Though it occasionally battles for the limelight against other, more lavish affairs, the Chicago Auto Show managed to hold its own this year boasting a handful of key appearances that made a lasting impression. Chief among them were some of the biggest little game changers currently lurking on the horizon, like the Kia Track’ster Concept, Hyundai Elantra and 2013 Volkswagen Beetle. The former is the newest brainchild of Kia’s California Design Center and is somewhat of a “supercharged Soul,” if you will. Underpinned by the Soul platform, the Track’ster was upfitted to hang with – as the name would imply – track stars, and includes a race-ready 250hp powerplant and sleek, eye-popping trim. Likewise, the Hyundai Elantra also turned heads with the debut of two- and five-door variants of the bold sedan (Elantra Coupe and Elantra GT, respectively). Both are expected to expand the reach of the impressively styled four-door and the Coupe is likely to weaken a lot of enthusiasts’ knees with the aggressive lines and sweeping roofline. In fact, one of the Coupe’s key competitors may well be our other compact favorite: the 2013 Volkswagen Beetle. Of course though the VW’s styling may be a touch more sedate, it’s definitely no less promising. It’s the same body style initially glimpsed last year in New York, but now it’s picked up a 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine and a purported 29/39 mpg. Not necessarily outstanding, but we’ve been waiting for the diesel wave to hit our shores for a long, long time and a diesel Beetle is just the thing we’ve been missing.
Slightly less compact (and noticeably less fun through the curves) on our list of favorites was the Nissan NV200, which earned our kudos despite the intentionally bland design language. Large-capacity hybrid transport options have been all but nonexistent in years past, but the NV200 promises to change that (or least lead the way). It was recently voted NYC’s Taxi of Tomorrow, which isn’t exactly as exciting as a sub 9-second ‘Ring time, but we’re nevertheless intrigued to see where the hybrid/electric craze takes us. Even if it is just through Midtown during rush hour.
As much as we love the demure fuel-sippers, though, the ‘utes that really won our hearts are less concerned with miles to the gallon and more horses to the ground. In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Ford Special Vehicle Team, Ford trotted out the first 1993 SVT Cobra R to ever roll off the assembly line. Still pushing 235-hp to the pavement, the raucous ’93 Cobra nevertheless seemed quietly worldly and austere parked next to its newest kin, the 650-hp SVT-tuned 2013 Shelby GT 500 Convertible. Like father like son, indeed.
Also celebrating a milestone was fellow Detroit performance arm, Mopar, which turns 75 this year. To flex their septuagenarian muscle, they brought along several Mopar-tuned Chrysler models, including the 2012 FIAT 500 Stinger, 2013 Dodge Dart GTS 210 Tribute, Mopar ’12 Charger, and the 2012 Mopar Jeep Compass True North. Perhaps the most visually striking of the group, the Mopar ’12 Charger was immediately recognizable thanks to unique black-and-blue paint scheme and will eventually hit the roads 500 strong this summer.
Check out our full coverage of the 2012 Chicago Auto Show here, as well as updates from our official Autobytel award winners.
Photos courtesy of Jeffrey N. Ross