Its organizers say the Chicago Auto Show is North America’s largest. It has three indoor test tracks and six outdoor ride-and-drives staged during the length of the show, which runs through Presidents’ Day, Monday, February 17. The Chicago show has hosted a number of important global unveilings since 1901, including the first Mazda MX-5 Miata, in 1989.
Since the 1990s, Detroit’s emergence as the site of the North American International Auto Show has usurped Chicago’s primacy, especially over the last decade. The metropolitan Chicago area has a population of more than 9.8 million people, though, and McCormick Place is no more than a three-hour drive from southern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, northern Indiana and even western Michigan, so for many enthusiasts, it is often the first place to see in person some of the big premieres from Detroit, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Frankfurt.
If you’re planning to go, this is the way to see the ’14 Chicago Auto Show (in order of how you might peruse the show floor):
1. Porsche – Does Porsche need a second, smaller crossover to accompany its successful Cayenne? Perhaps not, now that the brand is fully integrated into the Volkswagen Group, but the point is moot. The new 2015 Porsche Macan is here, and it will be available as the Macan S, with a 350-hp, 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6, for a base price of $51,095, and confusingly, the Macan Turbo, with a 400-hp, 3.6-liter twin-turbo V-6 for $73,495. The Macan first surfaced at Tokyo and L.A. The 911 Targa that premiered at Detroit is not listed as a Chicago participant.
2. Hyundai – The second-generation 2015 Hyundai Genesis sedan already has had a lot of exposure in Super Bowl XLVIII commercials. This is your chance to decide whether you love or hate the new styling.
3. Lexus – A twofer, the RC and the 2015 Lexus RC-F. The RC-F is the M/AMG/RS-fighter, with at least 450 hp from its 5.0-liter V-8. Like BMW with its 3- and 4-series, Lexus is splitting sedan and coupe into IS and RC.
4. Acura – Disguised as a “concept,” the TLX prototype is perhaps 95 percent of what the production 2015 Acura TSX going on sale later this year looks like. It replaces the mid-size, Accord-based TL, while the TSX goes away. There’s a TSX wagon on display anyway, for the dozens who say they want one.
5. Cadillac – The ATS coupe displays what the brand has once again become: a serious, healthy luxury marque. The Elmiraj concept, also on display here, is a sign of what Cadillac is about to become.
6. Audi – Its 2015 A3 here is the new entry-level model, to be priced competitively against the successful Mercedes-Benz CLA-class.
7. Lincoln – Navigator is old Lincoln, but the new 2015 Lincoln Navigator model is on display for the first time. The Escape-based 2015 Lincoln MKC is new Lincoln, the great premium-compact-crossover hope for Ford’s luxury marque.
8. Mercedes-Benz/Smart – The 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-class, from the Detroit show, is here, with compact S-class styling and a three-pointed star in the middle of the grille on sporty models and atop the grille, the way Gottlieb Daimler intended, on more formal models.
9. BMW – A surfeit of new stuff, from the all-new 2-series coupe to the diesel 7-series (a Chicago debut) to the M3 and the M4. You also can see the new BMW i3 and i8 at Chicago. And no, the i8 you’re admiring is not a concept; it’s the production model … and our 2014 Design of the Year.
10. Land Rover – The big news is at Jaguar next door, but while you’re here, it’s a good time to check out the aluminum-bodied Range Rover and Range Rover Sport – and to reflect on how much the Ford Motor Company learned about the alternative material when it owned the two British luxury brands.
11. Jaguar – The F-type coupe was new at L.A.; most Automobile Magazine staffers prefer it to the convertible. The C-X17 crossover from Frankfurt is not listed among the concepts due to appear here.
12. Volvo – Neither the Concept Coupe from Frankfurt nor the Concept XC Coupe from Detroit were listed for Chicago, but do swing by to check out the limited-edition 2015 Volvo V60 and S60 Polestar models.
13. Infiniti – Neither the Q30 compact crossover concept nor the Q50 Eau Rouge are listed as attendees, although a production lineup with new badging, Qs 50 through 80, are promised.
14. SRT – Take another look at the SRT Viper, and ask the turntable talent where the SRT Barracuda is. (NOTE: Ralph Gilles says you shouldn't hold your breath.) Also look for the new Satin Vapor versions of the 300, Challenger, and Charger.
15. Maserati – Your chance to see the new Ghibli, no longer a sporty GT as it was in the late 1960s, but now a sport sedan aiming at the BMW 5-series, Mercedes-Benz E-class, and Cadillac CTS.
16. Chevrolet – The new mid-size 2015 Chevrolet Colorado pickup and full-size 2015 Tahoe and Suburban are on display. They’re something to look at while waiting for the crowd to disperse so you can get a glance at the new 625+ hp Corvette Z06.
17. GMC – Alas, the new mid-size 2015 Canyon pickup is here. The new full-size Yukon and Yukon XL sport-utilities are here. GMC has no answer to the Z06, however.
18. Buick – No new models this year, although there’s a face-lift for the Regal.
SOUTH BUILDING19. Ford – The aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 pickup became the biggest news story of the Detroit show in January, overshadowing the much sexier halo, the 2015 Mustang. So come for the pickup truck, stay for the pony car.
20. Toyota – The auto-pundit-sphere has many opinions on whether the Toyota FT-1 Concept, one of the Detroit show stars, is the next Supra. Our best intelligence suggests that very little is production-spec in this concept.
21. Honda – Its third-generation 2015 Honda Fit premiered at Tokyo, and the North American–built version first showed at Detroit.
22. Nissan – Although the brand skipped Detroit for a couple of years to concentrate on Chicago, neither the (Maxima) Sport Sedan concept from Detroit nor the two IDx models from Tokyo are here. That said, there is a Cummins-powered Frontier pickup concept that's grabbing attention, along with a sportier-looking version of the Nissan Versa Note hatchback.
23. Chrysler Group – This display has Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Fiat, together with two indoor test tracks. Look for the all-new Chrysler 200, which premiered at Detroit.
24. Subaru – Chicago marks the world premiere of the 2015 Subaru Legacy sedan. The new WRX STI, from Detroit, also makes the trip.
25. Toyota Test Track – Don’t expect rides in the FT-1 here.
26. Scion – Look for the brand’s latest mixed-music CD.
27. Mitsubishi – Still selling cars in the U.S.
28. Mazda – The Mazda 6 Ceramic Concept has special paint, interior, and trim. The Club Sport 3 sports a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel, but it’s the European-spec engine, not the diesel that Mazda promises for the U.S. late this spring.
29. Kia – Your chance to see the GT4 Stinger concept, a rear-wheel-drive sport coupe with a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder said to make more than 400 hp. Also look for Kia's first-ever U.S.-market electric car, and a refreshed Optima Hybrid.
30. Mini – The fourth-generation Mini Cooper two-door hatchback (or Mark 3 BMW Mini, if you will) was unveiled a few months ago and goes on sale in America next month.
31. Volkswagen – From Detroit, you can see the eGolf Electric, based on the Mark 7 Golf; the Bluemotion Passat, with a 1.4-liter turbo gasoline four-cylinder making 150 hp and reaching 42 mpg; and the Touareg X Special Edition, which means 1000 copies with special blue paint and a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel engine. Oh, and don't forget the wild 560-hp Beetle Rallycross car.