing off test vehicles they’ve designed and built, including a super mileage vehicle that traveled 1,359.4 miles on a single gallon of gas. That single-person vehicle was featured on Jay Leno’s Garage on the CNBC network and also appeared in a commercial with the former Tonight Show host and auto enthusiast.
SORRY, NO SALES — Unlike your friendly neighborhood dealer, there are no sales off the showroom floor at McCormick Place. But visitors can easily compare features of different models, check out exteriors and interiors and take in that new car smell. Better yet, knowledgeable manufacturer representatives can answer questions about horsepower, styling and options.
IF YOU GO — McCormick Place, located at 2300 S. Lake Shore Drive, is easily accessible by car or public transportation. Parking is available in nearby Grant Park and McCormick Place lots, with shuttle bus service to the hall. Take Metra rail to downtown commuter stations and hop buses that go directly to the show. The show runs from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. daily (8 p.m. close on final day) through Sunday, Feb. 21. Admission is $12 for adults, $7 for seniors age 62 and older and children ages 7-12. Local auto dealers and participating Shell gas stations have $5 off coupons. Tickets are available at McCormick place booths and online at https://www.chicagoautoshow.com/tickets/.
— Sprawling Chicago Auto Show showcases latest and greatest —