Billed as the “largest auto show in North America,” the 2017 Chicago Auto Show opened to the public this past weekend with vehicles spread out across more than a million square feet. It’s a good thing there was so much room, too, as the event had a distinct focus on trucks and SUVs. For instance, separate custom-look appearance packages were introduced for the Ram 1500 and Ram 2500/3500 heavy-duty pickups, and a blackout-style Midnight edition debuted for the Nissan Murano SUV. And one of the highlights on the car side of the business was from a brand better known for sport utilities: Subaru, which brought the refreshed 2018 Subaru Legacy to the Windy City.
But perhaps most likely to have an impact in the marketplace this year were the following Chicago premieres.
2018 Dodge Durango SRT
The short story for Dodge’s biggest SUV: Thanks to its 392-cubic-inch Hemi V8, the 2018 Dodge Durango SRT combines outrageous performance at the drag strip with plenty of pulling power. Indeed, Dodge also claims a best-in-class towing mark of 8,600 pounds as part of the Durango SRT’s spec sheet. But the same engine output that enables the vehicle’s trailering capability also delivers blistering acceleration: With 475 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, the Durango SRT can post quarter-mile times of 12.9 seconds. Moreover, that stat has third-party backing from the National Hot Rod Association. The “fastest SUV in its class,” according to Dodge, additionally runs from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.
When the Durango SRT arrives at dealerships during the fourth quarter of this year, it also will check two key boxes for any high-performance vehicle: Brembo brakes and a complimentary track day. The former can haul the Durango down from 60 mph to a full stop in 115 feet, and the latter is a full-day session, including in-class and on-track instruction, at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving.
2018 Ford Expedition
The all-new 2018 Ford Expedition boasts the same aluminum-alloy construction as the current-generation Ford F-150. It also offers the F-150’s EcoBoost engine as standard equipment and has been restyled to match the highly successful Ford Explorer. It should add up to continued success for the Blue Oval’s full-size SUV, especially considering all the new technologies for the Expedition. As an important starting point, the Expedition will catch up to its GM rivals with a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot and wireless charging. A number of active safety measures also will be available, including active parking assistance, a 360-degree camera system and adaptive cruise control. Yet Ford does more than merely meet the basic requirements with the new Expedition. Also in the mix are advances such as the only 10-speed automatic transmission in the segment, the automaker’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist technology, and what Ford expects to be “the best towing capability of any full-size SUV.”
The 2018 Expedition is scheduled to go on sale this fall with three trims: XLT, Limited and Platinum. All three models will be offered in long-wheelbase, Expedition Max variants.
2018 Hyundai Elantra GT
With new and recently introduced examples from the Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, the compact hatchback segment is one of the few car categories enjoying industry buzz nowadays. This trend also continued in Chicago, where the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT was launched.
Unsurprisingly, the Elantra GT does share much with the Elantra sedan. The hatchback, though, traces its roots to Hyundai’s European-designed i30. That also may be obvious, since the Elantra GT has an aggressive Eurocentric design with an athletic stance and a sophisticated, aerodynamic shape. Hyundai even name-checks Germany’s Nurburgring race track as the GT’s testing ground. The GT will offer a hot-hatch engine option as well when it goes on sale this summer. It’s the four-cylinder, turbocharged engine that’s proven its performance in cars like the Elantra Sport sedan and Veloster Turbo. Beyond that engine’s 201 horsepower and 195 pound-feet torque, a fully independent multi-link rear suspension, and larger brake rotors at all four corners, distinguish the range-topping Elantra GT Sport. Further Elantra GT benefits are a particularly spacious total cargo capacity of 55.1 cubic feet and a high level of infotainment and safety technology.
2017 Nissan Titan/Titan XD King Cab
At first glance, this looks like Nissan simply filling out its full-size pickup family. The 2017 Nissan Titan and Titan XD were already were available in Single and Crew Cab configurations. Nissan’s King Cab, however, introduces a new-to-the-segment feature. More to the point, it let’s you eliminate an old one: The King Cab Titan comes standard with two full-size front doors and two smaller, rear-hinged back doors, along with a full-size front row of seats and a folding 60/40-split bench in the second row. But Nissan now allows owners to order the King Cab trucks without the rear seats, creating a flat load floor and a massive increase in storage space behind the first row.
King Cab details will be released closer to the vehicle’s expected on-sale date this spring, although Nissan does promise premium cues like available heated and cooled front seats. In terms of pricing, the Titan King Cab’s base MSRP should fall between the $29,580 of the Single Cab and the $34,780 of the Crew Cab.
2018 Toyota RAV4 Adventure Edition
The Toyota RAV4 has evolved over the years to become one of the country’s most popular SUVs. That said, recent generations haven’t always been all that SUV-like. Toyota instead has appealed to customers by emphasizing the RAV4’s on-road advantages and, especially with the new hybrid model, its fuel efficiency. The upcoming RAV4 Adventure model will therefore play a significant role for the brand when it reaches dealerships in September. The vehicle naturally showcases rugged design cues such as prominent wheel flares, lower body guards and 18-inch black alloy wheels, while also featuring black accents for its headlight bezels, fog lamp surrounds and roof racks. Next, Toyota upgrades the RAV4 suspension for a higher ride height and provides a standard towing prep package, complete with a more capable radiator and supplemental engine-oil and transmission-fluid coolers. Among the updates in the cabin are Adventure-specific interior-trim panels and door-sill protectors, as well as all-weather floor mats and an auxiliary power outlet located in the rear cargo hold. Finally, for extra traction, an automatic limited-slip differential is standard for the RAV4 Adventure. Toyota’s Dynamic Torque Control all-wheel drive is optional.