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Chicago Auto Show Trends: From Fuel Economy to the Future

The Chicago Auto Show—the largest of its kind in North America—is 106 years old this year. With about 1,000 vehicles on display, six outdoor and three indoor test tracks, and a slew of first-time announcements, the show always heralds the year's auto trends. [caption id="attachment_7514" align="alignright" width="300"] Toyota’s indoor test… Allstate
Volvo Polestar
Volvo unveiled the Polestar, a 155-mph concept car. Photo by Morgan Lord.

The Chicago Auto Show—the largest of its kind in North America—is 106 years old this year. With about 1,000 vehicles on display, six outdoor and three indoor test tracks, and a slew of first-time announcements, the show always heralds the year’s auto trends.

Toyota off-road display
Toyota’s indoor test track included mountainous inclines and a truck-sized see-saw to test-run the newest Tacomas, 4Runners and Tundras. Photo by Morgan Lord.

Haven’t made it to the show? Read on to find out about the technology, the style and the fun at this year’s Chicago Auto Show.

Powerful Fuel Savers

Nissan revealed its new concept, the Frontier Diesel Runner, a mid-sized truck with about 200 horsepower. That means it’s just as powerful as its predecessor, the Frontier V6, but this truck has a Cummins Diesel engine.

The question came up over and over again: “What if we put a Cummins Diesel engine in a Frontier?”said Fred Diaz, senior vice president of Nissan North America.

So they tried it, and Nissan says the Frontier Diesel has a 35 percent increase in fuel economy over Frontier V6 (that’s 30 mpg on the highway) because of the switch.

Speaking of fuel-saving trucks, the newest Ford F-150 is a mileage-boosting 700 pounds lighter, with the body made from aluminum instead of steel. The Ford has an all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, which means better fuel economy, quicker braking and the power to tow heavier loads. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the vehicle gets 17 mpg in the city and about 23 mpg on the highway, according to Ford.

Hyper High-Tech Rides

This year’s show stunners have a heavy dose of hi-tech prowess; in fact, the newest line of 2015 Subarus, including the 2015 Subaru Legacy, have their very own set of eyes, so to speak. EyeSight is front-crash prevention system equipped with video cameras to monitor traffic and a variety of systems to help avoid crashes. It integrates adaptive cruise control, which helps adjust your speed based on the car in front of yours; pre-collision braking, which alerts you to danger and applies the brakes automatically to help avoid a crash; and lane departure warning, which lets you know if your car is veering into another lane.

Eco-Friendly Updates

Chevy Spark
The 2015 Chevrolet Spark. Photo by Morgan Lord.

The eco-friendly Kia Soul EV made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show—it’s battery-powered and can drive up to 120 miles before needing a five-hour charge. And, the car itself is “green”—the interior and trim are made from recycled plastic and fabric. For electric car drivers worried about time constraints, Chevrolet offers a solution: Its Spark EV is the first all-electric vehicle in North America to offer optional SAE Combo DC Fast Charge capability, which can charge the battery to 80 percent of capacity in about 20 minutes. The Spark EV is priced under $25,000, according to Chevrolet.

Toyota also featured its hybrid frontrunners at the show, including the Prius, Avalon, Camry and Highlander. Toyota projects that the 2015 Prius will get up to 55 mpg.

Start Your Engines

Global Rallycross Beetle
Droves of excited spectators gathered around one of the two Global Rallycross Beetles. Photo by Morgan Lord.

Racing news seems to rocket through the Chicago Auto Show at warp speed. Volkswagen unveiled the 560-horsepower Global Rallycross (CGR) Beetle and is partnering with Andretti Autosport to launch the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team, according to a Volkswagen press release. The team will consist of two cars, with GRC champion Tanner Foust and ex-F1 and NASCAR star Scott Speed behind the wheels.

Volkswagen isn’t the only automaker to get on the racing bandwagon. Toyota announced at the show that it’s becoming the first major sponsor of Daytona International Speedway’s $400 million redesign (to be completed in 2016). Toyota will have the rights to name one of the five speedway entrances–that’s 20,000 square feet and four levels to brand as they see fit, according to NASCAR.

Racing has long been an inspiration for road cars, and Volvo proved that’s still the case. Volvo unveiled the Polestar—a 155-mph concept car developed from the company’s decades of motorsport expertise. But, if you dream of owning a Polestar, you’ll have to act fast —only 120 are being offered for sale. Pricing will be announced closer to the June 2014 launch date, according to

Wave of the Future

Kia Soul EV and Niro
Kia’s display unveiled the 2015 Kia Soul EV, a battery-powered car, and the playful, urban Kia Niro. Photo by Morgan Lord.

Quite a few concept cars at this year’s show looked like they could have stepped right out of “The Jetsons.” The Kia Niro has dihedral “butterfly” doors that open into the roof panel, and the Toyota FT-1, which aptly stands for Future Toyota, sports an ultra-aerodynamic sleek body. Toyota also has the FV2 concept, with no steering wheel, meaning you shift your weight to maneuver the car. The FV2 can also read your voice and facial expressions.

Beginning in 1901, the Chicago Auto Show has been staged more times than any other auto show in history. To be a part of the show’s rich history and get an in-person look at this year’s trends, head to the Chicago Auto Show from Feb. 8-17 at McCormick Place. General admission to the 2014 Chicago Auto Show is $12 for adults and $6 for children.