Chicago is not a place for wimps, making the 2006 Chicago Auto Show the perfect spot to debut a slew of new trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. Starting off the second day of the show was the 2007 Toyota Tundra, a model that arrives in about a year with a seriously bad attitude, evidenced by a bigger and stiffer body and chassis, huge gains in interior room, and three engine choices, the biggest of which is a 5.7-liter V8 that contributes to a towing capacity in excess of 10,000 pounds. Toyota is coy about horsepower and torque figures at this point, but there’s nothing soft about this truck, except for maybe the seats, possibly making it the perfect official pickup of Chicago.
However, the show continued with more notable introductions, such as the International MXT. If a Chevy Corvette or Dodge Viper doesn’t compensate enough for any inadequacies you might have, the MXT is your best bet. The International and Toyota pickup debuts added to those unveiled during the first day of the 2006 Chicago Auto Show – the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche, the Dodge Rampage, and the Nissan Titan Onyx concept. Plus, if you walk the floor of McCormick Place you’ll be hard pressed to find a two-wheel-drive version of anything – here, trucks are meant to be worked, so those jacked Prerunners and Desert Runners are left for the sallies in L.A. and Miami.
On the SUV and crossover front, the second day of the 2006 Chicago Auto Show revealed a slightly tweaked yet still ugly 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca, complementing all-new multi-purpose people models that debuted on Day One, like the Dodge Caliber SRT-4 and Dodge Nitro, a Lincoln Navigator that proves too much factory bling can be obnoxious, new AMG models from Mercedes-Benz, and an updated Nissan Quest minivan.
For a relatively small show, Chicago had a lot to offer this year, including some significant car debuts. Honda used this opportunity to showcase the Civic Si sedan, Mitsubishi sported a Ralliart version of the 2007 Galant, Volkswagen unveiled its redesigned 2007 Golf, and BMW celebrated 10 years of U.S.-built Z3 and Z4 roadsters, noting that Spartanburg, South Carolina will soon churn out its one millionth soft top since starting production in 1996.
But, c’mon, this is Mike Ditka and Dick Butkus territory, neither of which has likely spent any seat time in a cute little BMW convertible. We’re talking about Chicago, where Darwinism proves true everyday and car shows are dominated by rugged, burly, and capable trucks.
--By Thom Blackett
2007 International MXT
If you’re thinking this would be a great ride to use for towing a fifth-wheel trailer, fuhgeddaboudit – that option is not offered, because the diesel V8 engine’s 300 horsepower and 530 lb.-ft. of torque can’t match the International RXT Tow Body model’s 310 hp and stunning 950 lb.-ft. of twist. Rather, think of the 2007 International MXT as the company’s “light-duty” sport truck, equipped with 4WD, an Allison 2200 RDS five-speed automatic transmission, hydraulic brakes with ABS, and a 40-gallon fuel tank. International says, by the way, that the MXT’s diesel engine should deliver between 13 and 15 mpg – about what you get in a Hummer H2 SUT.
International pitches the MXT as its image truck, the one people buy because they want it and not because they need it (though the same argument could be made for the CXT 4WD and RXT 2WD models). As such, it’s built more for style than utility. The bed measures seven-feet, and the frame is lowered for a sportier stance. There’s even a Sport Exterior Package that equips the MXT like the one shown above with chrome trim, a carbon-fiber power dome hood with a sporty side vent, and anodized aluminum for the cab steps and rear bumper.
Inside, the 2007 International MXT is decked out like a commercial truck, though buyers do get a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry, power door locks, power windows, and filtered air conditioning. Leather upholstery is standard, too, wrapped around International’s front air suspension seats which are designed to cushion what could be a punishing ride quality. Despite the MXT’s Cab Air Suspension System, passenger’s warning the rear bench might look like bobbleheads on harsh surfaces.
Order the Prestige Interior Package and you’ll get ivory-faced sport gauges, metallic interior accents, padded armrests, more comfortable Air Ride front and rear seating, carpeting, and special trim. Other options for the 2007 International MXT include a DVD player, a touch-screen navigation system with a back-up camera, a premium sound system, and Sirius satellite radio.
