Top 10 Cars to See at the Chicago Auto Show

Colum Wood
by Colum Wood

Whether you’re heading to the Chicago Auto Show and want to know what to check out, or your trip is a bit more virtual, AutoGuide editors have compiled a list of the must-sees at this year’s event.

Head into McCormick Place and hang a left. You can’t miss the all-new 2012 Porsche 911. It might not be a world premiere, or even a North American debut, but the beautifully blue Carrera S is a piece of art. Four inches longer than the outgoing model it’s more substantial and a much sleeker design.

Powered by a 400 hp 3.8-liter flat-six engine the Carrera S can hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds when paired with Porsche’s PDK 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and the optional Sport Chrono Package. It’ll also lap the Nurburgring as fast as the previous generation GT3!

From there, cruise on over the Hyundai for a trip back to reality. Blending sporty fun with functionality is the all-new Elantra GT. The successor to the function-over-form Elantra Touring, the GT aims to add some spice to the segment and take on cars like the Mazda3, Ford Focus hatch and VW Golf.

It gets the same 148 hp 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine as the rest of the Elantra lineup, but offers some unique toys like a hidden back-up camera and a brand-first button that delivers different steering ratios to better suit your mood.

And while you’re there, check out the Elantra Coupe too.

It might be based on the new Honda Civic, but you’d never know it. After killing off the RSX years ago Acura is back in the premium compact game with the all-new ILX. A smart-looking sedan, it will be available in several flavors, including a budget-minded 2.0-liter 150 hp model, a efficiency-minded 35/38 mpg hybrid model and a performance-focused 201 hp model, borrowing the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder from the Civic Si.

Make your way over to the GMC stand and check out the brand’s popular people-mover. Updated for 2013 the Acadia gets an aggressive new grille and features borrowed from the Terrain crossover. Interior upgrades, particularly a color touch screen radio and optional Intellilink telematics system help keep this machine fresh-ish. It’s also the first GM model to receive a center airbag that protects the passenger and driver from each other.

Also on display at GMC is the Acadia Denali, a luxury trim model with added safety features like blind spot monitoring, not to mention upgraded interior trim, some massive 20-inch wheels and paint-matched body panels.

Backtrack slightly to the Cadillac booth for a real treat: the Cadillac Ciel concept. Sure you can check out the brand’s new flagship XTS or the new 3 Series rival, the ATS, but this four-seater convertible is breathtaking.

It might not ever see reality, but you can’t help but hope it does. With a 125-inch wheelbase (a foot longer than the CTS), it’s absolutely huge. The art-deco exterior design is even out-matched by the interior, with stunning leather an thick Olive wood with plenty of hi-tech displays.

As for what’s under the hood, a notably powerful yet efficient twin-turbo V6 hybrid making 425 hp.

Sticking with the theme of extravagance, rush over to Lexus. Sure Lexus always has plenty of high-grade hardware on display, but it’s not usually like this. Sharing a podium spot are four of the brand’s LFA supercars. Each powered by a 552 hp V10 engine and worth $375,000; collectively the display represents 2,208 hp and $1.5 million worth of Japanese performance.

Head across the hall to check out another sports car, the 2013 Nissan 370Z. There’s not a lot new with the refreshed machine, but it’s still worth a look. An updated front fascia now features LED lighting, plus it’s hard to miss those new wheels that come as a part of the Sport package, with red brake calipers and retuned shocks.

In the affordable performance category is the Mopar-tuned Dodge Dart GTS. It’s just a tuner concept car, but it is a unique look at a more potent version of the brand’s newly-launched Dart compact car. Along with an aggressive aero kit, the Dart GTS gets a lowered suspension and some big 18-inch wheels. Performance for the 2.4-liter 4-cylidner has also been upgraded to 210 hp thanks to an exhaust system, air intake and retuned ECU.

Our runner up for the must-see car of this year’s Chicago Auto Show isn’t actually new. In fact, it’s been around for 20 years. On display at the Ford stand is a 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra R. It’s not just special because it’s a limited edition (one of 107) Cobra either. It’s special because the ’93 SVT Cobra was the very first car launched under the Special Vehicle Team performance division of Ford.

On hand to help celebrate the 20 year milestone, Ford also used the Chicago Auto Show to debut the 2013 Shelby GT500 Convertible… so you might want to have a look at that 650 hp machine too.

It’s hard to believe that a Kia is the must-see car at any auto show, but the brand has come a long way in a short time. And besides, the Track’ster is hardly your run of the mill Kia.

Powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder this extreme crossover concept makes 250 hp and sends it to all four wheels using an electronically operated AWD system and a six-speed manual transmission. Measuring 5-inches wider than the standard Soul on which its based, it gets massively flared fenders with big 19-inch HRE wheels and Brembo brakes.

Kia says it has no plans to put the Track’ster into production, but they are using the opportunity to gauge market reaction and see if a high-performance crossover is what people want.

Colum Wood
Colum Wood

With AutoGuide from its launch, Colum previously acted as Editor-in-Chief of Modified Luxury & Exotics magazine where he became a certifiable car snob driving supercars like the Koenigsegg CCX and racing down the autobahn in anything over 500 hp. He has won numerous automotive journalism awards including the Best Video Journalism Award in 2014 and 2015 from the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Colum founded Geared Content Studios, VerticalScope's in-house branded content division and works to find ways to integrate brands organically into content.

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