These are the must-see cars on display at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show.
Many say the modern motor show is dying, with the internet showing us newly-launched cars before scantily clad showgirls can even pull the covers off the display unit. But we beg to differ: for many, a motor show gives shoppers the ability to look at, sit in, and play with new releases long before they arrive in showrooms, meaning you can start financially planning your next purchase several months before D-day arrives.
This year's 2020 Chicago Auto Show is a prime example of a great motor show, with a number of high profile debuts and first public outings for some of the hottest upcoming metal. If you're in the Chicago area, or if you're unable to attend, we've got the full wrap-up of all the must-see models on display in the Windy City.
The Nissan Frontier is hardly a new car - it's been going since 2004 and is in dire need of more than just a facelift. But a big surprise arrived at Chicago this year when Nissan debuted an all-new engine for the aging midsize pickup, and a brand new gearbox, too. The new engine is a 3.8-liter gasoline V6, paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox from the Nissan Titan. It replaces the current 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 4.0-liter V6 and develops 310 horsepower and 281 lb-ft - figures that will carry over when this engine makes its way beneath the hood of the next-gen Frontier. This represents an increase of 49 hp over the old V6 while torque remains the same. EPA figures aren't available yet, but we expect improvements there, too.
The third-generation Ford GT supercar is a special one - built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Ford's historic 1-2-3 finish at Le Mans in 1966. But after a couple of years on sale, Ford has seen fit to upgrade the GT supercar for 2020. The biggest change is the development of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 engine, implementing technology from the GT Mk II track car, which has allowed Ford to glean a further 13 horsepower, taking peaks to 660 hp over a broader speed range. An Akrapovic titanium exhaust has also been added, as have two new liveries. The Liquid Carbon look is limited edition and bathes the GT in bare woven carbon fiber, while the Gulf Racing Heritage Livery is a modern take on the livery of the car that won the 1969 Le Mans race. This special edition also marks the first time carbon fiber wheels are available on a heritage edition GT.
Chevrolet's compact Equinox SUV is the brand's second-biggest seller, only beaten by the Silverado overall. But in Chicago, the bowtie brand has ensured that the trend is likely to be continued by unveiling a facelifted 2021 Equinox. Newly updated front and rear fascias look more aggressive than before, but the biggest change for the 2021 model is the introduction of a new trim: the Equinox RS. This is the first time the RS moniker will be used on the Equinox, and arrives as a result of the RS version of the Blazer SUV selling so well. The RS model receives blacked-out exterior detailing and a Camaro-inspired front end, with new LED headlights and dark alloy wheels completing the look. In addition to the fresh face, Chevrolet has also improved the list of standard and available safety features. Powertrain options remain unchanged, however.
Full-size sedans are tricky. No-one's buying them, yet a brand isn't fully represented in the USA without one. Kia wants to make sure the public takes notice of its full-size Cadenza and is displaying the freshly restyled model in Chicago. Significant styling upgrades include a newly redesigned grille, striking LED headlights, and a substantially revised interior. There's a load of new tech implemented, too, with a new 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen, extra charging ports, a standard smart key, and enhanced wireless charging. Safety has been bolstered with a number of upgrades to Kia's standard Drive Wise suite of advanced driver aids, with forward collision detection, warning, and avoidance, lane following assist, highway driving assist, and navigation-based smart cruise control all implemented. Safer and more technologically advanced than ever before, and now utterly gorgeous to look at.
Against segment favorites like the Honda Accord Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid, Hyundai has unveiled the latest Sonata Hybrid in Chicago this week. Based on the stylish eighth-generation mid-size sedan, the Sonata Hybrid inherits the base model's style but also gets more power courtesy of a hybrid system that pairs a 150-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 51-hp electric motor to develop a combined 192 hp. The system is paired with an all-new hybrid automatic gearbox that utilizes Active Shift Control Technology to smoothen gear shifts, reduce engine load, and improve gas mileage. The model also acts as a test-bed for a range of new tech, including a solar-panel roof which adds up to 2 miles range per day and nearly 700 free miles a year. In its most efficient guise, the new Sonata Hybrid achieves a 52 mpg combined EPA rating and can achieve 686 miles range on a tank of gas.
A key model in the wake of Dieselgate if Volkswagen wants to conquer the US market, the VW Atlas has been a firm favorite in the three-row midsize SUV segment. But after a few short years on sale, VW has upgraded the model with new styling and enhanced safety being the key updates. Brand new front and rear-end styling see the Atlas grow in length by three inches, with newly updated LED lighting and more aggression from R-line models. The 2.0T and 3.6 V6 engines remain unchanged, but 4Motion AWD is now available on certain trims equipped with the 2.0-liter engine. Inside, a new steering wheel, updated upholstery with new contrast stitching options, and a newly updated eight-inch infotainment suite all up the ante, with an updated Digital Cockpit instrumentation cluster available on a broader range of Atlas trims. New safety tech has been implemented from the Atlas Cross Sport, too, with traffic jam assistance and street sign recognition now included.
