9 Hot Cars Powering the Chicago Auto Show

With so many Detroit vehicles dominating the 2014 North America International Auto Show, many of the prize vehicles of foreign manufacturers went unnoticed or under-recognized. Europe and Asia’s finest automakers had some great debuts slip under the radar while others kept some surprises in pocket for upcoming events. At the 2014 Chicago Auto Show that launched February 7, every car is getting a close look, with many exciting debuts ramping up visitors’ interest.

Both the longest running auto show on the continent and the nation’s largest, the Chicago Auto Show dates back to 1901. The 106th edition of 2014 offers visitors a glimpse into the future with electric vehicles, carbon-fiber bodies, and innovations throughout the automobile’s frame. Here are nine hot cars making crowds flock to the 2014 Chicago Auto Show.

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1. 2014 Rolls Royce Wraith

The idea of a fastback Rolls Royce (RYCEY.PK) with a V12 inside may sound too good to be true, but that’s exactly what the automaker has on display in Chicago with the 2014 Wraith. The Wraith allows drivers to power from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds using a 6.6-liter V12 capable of 624 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. The top speed the Wraith can hit is 155 mph. That might sound like the type of violent output reserved for aggro muscle cars, but the idea has been to keep the ultimate-cruise factor Rolls Royce drivers expect.

This car is the most powerful vehicle to ever bear the Rolls Royce name, but the automaker guarantees the “magic carpet ride” remains intact inside the cabin, courtesy of air suspension configured using electronic controls.

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2. 2014 Maserati Ghibli

To debut a brilliant car like the Maserati (FIATY.PK) Ghibli, a Super Bowl commercial is almost mandatory. Maserati delivered on that count with a riveting spot that appeared in the big game, but the close-up at the Chicago Auto Show is giving U.S. audiences a better look. Both all-wheel and rear-wheel drive options are on the table, with a 3.0-liter twin turbo V6 capable of 345 hp in the base Ghibli. This model can blast from 0-60 in 5.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 165 mph.

The Maserati Ghibli S Q4 pushes the peak power and torque levels to another dimension. Using intelligent all-wheel drive, it can hit a max 404 hp on 406 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm. Top speed is 175 mph.

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3. Mercedes Benz S600

Not to be outdone by Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz (DDAIF.PK) has a bi-turbo V12 S Class model making its Chicago debut. The S600 makes the 0-60 run in just 4.6 seconds with 523 hp and 613 lb-ft of torque. In case S600 drivers want to open up on the road, the car can hit a top speed of 155 mph. That exceeds the reach of the S600′s autonomous brake system, but not by much — it supposedly can stop the car on its own going as fast as 124 mph.

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4. 2014 Saleen Follmer Edition

If the Ford (NYSE:F) Mustang didn’t get enough attention, this Saleen Follmer Edition model debuting in Chicago ought to settle that score. Based on the #16 1969 Boss 302 Mustang that George Follmer ran that year, this car makes up one corner of the Saleen Heritage Collection.

The thrill of the 302 engine comes with 470 hp at 7,200 rpm and 405 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. If that power quotient doesn’t do the trick, the vintage styling has Mustang lovers falling head over heels for this ride in Chicago.

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5. Kia GT4 Stinger Concept

It’s safe to say Kia (KIMTF.PK) is opening eyes all across the world in its aggressive auto design campaign. In the midst of the K900 rollout, Kia brought the GT4 Stinger Concept to the party in Chicago. At less than 2,900 lbs. in curb weight, the GT4 Stinger’s 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine must offer a real jolt with specs of 315 max horsepower. Kia’s Southern California design team put together this beauty for its Midwest showcase in 2014.

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6. 2015 BMW M4 Coupe

Slated for a summer 2014 release, the BMW (BMAXY.PK) M4 Coupe looks like it’s going to have a considerable following. Sporting an asphalt-burning look and an inline 6-cylinder engine, the M4 boasts maximum 431 horsepower in a small package. That allows drivers to launch from 0-60 in about 4 seconds, depending on the transmission used. BMW seems intent on holding the public’s fascination with its barrage of new vehicles. If the Chicago Auto Show display is any indication, the plan is working.

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7. 2015 Subaru Legacy

It may not have supercar bona fides or the type of hype some other cars in Chicago are getting, but the Subaru (FUJHY.PK) Legacy got quite a welcome in its debut. Midsize sedans are all the rage in the United States, and Subaru was wise to keep the 2015 Legacy away from Detroit audiences while the Chrysler 200 was hogging the spotlight. The new Legacy retains standard all-wheel drive in four trims and two engine choices, the most powerful of which offers 256 horsepower.

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8. Toyota FT-1

Though the Toyota (NYSE:TM) FT-1 made an appearance in Detroit, most would agree the Chicago debut of the supercar concept is barely enough to whet the sports car enthusiast’s appetite. The Supra, the 2000GT, and even the Scion FR-S have each become legends on different scales for Toyota; the FT-1 may birth the next great automobile. Like the Mercedes that dazzled onlookers earlier in 2014, the Toyota FT-1 was originally designed for the Gran Turismo video game.

Calty Design Research launched the “Future Toyota 1″ project in early 2012. Two years later, they delivered this masterpiece that will be used as a guiding light in Toyota’s anticipated sports cars of the future.

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9. BMW i8

In its effort to launch the BMW i8 hybrid super car, the German automaker used an unlikely partner — the U.S. Olympic team. Combining sponsorship of the men’s bobsled squad with help in the design of its sled, BMW showcased its i3 and i8 electric vehicles on the opening night of the Winter Games from Sochi.

There’s nothing in the i8 that would remind drivers of any mass-produced electric vehicle, as its 362-hp gas and electric motors allow the hybrid to sprint from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. Combined with over 94 mpg, that’s a package green lovers with $135K will find tough to ignore. In fact, it may offer the Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model S a little competition in the green car sphere.

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