8 Hits and Misses From the Chicago Auto Show
This year’s Chicago Auto Show brought with it humongous crowds and a whole slate of new and exciting cars, trucks, and SUVs. Car show season officially kicked off last month in Detroit, where many automakers gave us a first look at what they have been working on behind closed doors. Some car companies kept their cards close in hand, however, saving some excitement for the rest of the circuit.
That’s not to say that every single vehicle that was debuted, or put on display in Chicago this year was a surefire hit with attendees. No, there were cars that really didn’t inspire much excitement at all. But that’s part of the circuit — some cars steal the show, while others, well, don’t. But even an uninspired reception for a vehicle can provide valuable feedback to car companies, who can then go back to the drawing board to figure out where they went wrong.
As for the Chicago Auto Show, there are examples of both duds and show-stealers. While there really aren’t any true losers, there are some definite winners that emerge. Here, we’re going to highlight a small handful of both the hits and the misses. To determine which camp each vehicle falls into, we’ve taken into account general excitement around the vehicle, how it may fit into a particular brand’s lineup and strategy, and overall first (or second) impressions.
Read on to see which vehicles we here at The Cheat Sheet felt were true home runs, and which cars struck out.
1. Honda Pilot
It may not be the flashiest vehicle out there, but the new Honda Pilot redesign was, without a doubt, a hit for Honda. But the company didn’t just unveil its hardy family SUV — for the Acura brand, an upscale version was also shown off as the Acura RDX (keep reading to see how we gauged the RDX). This marks the third-generation for the Pilot SUV, and as we have written about previously, the new version is lighter, more fuel efficient, and a lot sleeker. Cars.com was also impressed by the new Pilot, praising it for its improved cargo space, and saying that it could definitely be in the running for more accolades come awards season.
2. Ford GT
The new Ford GT has been causing quite the stir ever since it first hit the stage in Detroit in January. But the GT model that was shown off in Chicago somehow ignited even more excitement, as it unveiled with a very cool metallic silver paint job. There’s plenty of reason to be excited about the new GT, as it really puts Ford back on the performance map, and finally gives consumers a chance to climb in one nearly 50 years after the original debuted on the scene. Truthfully, it’s hard not to be excited by the resurgence of the Ford GT, which will give American competitors like the Dodge Viper and the Corvette Z06 a run for their money.
3. Kia Trail’ster
One vehicle that definitely threw many attendees for a loop was the Kia Trail’ster, a sporty, off-road ready hybrid crossover SUV. The Trail’ster itself is a Soul concept vehicle, outfitted with an all-wheel drive hybrid drivetrain and an “augmented reality” windshield. “The Trail’ster concept is a near-future look at how the production Kia Soul would logically evolve into an AWD-capable version that’s built to escape the city streets and roam into the mountain wilderness,” said Tom Kearns, chief designer, in a press release. “It takes the go-anywhere capability of an SUV and reimagines it within a compact and sporty package with an expressive design to match.”
Is this the next evolution of off-road vehicles? It just might be.
4. Mitsubishi GC-phev
It’s been a while since we’ve seen or heard any substantial news out of the Mitsubishi camp, so seeing the new GC-phev concept vehicle at the Chicago Auto Show was pretty enticing. What audiences were shown was a new SUV design that looks very space-agey; it boasts a metallic silver color, with some interesting angular aesthetics, and a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. It also houses a supercharged V6 engine, putting out a reported 335 horsepower.
The most exciting prospect surrounding the GC-phev is that it could, in fact, be a sneak peak at the next generation of the Mitsubishi Montero. Even so, the GC-phev is being rated as a miss, as it is essentially the same vehicle the company showed off in Tokyo during 2013. Though it could morph into something that people could really be excited about, as of right now, this Mitsubishi concept seems to be little more than a reminder that the company still has a pulse, as CarScoops puts it.
5. Audi Q7
General consensus among analysts and industry insiders is that Audi’s Q7 is a dud. While most vehicles Audi releases grab a good deal of attention and inspire excitement, the Q7, in this case, just didn’t resonate with most. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the Q7, it just seems a little bland, perhaps. Zach Doell of the Bold Ride Team said of the new Q7: ” I think it’s great that Audi can pare its weight back and increase its efficiency, but styling took a step backward. The Q7 looks a bit too much like the Audi TT, but in SUV form.”
He wasn’t alone in that sentiment, either. Three out of his five coworkers echoed Doell with similar statements about the Q7.
6. Chevrolet Equinox
Like the Audi Q7, the newly-redesigned Equinox is seemingly being met with a resounding “meh.” One of Chevy’s staple SUV options, the new Equinox may be redesigned for the new generation, but to sum it up in a word, it’s simply bland. Yes, the new version is loaded with technology and new features, but gauging the aesthetics — the one big draw to many new vehicles — leaves a lot to be desired.
Again, the Equinox is a very good choice for the family on the go who are looking for a simple, point-A-to-point-B sort of vehicle. And that’s the problem. It just doesn’t seem very inspired. That didn’t stop Chevy’s people from playing up the advancements, however. “The result [of the redesign] is a modern exterior that’s matched inside with premium features on all trim levels, complementing the Equinox’s enhanced technology and functionality,” said John Cafaro, Chevy’s executive director of design. Maybe consumers will feel differently, but color us unimpressed.
7. Acura RDX
We mentioned the new Acura RDX previously, when discussing the Honda Pilot rehash. We considered the Pilot to be a hit, and we’re christening the RDX with the same distinction. Due out for 2016, the new RDX has Acura leadership beaming with confidence, and it’s easy to see why. ” The 2016 RDX gets a major infusion of Acura brand DNA including enhancements to styling, driving performance, and exciting new luxury feature-content, further solidifying its place as the one to beat in the entry luxury SUV segment,” said Mike Accavitti, senior vice president and general manager of Acura, in a statement.
The new RDX gives Acura a bigger stick to carry in a luxury SUV segment that is quickly becoming crowded. New additions from all kinds of rivals — Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, etc. — are going to make it harder to gain consumer traction. But the refreshed RDX is loaded with new features, technology, and a performance boost that should keep it fresh in buyers’ minds when the time comes to make a purchase. The upgrades, and the sleek new look, make it a winner in our minds.
8. Ram Laramie Limited
The fact that America loves trucks hasn’t been lost on the brass over at Fiat Chrysler. The company’s main truck outlet, Ram, has been making headway against GM and Ford in terms of sales, thanks to some redesigns and new product offerings. The latest of those, which was shown off in Chicago, is the Ram Laramie Limited — the range-topping pickup that got a minor front-end makeover. While Ram makes impressive pickups in general, the new look, well, just doesn’t sit well with us.
Specifically, it’s the front end grille. It looks like a pig’s nose. Seriously, just take a look at the picture above. The entire pickup looks like a shiny, metallic pig snout thanks to that new grille. The big new improvement to the Ram Laramie Limited was supposed to be the aesthetics, and we feel that it backfired in this case, although there are others who feel otherwise. Because of that, we have to write this one up as a miss.