Helping to bolster the MXT as an “image” vehicle, the U.S. government has ordered a test fleet of the new trucks to serve in a variety of ways, including as a military vehicle and for patrolling the country’s borders. As for the civilian market, International admits the potential buyer for the MXT is yet to be determined, but we think it’s easy enough to paint a prototypical MXT buyer – Larry the Cable Guy with a wad of cash in his pocket. If you think about the number of Hummer H2s that have flooded roadways in the past couple of years, it’s clear there’s a market for the MXT. And with prices starting just $20,000 higher than the Hummer, that’s probably not much of a leap for many people with the cojones to drive something like the MXT on a daily basis.
The 2007 International MXT goes on sale in the summer of 2006, with a base price of $69,900. Optioned up, a loaded MXT can cost as much as $85,000. If you’ve got a thing for the new MXT and a wad of cash burning a hole in your own pocket, call 1-888-44-TRUCK and place an order for one of the 1,500 units that International plans to build annually.
--By Christian Wardlaw
Kia Multi-S Concept
Cars like the Multi-S Concept, a smooth-looking, efficient crossover they debuted at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show. The Multi-S looks very close to an actual production model, and indeed, Kia indicated that it represents a strong hint of what’s to come.
So -- one of the next vehicles for Kia will a crossover. That’s not earth-shaking news, sure, but it will be quite significant if Kia keeps to the ideas put forth by the Multi-S. So named for it’s Sporty, Spacious and Smart attributes (so Kia claims), the concept is intended for young families who require practicality, modern conveniences and a fun driving experience. It accomplishes that by offering features such as a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. The powertrain drives 19-inch alloy wheels with slotted disc brakes – not likely to see a standard list on a future production model. Inside, the Multi-S has three rows of seating for seven, leather-suede materials and dual full-length glass moon roofs.
That takes care of Sporty, and Spacious – as far as Smart goes, Kia built in technological wonders such as iPod, computer and communication interfaces, a rear entertainment system, and a surround sound audio system. The real smart stuff comes as safety systems, however: the Multi-S features electronic stability control (ESC), six full-length side curtain airbags, active front-seat head restraints, adaptive front headlamps and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
-- Brian Chee
2007 Mitsubishi Galant Ralliart
Plus -- cops don’t notice cars like the 2007 Galant Ralliart, for example, which was introduced at the recent 2006 Chicago Auto Show. That is a big part of the reason why such cars are popular: otherwise conservative sedans make for great sleepers, wonderful rides that fly below the radar and give our daily commute a little spice. The Galant makes for the perfect sleeper, in fact. After all, who is ever going to believe that a Galant just smoked ‘em?
They will when they get a load of the 2007 Galant Ralliart, which foreshadows the updated regular Galant in terms of styling and interior upgrades, among other improvements. The Ralliart version, however, is powered by a 258-horspower (at 5,700 rpm), 3.8-liter V-6 engine that makes 258 lb. ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. The Galant Ralliart is equipped with a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels and a special Rockford Fosgate stereo system. Mitsubishi says that the Galant Ralliart will create 220 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,000 rpm, making life off the line quite enjoyable. The Galant Ralliart also gets special exterior styling and interior features. The Galant Ralliart, which will be priced below the Nissan Altima SE-R, will be available this summer, along with the new mainstream Mitsubishi Galants.
--By Brian Chee
2007 Toyota Tundra
Irv Miller, VP of Corporate Communications, calls it a “big bad motha’ of truck.” Jim Press, president and CEO, refers to it as the “biggest, boldest bad-ass truck in history.”
If you’re thinking this is guy talk taking place at a bar after a few beers, you’d be way off. It’s just after 9:00 in the morning at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, and those remarks are from Toyota’s highest executives as they launch the totally redesigned 2007 Tundra pickup. Apparently Toyota has heard enough about their biggest truck being “not quite full-size” or “not really competitive with true truck buyers.”
Though still called the Tundra, there’s little to tie this new brute to the model it replaces. The look is all-new, with a muscular, domed front hood, subtle wheel flares, body accent lines along the bed and fenders, and a body that just looks, well, bigger. That makes sense considering the 2007 Tundra has a longer wheelbase, has increased ten inches in length, five inches in height, and is four inches wider. Some may call if overcall, others will more appropriately see it as what Toyota needed to do to become truly competitive, a point accented by three new bed options, including a genuine eight-footer, all of which feature dampers that assist with lowering and raising. But, size doesn’t matter if there’s no muscle to move it around. So for 2007, the Tundra is available with an economical 4.0-liter V6, an updated version of the 4.7-liter V8 found in the 2006 model, and a new 5.7-liter V8 with variable valve timing and capable of meeting ULEV emission standards. A new six-speed automatic transmission will also be on the menu. Combining the newly-available grunt with the 2007 Tundra’s 30 percent stiffer chassis and tow hitch integrated into the frame allows this new super-sized Toyota to pull more than 10,000 pounds. Got a house you need pulled off of its foundation?
