CAS 2012: Afternoon Rundown

After the morning rush (and nearly getting trampled during Ford’s press conference about the new GT500 convertible), the rest of the day was filled with cupcakes, more press conferences, and some awesome new cars. Nissan held their press conference at 1:30pm, revealing a variant of their new Nissan NV 200 smaller commercial van. Surrounded by hundreds of photographers, reporters, and other media representatives were some of Nissan’s heavy-duty NV cargo and passenger vans. One that stood out looked like a giant grey Converse Chuck Taylor high top shoe.

Inside their was enough room for either: a gazillion Krispy Kreme donuts, probably a handful of Scion iQs, and just myself to run laps around in the cargo area. I’m still impressed by the overall interior comfort in the front cabin, as well as some of the many useful features. Nissan, you get a round of applause from me for taking a great stab at entering the American commercial cargo van market. Don’t worry hoons, I’ll be writing about and getting a few pictures of Nissan’s other models tomorrow, including the revised Nissan 370z and GTR. Speaking of the 370z, Nissan reps were handing out boxes with Nissan key fobs. “Oh sweet I just won a new sports car,” I thought for about a tenth of a second before opening it to find a clever flash drive shaped like a key fob. Oh well, someday! Next to the Nissan exhibit area was a Army vehicle display with one of the biggest vehicles I have ever seen. Wearing camouflage, this monstrous Oshkosh truck had to have been 18-20 feet tall, as my 6’1 self barely got past the middle of the front grille. Zombie proof? Most definitely yes. Apocalypse proof? Oh you bet. 


On the topic of Zombie proof vehicles, Jeep Wrangler anyone? I like the Wrangler because to me it just screams “AMERICA!” with cause of that bare-bones, off-road, bad-ass attitude. Jeep started putting the text “Since 1941” engraved onto the grab handle of every Wrangler. What a neat touch. Jeep also brought out their light blue Arctic Edition and of course Call of Duty MW3 edition Wranglers to the show floor. Like past Chicago Auto Shows, the Chrysler group offered a ride-a-long track for a few of its Jeeps, Ram trucks, Chryslers, Dodges, and even Fiats now. You’ll watch full size Rams climb impressively steep inclines with ease, Grand Cherokees rock crawl, and Hemi-powered SRT8 Dodge’s sprint to 40 or so in just a few seconds. All of this taking place inside the McCormick Place mind you. I could’nt resist to go for a ride in my absolute favorite new car on the market, the Dodge Challenger. Who doesn’t love that roar of a mean HEMI V-8.

With my adrenaline rush fixed, I walked over to check out a few of the Dodge and Chrysler models. Drooling over the Challenger 392 SRT8s and a few MOPARized Chargers, I grabbed a cupcake courtesy of Chrysler and chowed down on it. Dodge had just finished their press conference for the new Dart, a car I am not the biggest fan of. Why? The back end is alright, those LED tail lamps that mimic those on the new Charger look cool, but the front….looks too “cute” and doesn’t really wear that mask of sportiness and performance. The interior though, is much better than I expected. The Dart will probably be one of those cars that just grows on me over time, kind of like, well the Porsche Panamera. 

Dr. Dre is a music icon. Is the Beats by Dre in the new Chrysler 300 worth the extra pocket change? After sitting in an all black 300S for a couple minutes, and getting those ten speakers plus 1 trunk mounted sub thumping, I would say yes with a capital Y. This sound system is the best sound system I personally have ever heard in a production car. Mark Levinson…ehh, BOSE…yea they’re good, but Beats by Dre….wow. Clear quality sound from the lows all the way through the mid range to the top, and the bass was pure and not rattling the whole car. If only the doctor would create aftermarket Beats by Dre stereo equipment for consumers to buy. I’d be playing “Still Dre” all day long if I had those speakers. 

