Chicago Auto Show 2011 Roundup: The Rest

The majority of the Chicago Show’s premieres came courtesy of the Big Three and Hyundai, but the other manufacturers on display had a wide range of cars to show off.
The big news from the Acura stand was the introduction of the 2012 TL, yet another facelift for the TL. However, little has changed styling-wise, and it’s undeniably a challenge to distinguish between the two (hint: the new model has slightly lower headlights). The interior adds a few small features to catch up with the Audis and Infinitis of the class, but not much has changed.

Meanwhile, the Audi stand was abuzz with activity as show-goers checked out the first TT-RS on US shores. Packing a 2.5 liter twin-turbo inline-5 engine, the TT-RS develops 360 horsepower, a figure that puts it well ahead of the Cayman S. Audi representatives confirmed that the car would go on sale later this year.
BMW showed off their new 1-series M for the first time since its introduction at the Detroit Auto Show. With 335 horsepower on tap in the lightened 1-series Coupe body, the car should absolutely fly. However, with prices starting at $47,010, it’s somewhat difficult to make a value argument for the 1 instead of an M3. After all, the M3’s standard equipment list is a bit longer and it starts at less than $10,000 more. It will be interesting to see how the company differentiates between the two.

Mini showed off their new Countryman model, with a subtle lift, a tweaked body and optional all-wheel drive. The Countryman is slightly bigger than the Mini, with the same engine packages. Despite being slightly larger, the vehicle still seats only four, though.

The Lexus stand was an odd mix of bizarrely modded hybrid vehicles and the LF-A, which shared equal prominence. Lexus let tuners loose on an RX450h, a LS600h and the new CT200h. What they received in return was equal parts weird, disconcerting and downright crazy. The RX came back with slammed suspension, a chopped roofline, huge wheels and tires, a metallic forest green paintjob and blackout tint on all the car’s windows, making it look more like the CT than any RX I’d ever seen. Similarly, the LS received bippu treatment, sitting on slammed suspension, huge deep-dish wheels and packing a bodykit. However, the overall impression of the car fell short of a true bippu-style ride. The CT was the best of the three, making use of an aggressive wheel, tire and brake package tastefully.

Porsche was showing off the new Carrera GTS on their stand. Based on the 911 Carrera S, the car boasts increased horsepower and torque, while sporting slick center-nut wheels, an upgraded interior and carbon-ceramic brakes. However, the real centerpiece of the Porsche stand was the limited-edition 911 Speedster, which boasts the same power upgrades as the the Carrera GTS, but with a classic-style bodykit and gorgeous two-piece Fuchs rims. All that was missing was the little ducktail spoiler, a la 1970s Carrera 2.7RS. However, such a car will cost you dearly, as the car starts at a staggering $204,000. I’ll take the GT3 and a good chunk of change, thanks.

By contrast to the high-adrenaline fare on display at Porsche, the Toyota and Scion stands were sedate to say the least. While the three most recent Priuses (Prii? Priodes?) were on display, their largely sedate styling meant that I could barely be bothered by them. Unfortunately, the most striking car on the Toyota stand was the “Swagger Wagon Supreme,” a Sienna with a chopped roof and lowered suspension. Oh yeah, did I mention the hideous stretch job the vehicle features? It was cringeworthy to say the least. Equally bizarre were the custom TC on the Scion stand, which featured leather straight out of a baseball glove (complete with chunky stitching with cord) and a grenade for a shifter, and the Camry coupe on the Toyota stand, which packed a Nascar V-8 under the hood matched with an awkwardly coupe-ified Camry body. The only bright spot was the clever Scion/Toyota iQ hatchback, which is the world’s smallest four-seater.

And unfortunately, Honda’s stand was little better, while also being somewhat infuriating. The target of my rage was the Mugen CR-Z concept, which wielded a combined 200 horsepower from the car’s electric motor and engine. Complete with a wild bodykit, the Mugen CR-Z was a nice-looking car, but I couldn’t help but want to shout at Honda’s PR people that they should take the body kit off the car and build this one as the real CR-Z. It looked like it could actually achieve the promise of the CR-Z. in contrast to the relatively sedate model we got. We’ll just have to hope that Honda decides a CR-Z type-R is just what the doctor ordered.

Volkswagen had some minor tweaks they wanted to announce at the show. The first of these is a new partnership with Fender, who will be making the speakers for the VW premium sound systems found on the Passat and new GLI. Sitting in the car with the Fender engineers, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the fidelity with which the new systems could reproduce Stevie Ray Vaughan. However, the new Passat’s cabin certainly feels cheaper than the last model’s. In addition, VW announced the Jetta-based GLI, which mates the GTI’s 2.0 liter turbocharged engine with a Jetta 4-door body. It’s neat, priced well (at $23,000 with some options), but seems somewhat sedate compared to the GTI.

Across the aisle, Volvo’s stand had little to offer in the way of new cars beyond their C30 electric hatchback. The car, which is essentially a C30 with an electric motor driving the front wheels, is a more upmarket take on the electric car trend, and will likely poach some sales from the Volt, Leaf and Focus Electric.

However, the most bizarre car at the show was undeniably Nissan’s Murano Cross Cabriolet. A new production model for Nissan, aimed at the “unhinged retiree” set, the Cross Cabriolet is essentially a Murano with the top chopped off (say bye bye to any structural integrity). Painted in a lurid seafoam green, I was shocked to hear that it was actually going on sale. Even more galling was the price: a shocking $46,390. For that kind of money, I’ll take the 1-series M, thank you very much.

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  1. Syrax Avatar

    Ghosn must be out of his mind. A two door Murano, yeah, I can see it working. This though, never. Oh, and by the way:
    <img src=""&gt;
    Never forget.

  2. facelvega Avatar

    Is it just that I'm getting punch-drunk of the boringness of these "new" offerings, or is the ridiculous Murano the most successful design here? Kind of an I-don't-give-a-crap irreverence to it, I can actually see people buying it. Not me, but people.

  3. James Avatar

    Hey, that Murano kind of looks familiar.
    Kinda like an SC430 jacked up.
    Nissan gonna offer it with a tape deck???

  4. dragon951 Avatar

    Boo Porsche! Poor showing. No 918 RSR? Who wouldn't want to sit in this cockpit:
    <img src="; width=500 />
    "Why yes officer, that is a doomsday device…"

    1. topdeadcentre Avatar

      "R2, lock S-foils into attack position!"