Despite being on sale since 2013, the Jaguar F-Type is still one of the most beautiful cars around. 2021 will see the styling sharpened with a facelifted version of the British sports car - currently on display in Chicago. With narrow LED headlights, it takes on a sharper appearance than before, while the grille has been made wider to emphasize the low-and-wide aesthetic. There's no longer a manual gearbox, but buyers can choose either the coupe or convertible with one of three engines: a 296-hp 2.0T four-pot, a 380-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V6, or a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 that receives a boost in power to 575 hp. The latter two engines are exclusively mated to an all-wheel-drive system, and all models retain the eight-speed automatic gearbox of old. The interior has also been revised, with new infotainment and a new digital instrumentation cluster.
For too long, now, the Toyota Sienna has been the only all-wheel-drive minivan on the market. No more, as the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica was unveiled in Chicago sporting a new AWD version for all-weather soccer-tournaments, while a new Pinnacle trim tops the lineup as the most luxurious specification level available. The AWD upgrade adds an extra layer of allure to the Pacifica which is already CarBuzz's top-ranked minivan, and with a brake-lock differential and torque distribution between each wheel, the system is ideal for tackling snow and a range of tricky conditions. In addition to the AWD system, a newly upgraded 3D diamond-style grille and new LED headlights enhance its appearance, while inside, a new 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Uconnect 5 is the biggest drawcard. A range of new tech has been included, such as SiriusXM with 360L and a FamCAM interior camera. The hybrid version remains on sale alongside the V6-only gas-powered version.
It was just last month that Honda revealed an updated 2020 Civic Type R to the world, but we can now see it in the metal at the Chicago Auto Show. It's already one of the most hardcore and accomplished hot hatches around, but the 2020 updates make it even better. New two-piece brake rotors improve braking and reduce fade, and uprated dampers are equipped to improve ride comfort while stiffer rear bushings mean more grip. Modifications have been made to the front suspension and steering for better handling, too, while a new front grille design means better engine cooling. It all looks even cooler, too, thanks to a new color called Boost Blue, but buyers get the same 306-hp outputs from a 2.0-liter turbo-four. While minor enhancements have been made to the interior of the Type R, the biggest changes come on the tech front, where the full Honda Sensing suite of safety features has been included for the first time.
Mercedes-Benz is bringing back the camper with a new iteration of the Metris van called the Weekender. In partnership with Peace Vans, Mercedes offers a five-seater Metris with 180-degree rotating front seats, a rear bench that folds flat into a two-sleeper mattress, and a pop-up roof with three windows and a memory foam mattress - allowing four adults to spend the night inside the Weekender. Additional USB ports and a second battery take care of lighting and charging needs, while an available solar-panel allows you to stay off-grid for longer. The Weekender can be wrapped in any of 200 colors from 3M, can tow up to 5,000 lbs courtesy of a 208-hp 2.0-liter turbo engine, and can be equipped with a range of cool optional extra such as a tailgate-mounted tent, roof racks, and even a pull-out kitchen.
It'll only be available to buy as a 2021 model, but the Toyota Highlander XSE is an all-new trim with sportier styling and sharper handling. It boasts a model-specific front fascia, grille, and front spoiler, while black accents are littered across the exterior. Dual chrome exhaust tips feature on the Highlander for the first time, and the XSE wears a set of machine-face 20-inch alloy wheels. Black and red upholstery and sporty interior styling accents are included as well, but the changes beneath the skin are the most important. The 3.5-liter V6 produces 295 hp, but it puts it all down through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and either front- or all-wheel-drive, the latter with torque vectoring for enhanced control. Additionally, an uprated sports suspension with higher-rate springs, low-friction shock absorbers, and an improved rear stabilizer bar.
The Genesis GV80 is Hyundai's way of putting the German luxury SUV segment on notice. As the luxury arm of the Korean manufacturer, Genesis has churned out some fantastic products of late, but the GV80 might be the best of the lot. It's an all-new model on an all-new RWD platform, gunning for the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GLE. We've already attended the local unveiling, but Chicago will be the first place the general public can get up close with the new luxury SUV, and fiddle with new-fangled technology such as Augmented Reality Navigation, and experience what we think is one of the most luxurious interiors of the modern era. Engine details haven't been released yet for the USA, but expect a range of turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines to feature, with available rear- and all-wheel-drive.