The Best of the 2019 Chicago Auto Show

The days of bragging about torque and horsepower are gone. The 2019 Chicago Auto Show was all about electronic innovations and luxury.
  • There was a time when truck manufacturers bragged about torque and horsepower. Not so at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show.

    This year, truck manufacturers emphasized electronic intelligence and luxury. Adaptive cruise control, collision warning systems, and automatic emergency braking headed the list, but safety wasn’t the only theme. Other features included park assist systems, huge touchscreens, 10-way adjustable seating, satellite radios, leather seats, and a multitude of other creature comforts.

    To be sure, trucks weren’t the only theme. Mazda rolled out a striking new Miata, while Volkswagen and Subaru unveiled innovative new models.

    Here, we’ve collected photos of the latest and greatest from the Chicago Auto Show. From flashy sports cars to tricked out trucks.

  • Mazda’s 30th anniversary edition MX-5 Miata actually drew gasps from the media crowd when the drapes were pulled from it at the Chicago Auto Show. The oohs and ahs were for its stunning appearance – the vivid “racing orange” body, combined with black A-pillars and door mirrors. The vehicle, which features a 30th anniversary badge, also sports orange rear brake calipers and gunmetal wheel spokes, as well as orange piping on the black seats. To provide a rigid feel in high-G driving situations, Mazda also employed specially-tuned dampers and brakes. Although it was designed to pay homage to the original Miata MX-5 (unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in 1989), Mazda gave the 30th anniversary car a modern touch: It supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. (Image source: Mazda Motor Corp.)

  • Subaru rolled out the 2020 mid-size Legacy sedan. The company, widely known for the safety of its vehicles, didn’t disappoint with the new edition, which is 70% stiffer in torsional rigidity and 100% stiffer in lateral flexural- and rear-subframe rigidity. Subaru said the Legacy’s improved body rigidity and lower center of gravity translates to more responsive steering and handling. To further bolster its reputation for safety, the new Legacy also features all-wheel drive, Eyesight Driver Assist technology, and DriverFocus Distraction Mitigation. On Legacy XT models, Subaru includes a 2.4-liter, 260 HP, turbocharged Boxer engine. (Image source: Design News)

  • Nissan displayed the forthcoming Leaf Plus and dribbled out a few bits of information, even though the new electric car isn’t scheduled for introduction until spring. The company said the Leaf Plus will feature a 62-kWh battery, which takes the car’s all-electric driving range from its current level of 150 miles to a new average of 226 miles. A new 160-kW motor will also boost the vehicle’s power by 45% and its torque to 250 lb-ft. Nissan engineers said they accomplished all that without a major change in the car’s configuration, thanks to a 25% increase in the battery’s energy density. Pricing of the new vehicle is still unknown and will be announced closer to its official intro date. (image source: Design News)

  • Toyota Motor Corp. announced that it’s beefing up its truck and utility lineup, with enhancements to its Tacoma, Sequoia, and RAV4 brands.  Most of the enhancements will fall in the “creature comfort” category. The 2020 Tacoma pickup, for example, features standard LED headlights, an eight-inch touchscreen, 10-way adjustable driver seat, and a Panoramic View Monitor. The 2020 Sequoia TRD Pro will offer bypass shocks and tuned springs for better off-road performance, along with leather-trimmed seats.

    Toyota also rolled out a new addition to its lineup – the RAV4 TRD Off-Road – which will feature all-wheel drive, off-road suspension, and a 3,500-lb towing capacity. All of it, Toyota said, provides “a sure-footed approach to surfaces paved and unpaved.” (Image source: Design News)

  • Fiat Chrysler honored the 35th anniversary of the minivan – a segment that it created back in 1984. For the anniversary, it rolled out special editions of the Pacifica, Pacifica Hybrid, and Dodge Grand Caravan models. Features on anniversary Pacificas include eight-passenger seating, memory driver’s seats, and overhead DVD players. Features on the Caravans include Stow-n-Go second-row bucket seats, navigation radio, and power drivers’ seats, among others. In the years since the minivan’s intro, FCA says it has sold 14.6 million of the vehicles, giving it an amazing 55% market share in the segment. (Image source: Design News)

  • Volkswagen AG debuted the 2019 Jetta GLI, stating that it completely overhauled the vehicle specifically for American buyers. It features more interior space and a beefed-up powertrain, headlined by a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct injection engine that produces 228 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque. The new GLI also sits 0.6 inches lower than the regular Jetta, giving it a more planted look. Other features include standard LED headlights and tail lights, black honeycomb grille, red-painted brake calipers, and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels. (Image source: Design News)

  • MotorWeek presented its 2019 Driver’s Choice Award for “Best of the Year” to Jaguar for the battery-electric I-PACE utility vehicle. The television series said it picked the I-PACE for its combination of all-wheel drive, open interior, familiar Jaguar design, 234-mile plug-in range, and its 0-60 mph time of just 4.2 seconds. “With ‘oomph’ married to great balance and maneuverability, drivers know they are in the cabin of a Jaguar,” MotorWeek said. (Image source: Design News).

  • Toyota showed off its cutie-pie i-Road concept electric vehicle, which combines the maneuverability of a bicycle with the stability of a car. The three-wheeled i-Road seats two passengers and features a concept called “active lean,” enabling it to maintain balance while turning. “The tilt of the vehicle body is controlled in accordance with rotational gravity, without requiring exertion against centrifugal force,” Toyota said. The vehicle, which features a 35-mile all-electric range, is being tested in Japan and France. (Image source: Design News).

  • Consumers don’t normally associate creature comforts and electronic luxuries with heavy-duty work trucks, but that was a big theme at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show. At the Ram Truck booth, engineers showed off the company’s Chassis Cab lineup, which featured a broad array of innovations normally associated with luxury cars. The Ram 3500/4500/5500 Chassis Cab trucks included safety features such as adaptive cruise control, Forward Collision Warning, and Automatic Emergency Braking. They also featured 12-inch reconfigurable touchscreen displays with split-screen capabilities, SiriusXM Travel Link, ParkSense Park Assist, and cargo-view cameras. Importantly, the Chassis Cab lineup didn’t have to sacrifice power to accomplish all that – its standard engine is a Hemi V-8 with 410 HP and 429 lb-ft of torque. (Image source: Ram Truck)

  • Harley-Davidson Motor Co. unveiled a Ford F-150 pickup truck inspired by Harley’s Fat Boy and CVO motorcycles. Working with Tuscany Motor Co., Harley incorporated 70 proprietary parts on the truck. Those components included 22-inch milled aluminum wheels, tuned performance shocks, custom fender flares, LED light bar in the front bumper, painted grille assembly with orange accents, carpet liners with a Harley logo, and Harley lettering on the rear tailgate. The motorcycle manufacturer said the truck is “built to be recognized from a distance as a Harley-Davidson F-150, (and) we believe it will be an instant classic.” (Image source: Harley-Davidson Motor Co.)

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 35 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and autos.

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