It’s time for the 2016 Chicago Auto Show! The longest running show of its kind, this year represents the 108th time the auto industry has met in Chicago. Chicago continues to be the biggest show on the block, touting close to 1000 vehicles shown over one million square feet at McCormick Place. From incremental updates on perennial models to concepts that dazzle (but may never see the light of day), the Chicago Auto Show continues to be a spectacle for all things automotive. The show is open from February 13th – February 21st giving ample opportunity to head down and see everything. There’s a lot to see at the show this year, so let’s dive right in.
Last year we got to see a few instances of the Oculus Rift at some booths. This year interaction was taken to all new heights (quite literally in some cases). Subaru has what they are calling a 360 Experience, including Samsung Gear VR headsets, moving seats, and a mist spray at the end. Up to four people can experience the 360 Experience at a time, all of which are required to sign a waiver beforehand.
Toyota has both their distracted teen driving simulator that they’ve had in years past as well as an additional VR experience from the passenger seat of an Avalon Hybrid. Chrysler has an interactive area for kids showing off features from their Pacifica model in the Chrysler Pacifica Play Zone. Here adults will be able to check out the XM Satellite Radio integration in the stereo system while kids can see the optional back seat entertainment features. Kids can also get into the habit of cleaning up after themselves with a station promoting the Pacifica’s vacuum options, where they’ll be vacuuming up marbles from a carpeted surface. Dodge and Ford kicked the interactive elements up a few notches.
Dodge puts you in the driver’s seat of a Dodge Viper and lets you cut loose in front of three large video screens. The car is basically a giant controller as it reacts to your driving as you can see in the video below.
Ford didn’t use a real car — because I’m honestly not sure most people would really be able to get in or out of an actual Ford GT — but instead brought in a platform where one driver and two passengers are raised around ten feet above the show floor. The three monitor setup is kept, but the rest of the rig is significantly less car-like than the Dodge display. You can check out the experience in the video below.
Ford also has a second, slightly less flashy rig a bit farther back in their display. You’ll have the same sort of cockpit, but not the same height. You’re also driving a Ford Truck in that simulation.
Returning to the 2016 Chicago Auto Show are the popular Test Tracks. Here guests will be able to sit in a vehicle and drive through various conditions depending on the track. This year there are still three test tracks, one from Fiat Chrysler, one from Toyota, and one from Jeep. Fiat Chrysler is largely a city affair, though there’s a straightaway where they’ll open it up for a few seconds at least. If you’re in the Dodge Challenger, you’ll feel that acceleration, trust me. Toyota’s track is a bit more complex. They’re showing off their new Rav 4 (more on that later) so in addition to some of the city elements there are some off-road type obstacles.
Jeep, of course, goes all in on crazy obstacles for their vehicles to overcome. The track has a bit of a different layout than last year and also includes some new obstacles including a set of stairs. Here’s how the Jeep Test Track looks from the inside of a Jeep Wrangler Limited Backcountry edition:
Companies that probably don’t pop into your head when you talk about Sport Utility Vehicles are showing off some Sport Utility Vehicles this year. What are some companies you might not think of having SUV’s? People like Jaguar:
Or Bentley (the inside of this car smells fantastic, btw. Hand-stitched leather and premium wood will do that though):
Companies were also showing off some cool new technology in their SUV’s. Toyota, for example, has some cool new stuff baked into the new Rav4 – 360 degree camera coverage around the entire vehicle, almost like the selfies that the Curiosity rover sends back from Mars. Definitely cool stuff as you can see in the video below:
Not to be outdone, companies that traditionally sell SUV’s and only SUV’s have some slightly out of character models too… Range Rover convertible?
What kind of Auto Show would this be if there weren’t a selection of vehicles that very few will ever have any shot of buying? At least for the price of admission you’ll be able to see a set of cars that are rarely seen in the real world, at least not in the areas where most of us actually live.
Similarly, you can’t have an Auto Show without concept cars, you just can’t. We all know that the likelihood of these cars making it to production in their current forms is practically nil, but it’s still awesome to see what auto manufacturers feel the future will look like. The flashiest concept car this year is the Acura Precision concept. With its sharp yet smooth lines, aggressive front end and giant door openings thanks to a suicide style rear door, this Acura concept is a real looker.
Purple, and Matte Paint
There were several production vehicle models available in bright purple this year. It seemed to be the fun new color for 2016. The other big trend to show off at the Auto Show was matte paint. I personally love the look of matte paint, but would hate to have to try and keep it clean so these cars will be strictly eye candy for me at least. One car customization company went all in and brought us a purple matte Lamborghini.
This won’t apply to most of you, since media days are now over and companies are gearing up for the official show opening, but for me it’s kind of sad to see what appears to be the end of a relatively short-lived era. You may remember my rankings last year of the best media kit USB drives given out by the various automakers. This year the trend has switched to simply keeping everything online. A few companies did still hand out media kits, with Kia being the Grand Champion with their wood USB/Pen combo.
— Justin Jelinek (@Zagrash) February 11, 2016
They really didn’t have a lot of competition though. Only a few companies handed out media kits on a USB drive. Some had business cards with the link to their media directories, while others had, well, nothing.
See you at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show!
If you love cars and technology, the Chicago Auto Show is the place to be. If you’re in the Chicago area, stop by McCormick Place any day between February 12th and 21st to see all of this and more for yourself! If you can’t make it to the show, stay tuned over the next few days as we’ll be covering some of the announcements made by the automakers presenting at CAS16.