I swung by Fiat after getting my ears tuned perfectly by Dr. Dre’s stereo. The one car, that I was so excited to see at this year’s Chicago Auto Show, was right in front of me. Jeremy Clarkson from TopGear loved it, I loved it, and now I was able to get a first-hand glimpse at it. The Fiat 500 Abarth has landed. The red leather seats were remarkably comfy and supportive, the interior was much more fancier than the base 500’s, and the re-appearing Scorpion logo just got me excited for that Italian performance history Abarth brings to our shores. The six-speed manual had a black and leather stitched shift boot, a boost gauge and shift up indicator sat in a pod off the steering column, flat bottomed steering wheel, and chrome pedals. The outside was even more aggressive with “ABARTH” side stripes that color match the door mirrors, ABARTH specific front-and-rear bumpers, and dual exhaust. To finish it off, 12 spoke wheels bore a red scorpion center cap, and behind it lay red calipers on all four brakes (the front disc brakes were noticeably larger than the back). I drove the regualr 500 a few months ago and enjoyed it,  I’m just begging to get into the Abarth come spring time.

I finished off the day by heading over to Mini and Scion. On the way I came across the Outdoorsman themed Ram 1500 with backwoods hunting graphics covering the interior trim, rocker panels, and rear tailgate. Looks like somebody to this truck to Cabella’s and had a heyday in the parking lot. Near the Ram 1500 was the all-new Ram Cargo Van, which is Chrysler’s new entry into the light-duty commercial van market. With the fuel efficient and powerful Pentastar V6 engine, this will be a good choice for small business owners and fleets.

On to the Mini Cooper Coupe. This car feels like a regular Mini Cooper, but with its roof literally sliced off and bent like a contact lens. The inside interior mimics the interior of the bigger Cooper but in terms of headroom, I felt claustrophobic right when I sat down. With the windows up, I’d feel like a clueless goldfish drowning in a fishbowl. This new model from Mini looks really cool, but I’ll stick to the regular Cooper or Countryman.

I finished off the day by stopping by at Scion to check out the smallest car on the American automotive market, the iQ. For some odd reason I love small cars, especially those Hot Wheels-sized models like the Scion iQ, SMART ForTwo, Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper. To me it’s like you’re driving a remote-control toy car around. The iQ is small….really, really, small (no exaggeration). My lanky twig arms can practically hug the whole thing all around. Could I pick it up and put it in my backpack? Probably, but I’d have to become addicted to P90x first. The car looks happy and made to be driven by people in my age group. I think it’d be a fun car to autocross in cause this Scion seems so tiny and  nimble. To the not-so wonderful things about this micro machine. Lift up the rear-hatch and you’ll find the  second-row seatback. There is literally no trunk, and you’d be lucky to get an umbrella back there. But don’t let that discourage you. Since you won’t be driving around with anyone in the backseat (what backseat?),  that’s now your trunk space! The seats had a creative pattern while the center console/HVAC controls looked like they were yanked form a first gen Toyota Yaris. On a bright note, they’re easy and fast to use, unlike other annoying climate control systems in Toyota products *cough* Camry *cough*. Up top, there’s a welcoming easy-to-read Pioneer head unit with big display screen for your music tastes. The flat bottom steering wheel also adds a unique sporty touch. My favorite part of the Scion iQ’s interior: the door panels. Never have I been so impressed with a door handle, than the ones found in the iQ. I cannot make this up. For as cheap and small of a car this is, those door handles are  honestly beautiful. Plus you’ll find a tweeter in it too. 

What a big disappointment it was, to not be able to sit inside the new FR-S. They gave me a hat which was cool but… truth be told, people wanted to sit inside the most anticipated sports car to hit the market this year. Across the floor was a blue Subaru BRZ, no luck there either. A friend of mine once had a 1996 Toyota Celica, and I used to work at a Toyota dealership washing cars during my high school years. I’ve always had a soft spot for Supras, Celicas, MR2s, and even some of the Scion TCs. The new Scion FR-S has recently been added to that list. I have got to drive one, a.s.a.p., but until then, these pictures that I took of it will do justice. But wow does it look hot in red.

Day 2 begins tomorrow, stay tuned for more Hooniverse coverage of the 2012 Chicago International Auto Show 




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