Contributing Author: Antal Bokor
The Chicago Auto Show, which has been pulling into McCormick Place every February since the turn of last century, kicked off its official 112th edition this weekend, packing its 1 million square feet of exhibitor space with the latest from auto manufacturers from around the world, classics, oddities, concept cars and brand new models just waiting to roll off the assembly lines to the general public. We got a chance to preview the massive show on Friday, just one day before the show floor opened to the public, and had a great time checking out all the amazing new designs, rolling around Camp Jeep and even taking a virtual reality ride or two.
It’s all about the experience at this show, with companies from Ford to Porsche and Subaru building elaborate backdrops and sets for their shiniest new models, and selling you on the lifestyle of the brand, so to speak, whether it’s a Galaxy’s Edge Honda Odyssey with all the bells and whistles a nerdy family of five might want for a trip to grandma’s to the black tie affair you could practically pull the latest Lincoln right into, or to explore the national parks in your Subaru and boulder through the canyons with your Jeep.
Some work better than others, but all tell you a little bit about who the car’s aimed towards. Subaru, for example, appeals to its environmentally conscious wanderlusters with an unintentionally amusing live geyser experience in which a 2020 Outback rises from the mists of Old Faithful’s eruption to Camp Jeep, who uses a massive portion of the showfloor to give test rides in Gladiators and Rubicons that demonstrate the fundamentals of what makes a car trail rated, and really puts action behind its claims with steep inclines, nasty downhills, a formidable bouldering plot and uneven ramps to really drive home the workings of a trail rated vehicle. While I’m already a fan of Jeeps, having owned a few in my past, I feel like the 2020 lineup and the masterful demo really make Jeep’s new offerings stand out.
Another masterful stroke this year that even outpaces the enticement of the exotics and concepts comes from, of all places, Chevrolet. The belle of the ballroom, were we to pick one, would certainly be the curvaceous, sleek silhouette of the 2020 Chevy Corvette C8 Stingray Edition. A velvety sunset orange and intense sky blue model graced the show floor and even at the media-only preview we attended, were constantly surrounded by admirers.
Having loved the Stingrays of the 60s more than any other iteration, watching Chevy return to those roots while also evoking the power and poise of a Ferrari (not to mention being able to outpace or come pretty close to outpacing actual McLarens and Ferraris on tracks like the Nurburgring with its base model) was pure joy. And, it’s not just us–the auto manufacturer’s first ever mid-engine is selling out preorders and is also Motortrend’s Car of the Year for 2020.
There’s more than enough eye candy, though, and the theme this year across the board seemed to be color, with eye catching blues from robin’s egg and pale sky blue to intense oranges, forest greens that have a copper iridescence, and the bright yellow of a safety vest with crisp black racing lines down the hood. Risks were taken, and it’s welcome after the champagne and silver takeover that’s managed to stick around since the mid 90’s.
If you are itching for the exotics, concepts, classics and oddities though, you won’t be disappointed. There’s plenty of weird and wonderful things to discover around every corner, from the Army and Marines’ bring their big burly beasts to bear along with some gaming setups to attract potential recruits to six wheeled cars like the aptly named Studebaker Ice Princess that comes right out of Elsa’s imagination, 1100 horsepower Lingenfelters, McLarens, Supra concepts and Porsches galore to a blue and white blinged out Rolls and glowing Goodyear strapped pearly white boat of a car, the one of a kind Golden Sahara II, built on the skeleton of a 1953 Lincoln Capri .
Meanwhile, Ford’s basically built a ready to roll Batmobile with their main attraction, the Ford GT Liquid Carbon Edition, made from a single continuous sheet of carbon fiber. It sounds weird, but looks great, and will only set you back 750,000 dollars. It’s okay, though, because Bruce Wayne’s checks don’t bounce.
All told, with amazing concepts, great colors, exotics, test tracks, racing sims, VR and full on Camp Jeep trailrides, the 2020 Chicago Auto Show continues to leave no one wondering why it’s the best attended consumer auto show or why it’s continuing to bring bigger crowds and more revenue. If you want to get a look at everything up close and personal, head out to McCormick Place now through February 17th. The show is open from 10am to 10pm every day and tickets are only $13 for adults and $8 for children 7-12 and seniors 62 and over, with free admission for children 6 and under. Find out more about the Chicago Auto Show by clicking the link here, and don’t miss our video from our Camp Jeep trail ride posted below.