Yes, it’s tough, but even truck guys like some comfort and convenience, something this American-built and designed pickup promises to offer. When it goes on sale in January of 2007, the 2007 Tundra will be available in base, SR5, and Limited trims, each with up to four inches of shoulder room, and an additional six inches of hip room for rear seat passengers. The glovebox has been enlarged to accommodate a thermos, and the huge center console can double as a filing cabinet or laptop carrying case, a point surely to be appreciated by general contractors and road warriors everywhere. Options include a JBL audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and a wide-screen reversing camera hidden in the tailgate, a good thing to have in such a large vehicle.
Toyota officials are still a bit tight-lipped about some of the 2007 Tundra’s specifics, including the price, though they promise that their goal is to provide the best value in the full-size truck market. Total sales for the first full year of production are estimated to reach 200,000 units.
--By Thom Blackett
2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca
The 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca…it’s like a pug.
I’ve been dating a great woman for the past few months – we get along great, have lots to talk about, share common interests, and agree on most everything, except for pugs. She thinks those homely little dogs are adorable, I say they’re %#@
%$! pugly. There’s no way my miniature schnauzer, possibly the best dog to grace the earth, would ever be subjected to sharing space with a four-legged creature that’s run full speed into a brick wall a few too many times. Groom it, teach it to do the laundry and call it Buddy, it’s still not gonna happen. Much like putting some chrome accents on a Subaru B9 Tribeca or offering a Special Edition badge fails to transform the vehicle into something even remotely attractive, though nearly 15,000 buyers opted to call this ride their own during the latter half of 2005. Beauty, it seems, remains in the eyes of the beholder.
For 2007, the B9 Tribeca, a model that’s been on the market less than a year, gets a freshening, including some emergency surgery in the design studios. However, doctors took the overly cautious approach, as the only real exterior change was to add chrome accents to that unique front end, though a new $1,295 Special Edition package adds a chrome mesh grille, 18-inch chrome wheels, and standard satellite radio. All 2007 Subaru B9 Tribeca models should provide a smoother ride thanks to revised front and rear suspension settings, and iPod addicts will appreciate the standard auxiliary jack in the center console. Additional safety is delivered via a new rollover sensor that deploys the airbags and triggers seat pretensioners, and a brake assist system adds a little extra security in sudden braking situations. Limited models get a memory function with the power driver’s seat, and navigation-equipped B9 Tribeca’s feature rear parking camera. A reverse sensing system with audible alerts is also available.
Subaru is anticipating sales of about 28,000 units starting later this year when the 2007 B9 Tribeca hits the streets.
--By Thom Blackett
2007 VW Golf
Not sure why VW thought that Rabbit was a better name than Golf for a car that really didn’t go so fast. But it didn’t seem to matter, though. Over the years, Americans and Europeans have made the Golf the second best-selling car in the world, selling more than 24 million copies. Either you owned one or knew someone who did. And they probably had an eight-track tape of the Rolling Stones.
Thirty-plus years later, things haven’t really changed so much. True, music delivery is vastly different, but the tunes are the same (see: Rolling Stones), and a good car is still a good car, which will likely make the 2007 VW Golf a big seller when it comes to the US this June. Priced at about the same as the outgoing model, the Golf will offer a boatload of features, because, well, one thing has changed: people want more car for their money now, they want the thing to run, and they want safe, and comfortable, cars. Judging from the show floor, where all things are beautiful, the Golf delivers. Coming in June of 2006 are two-door and four-door variants, each with standard features such as four-wheel disc and Anti-lock Brakes (ABS), traction control, front and rear side curtain airbags for head protection, and front side airbags. The Golf will ride on 15-inch wheels, with 16-inchers optional. Perhaps more significant changes go on underneath, however: the 2007 VW Golf has a fully independent suspension, and a 2.5-liter, five cylinder engine that generates 150 horsepower and is mated to a standard five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic will be available as an option.
Volkswagen also announced that the Touareg TDI will be available this fall, and that they also plan to debut the VW Eos convertible to the US this fall.
--By Brian Chee
Photos by Ron Perry