Annual Road Show Pulls Into To McCormick Place

Welcome to the 2017 edition of the Chicago Auto Show, an experience quickly morphing from a quintessential vehicle walk around into a burgeoning technology showcase.

While early prototypes of autonomous or self-driving forms of transport have invaded the internet and YouTube videos, none are for sale to the general public … yet.

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If you go

What: 109th Chicago Auto Show

Where: McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

When: Feb. 11-20

Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb 11-19; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 20

Admission: $13 Adults; $7 Seniors 62 and older and children ages 7-12; Free children 0-6.

Tickets: Available online at and at McCormick Place box office; weekday discount vouchers available at area car dealers.

Specialty days:

• Women's Day, Wednesday, Feb. 15. All women admitted for $7

• Hispanic Heritage Day, Friday, Feb. 17

• Food Drive to benefit Safe Haven Foundation, Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 15-17. Showgoers bringing three cans of food receive a $7 coupon off a full adult admission

• Family Day: Monday, Feb. 20

Social media: Hashtag #CAS17

More online:


What is available for general consumption? A widening array of propulsion options.

Joining the conventional gas-driven internal combustion engine and higher-compression diesel engines are varying degrees of the gas-electric hybrid (no nightly plug-in required), plug-in hybrids (requiring a nightly charge) and all-electric plug-in vehicles (necessitating a longer-term, nightly socket connection).

A smattering of concept vehicles offer glimpses of what future designs and power support may look like. Automakers showcase these crowd-pleasers to gauge public reaction, before greenlighting certain projects.

Few annual events have the staying power of the Chicago Auto Show. This year celebrates a remarkable 109th edition -- the nation's longest running auto show by a country mile. The show remains as relevant now as it was in the early 1900s as the excitement surrounding four-wheel horseless carriages has continued to roll.

The show's enviable attendance figures directly correlate to the posh, ginormous digs McCormick Place provides. Both the North and South halls get called into action, adding up to more than 1 million square feet of gleaming automotive displays, many with video walls and wide-aisled walkways. Many displays include comfortable seating areas with opportunities to recharge portable electronics and weary feet.

Some domestic auto shows have all the ambience of an insider trade show; others skew closer to a sci-fi convention. Chicago's informational and interactive approach squarely jibes with people of the heartland looking for their next vehicle choice.

As has been the norm since 1935, the auto extravaganza production falls into the capable hands of the Oakbrook Terrace-based Chicago Automobile Trade Association, the nation's oldest and largest metropolitan dealer organization with more than 400 franchised new-car dealers as members.

This year tacks on one extra day of show time compared to 2016 as the final day extends to Monday, Feb. 20, Presidents Day. Another change from last year involves the opening bell. The show floor opens at 10 a.m. this year, one hour later than 2016's 9 a.m. tee time.

By the numbers

Sales of cars and light trucks in the U.S. hit a record in the 2016 calendar year, inching by the previous best set just one year earlier. At a photo finish, 2016 sales totaled 17.5 million vehicles, just ahead of 2015's 17.4 million units thanks to a concerted year-end push.

According to consumer credit reporting agency Experian, the average loan term for a new car is 68 months, an all-time high. The average amount financed is $30,032. This numbers reflect a major household commitment, reflecting the importance of one-stop comparison shopping.

The show's own research indicates 65 percent of show visitors intend to purchase a vehicle within the next 12 months.

The Center for Auto Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, adds the auto sector is responsible for almost 4 percent of the U.S. economy, providing some 7 million private sector jobs and $500 billion in salary.

Track time

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles continues an interactive tradition of sprawling indoor test tracks to highlight many of its divisions, including a new Ram Truck proving ground. Back in 2005, Jeep took a leap of faith, installing a huge mountainous track. It's returned every year since, setting the bar high for others to join. Toyota's returning indoor track spotlights RAV4 and Highlander crossovers.

Joining the experiential track opportunity this year: Mercedes-Benz' "Iron Schockl," allowing visitors to experience G-Class maneuverability. No other auto show provides this many interactive indoor ride-along opportunities.

"With two additional test track opportunities, we think more than 80,000 attendees will take rides on the show floor this year," said Mike McGrath, 2017 Chicago Auto Show chairman. "Our indoor test tracks combine with outdoor test drive opportunities to create a show experience like any other in the nation."

Outdoor test drives are offered by a handful of automakers such as Ford, Kia, Subaru and Mazda. Interested showgoers may sign up at floor displays for additional information and time slots.

Stay connected

A wealth of information is available at the show through glossy pamphlets and other modern means. Tech-savvy visitors with smartphones can now link up with "epass"' to quickly access show information at individual displays with a simple swipe. Tickets purchased in advance or at McCormick Place will include a QR code, the ubiquitous box with squiggly hieroglyphics. These "bar codes on steroids" contain oodles of vehicle information data. Users may also sign up for test drives and enter contests through epass.

A quick Smartphone connection eliminates the need to constantly re-enter basic information at each new display. The QR code requires activation and signature verification at designated show kiosks or at

World debuts

Historically, auto shows have served as springboards for automakers to introduce completely all-new models or new updates of existing vehicles. Media days prior to the Saturday public opening set the stage for these sometimes theatrical spectacles.

Some of the more notable events from Thursday's media preview and new model reveals that took place from the McCormick Place show floor:

• Mitsubishi introduced a value-driven version of its Outlander Sport crossover base model. The 2018 five-door Outlander Sport ES limited edition includes $2,000 worth of extras, but buyers pay only $1,000.

• The Mississippi-built Nissan Titan light-duty pickup truck now includes a King Cab edition with "clam shell" side door openings, easing access to back-row seating. The 2018 King Cab represents the fifth available version of an aggressive, next-generation redesign introduced in the 2017 model year.

• Hyundai introduced two versions of the next-generation 2018 Elantra GT, a hatchback/wagon version of the popular Elantra sedan. The base Elantra GT includes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder cranking out 162 horsepower while the Elantra GT Sport includes a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four raising the ante to 201 horses.

• Toyota's RAV4 compact crossover now has a 2018 Adventure trim with a higher-riding height, standard roof rails and a sportier suspension.

• Toyota's Tundra pickup, built in San Antonio, undergoes a mid-cycle upgrade in 2018 with a host of new electronic safety features, called Toyota Safety Sense. Also new is a TRD Sport grade with hood scoop and unique front grille.

Other notable carry-overs from last month's Detroit show of possible interest to the Daily Herald audience:

• The fifth-generation, 2018 Lexus LS flagship sedan, the longest-running vehicle in the lineup, on board since the upscale brand's debut in 1989

• The ninth-generation Toyota Camry debuts in the 2018 model year, still the best-selling car in America.

• Honda's next-generation, family-friendly 2018 Odyssey minivan includes an all-new 3.5-liter direct-injected V-6.

• Chevrolet's mid-size Traverse crossover debuts its second-generation effort in 2018 promising seating for eight adult-sized passengers.

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