2016 Chicago Auto Show: Big and lean

By KBB.com Editors on February 11, 2016 6:30 AM

Measured by attendance only, the Chicago Auto Show looms above other major shows, attracting more than a million visitors annually. However, wedged between the North American International Auto Show and the Geneva Motor Show, it’s hard pressed to have an extensive roster of North American, yet alone global, reveals.  And, as evidenced by the lack of participation by Mini, Jaguar/Land Rover, Bentley and Rolls-Royce in Detroit and Ford’s recent announcement that they won’t have a stand at this fall’s Paris salon, auto shows in general may be entering a stretch where makers decide that they can get more coverage introducing new vehicles outside the show circuit.

But the high attendance at Chicago is also why all the major makes who sell in the U.S. will be there and there are certainly enough interesting introductions to underscore the importance of this show in reaching the car-buying public.

This year’s event will be decidedly skewed towards crossover SUVs and trucks of all shapes and sizes. Among the expected showings include a new full-size Nissan Armada, which will be based on the current Infiniti QX80 and home market full-size SUV, the Nissan Patrol. That means the new vehicle will now be built in Japan rather than being built in the U.S. using Titan pickup underpinnings. Toyota will also have truck news, with an off-road variant of its recently refreshed Tacoma mid-size pickup, while Ram will also tout 4-wheel-drive capability with its latest take on the legendary Power Wagon. Mercedes-Benz weighs in with a work version of its Sprinter and an extreme concept called Sprinter Extreme based on its cab chassis platform.

Car-based crossover SUVs will be well-represented by the likes of the subcompact 2017 Chevrolet Trax, which benefits from a mid-cycle facelift, while Hyundai will present 2017 versions of the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. Kia will also introduce its first dedicated gas/electric hybrid model in the Niro, a crossover we drove last fall. Further on that theme, Kia will also introduce its 2017 Optima Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, which share the Niro’s technology.

Another pair of sedans, the Chrysler 200S and 300S will also use Chicago to debut a new Alloy Edition  package, which adds a touch of elegance to these respective mid-size and full-size 4-doors. We’ll have all this and more as the show progresses.

Previous Chicago Auto Shows

According to show organizers, the Chicago Auto Show was the first North American auto show to tally 100 shows. Officials also describe the Chicago Auto Show as the nation's largest, utilizing 1.3 million square feet of Chicago's McCormick Place complex, or enough floor space to accommodate 26 Boeing 747s. The Chicago Auto Show doesn't garner as much worldwide attention as the Hollywood or Motor City shows, but the Second City nevertheless plays host to a number of important new car introductions every year.

2015 Chicago Auto Show

Honda revealed a stylish new Pilot while Toyota unveiled a refreshed Avalon.

2014 Chicago Auto Show

Subaru unveiled a new Legacy and Kia unleashed an Optima hybrid and Soul EV. 

2013 Chicago Auto Show

Where the 2014 Toyota Tundra and that Superman-themed Kia Optima were born.

2012 Chicago Auto Show

Hyundai brought a pair of Elantras, while Acura offered up the first-ever ILX and a redesigned RDX.

2011 Chicago Auto Show

Acura refreshed the TL and Volkswagen showed off the latest Jetta GLI.

2010 Chicago Auto Show

Remember the Kia Ray Concept and those pink Dodge Challengers?