2008 Chicago Auto Show Report
It was pure pandemonium as one of the biggest snowstorms in recent memory slammed into the Midwest. The monster storm arrived the night before the first media day of the Chicago Auto Show and shut down virtually every mode of transportation. Media types like us had to alter plans and do some fancy footwork to even get to the show. But when we finally arrived, it was like entering another world. Inside McCormick Place it was warm and tranquil, and as far as the eye could see, there were cars on carpet (we'll never get used to that). It was the polar opposite of what was taking place outside.
This was a big year for the Chicago Auto Show because it earned recognition as the first North American auto show to reach 100 shows. For us it was a big show because of some noteworthy unveilings. Here's some of what was parked on the 133,333 square yards of carpet.
One of the most anticipated unveilings of the show was the new 2009 Hummer H3T. This honest-to-goodness pickup truck has a cargo box separate from the cab and the box has a floor length of 59.3 inches and a width of 50.5 inches. This puts its length on par with the cargo boxes found on vehicles like the Toyota Tacoma Double Cab and the Chevy Colorado Crew Cab. Though width-wise, the bed is narrower than the aforementioned vehicles by about 6 inches. The H3T has an overall length of 210.4 inches, which is 23.7 inches longer than the H3. The beauty is that the H3T retains good approach, departure, and rampover angles (38.7, 30.1, and 21.2 degrees, respectively, with the optional 33-inch tires), which make it a serious player off-highway. The H3T will be available in five trim packages including the 5.3L V-8-powered Alpha and the Adventurer with front and rear electric lockers. Hummer's H3T will be available in late summer 2008.
GMC tested the waters by trotting out this Denali XT concept. This isn't the first time GMC has merged car and pickup truck. In the '70s and 80s they had the Sprint and the Cabellero, which were based on the Chevy El Camino. Technology has changed a tad since then, so it's no surprise the unibody Denali XT concept has some things its predecessors didn't. It has four doors, a new direct-injection 4.9L V-8 Active Fuel Management two-mode hybrid engine that's E85-compatible, electrically variable transmission, height-adjusting four-wheel independent suspension, folding Midgate, and 23-inch wheels, yo.
The 2008 Suzuki Equator pickup truck made its global debut in Chicago. It was developed as a joint effort with Nissan North America and is based on the Nissan Frontier. Can you tell? We say Suzuki chose well, because we've found the Frontier to be a heckuva truck. The Equator mirrors the Frontier in most every area. It will be available in either Extended Cab or Crew Cab body styles and in both two- and four-wheel drive. Nissan's 2.5L four-cylinder engine is standard, and its awesome 4.0L V-6 is optional. So what will lure buyers to Suzuki's interpretation of the Frontier? Well, there is the Equator-specific styling, and it will offer a better 100,000-mile, 7-year powertrain limited warranty. The Equator will be available in the fourth quarter of 2008. Shown here is a flat-green concept Equator with a 2.5-inch front suspension lift, foglamps, safari-style front bumper, front skidplate, tubular rock guards, and 17-inch wheels.
At Least It's Easy To Park
For only $122,163, you can drive home in this Alton Truck Manufacturing Company XUV 4x2 that was on display at the Ford booth. It's based on a 2008 Ford F-650 Super Duty and features a Caterpillar 7.2L C7 ACERT diesel engine, Allison 3000 EVS CR five-speed transmission (with PTO provision), 10,000-pound front axle, and 19,000-pound-GAWR Spicer rear axle. Get ready for this: Inside it has a hardwood floor, custom captain's chairs, 42-inch plasma TV, a pair of drop-down 16-inch TVs, and four wireless computer stations with RAM computer mounts.
Why are we showing you a cargo box full of tools? Well, it's not so much the tools we want to show you (though they are nice), it's the little black box that's bolted to the side of the cargo box. It's an RFID tag reader. You see, Ford introduced the new Tool Link system in Chicago. This system is one of the new Ford Work Solutions. Quite simply, this system tells you if all of your tools are in the bed of the truck where they're supposed to be. You simply attach an RFID tag to each tool or piece of equipment, and the RFID tag reader scans them. When the system detects that a tool has been removed from on board it can alert you. No more wondering if you left something behind. Handy for families with lots of kids, too.
If At First You Don't Succeed
GMC also rolled out the Sierra Hybrid to a fair amount of hoopla. Now we know what you're thinking. Didn't GM roll out a hybrid-powered truck in 2005? Well, as a matter of fact they did. The semi-hybrid competed in our Pickup Truck of the Year competition that same year. So what's different? Well, this is a two-mode hybrid that can actually run on electric power up to 30 mph. GM says it returns 25-percent better overall fuel economy and a whopping 40-percent greater city fuel economy than a comparable non-hybrid vehicle. Best news: Unlike the previous hybrid, this one actually works in four-wheel drive. The GMC Sierra Hybrid will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2008.
If you're into semi-trucks, you'll dig this. This is International's new LoneStar semi-tractor. This incredibly cool truck melds old-school and modern design elements to create a rig that's maximum eye-candy. It'll be available with either a Cummins or Cat diesel engine mated to one of five transmissions. Inside, it's fully pimped with wood flooring in the sleeper cab, a sofa-bed, a pull-down bed with 42-inch mattress, swivel chairs, and a 12-speaker Monsoon audio system.