The Chicago Auto Show is the largest on the continent, spanning over one million square feet of production, concept, and exotic vehicle exhibit space. For us, it's a chance to pump product engineers for information and ask key executives anything we want. We get to goon out on incredible cutaway engine displays, look at restored vehicles from the past, and be amazed at the kinds of cars some people buy. As members of the press, we get there before anyone else, while the workers are still driving forklifts and wiping down the vehicles to a spotless shine. We're loose on a huge floor littered with Airstream trailers, concept muscle cars, a monster truck or two, and the latest in special police vehicles, serenaded by live bands and plied with catered food and drink. Like they say, it's tough work, but someone's gotta do it.
The big news out of Chicago was Chevy's new 2011 HD pickup. It's a brand new platform, with two new engines and two new transmissions. But the show also gave us very close looks at Ford's 2011 Super Duty components, including the new 6.2-liter gas engine for the Raptor, and the new transmission that will back the 2011 Scorpion diesel engine. We found Ford engineers standing by at the cutaway displays, ready to talk with us about what they had done, and why.
Chicago is also always a great show for commercial trucks, heavy-duty customs, and military equipment, some of which we show you here.
2011 Silverado HD
The 2011 Silverado HD pickup, which Chevy executives billed as a "heavier-duty, heavy-duty truck," will go on sale this summer. There will be 11 2500 HD models and eight single- and dual-rear-wheel 3500 models, including a 3500 Crew Cab with longer, 6.5-foot bed. This is the truck that will house the new 6.6L Duramax diesel and Allison 1000 six-speed transmission. Tow and cargo ratings are impressive: 6335 pounds max payload, and up to 20,000 pounds towing capacity using a fifth-wheel hitch. With just a conventional hitch ball, a properly configured new HD will tow up to 16,000 pounds. Diesels will have an exhaust brake system to manage the bigger loads.
75th Anniversary Suburban
After 75 years of continuously producing the Suburban, Chevy introduced a limited edition Sub' to celebrate. They're calling it the Diamond edition. There will be only 2,570 units, distinguished by a White Diamond Tricoat exterior color and a Cashmere interior, along with unique 20-inch chrome-clad wheels and new roof-rack rails. There is special badging on the C-pillar, steering wheel, sill plates and front headrests.
All the Diamond Anniversary Suburbans have LTZ content, which includes extras such as heated leather seats, Bluetooth, rear-view camera, remote starting, and XM satellite radio as standard equipment. The engine will be a Vortec 5.3L V-8 with a six-speed automatic, enabling a towing capacity of 8,100 pounds, although 2500 models offer a 6.0L V-8 and can tow up to 9,600 pounds. The Suburban remains the ultimate Mother Ship, seating nine passengers with room for another 45.8 cubic feet of gear behind the third row. We'll have a special tribute to the Suburban's 75th anniversary in an upcoming issue.
Not announced was Ford's plan to offer a four-door Raptor. Asked about the Raptor, Ford marketing head Jim Farley said, "We've been completely unprepared for the reaction we've had with the Raptor. Our dealers in the Arizona/Nevada area are already asking for more. It's something we're watching very closely. We really didn't expect to sell that many, but now we're wondering where it will go." When we asked Farley point-blank to confirm a four-door version of the raptor, he said, "We have no news at this time." That usually means they'll have it by October.
LML Diesel Internals
The LML diesel is warranted to burn B20 biodiesel, largely because care is taken to keep biodiesel fuel from accumulating along the cylinder walls and leaking, unburned, into the engine oil. Because biodiesel is just a bit less volatile than regular #2, it can leak down and contaminate the engine oil more easily. The three-ring piston design, shown here, is the first line of defense. GM engineers feel confident they can handle B20 in the LML without requiring more frequent engine oil changes.
The Allison 1000 transmission, considered by many to be the best HD transmission available in a light truck, has been strengthened further to stand up to the greater torque of the new LML diesel. It's more efficient due to less "spin loss," channeling more power to the axles and allowing it to happen with less fuel. Improved cooling and better shift control are built in. The new Allison/Duramax combination has shown significantly faster 0-60mph times in preliminary testing, according to Chevrolet. The dark square area is for the PTO attachment. (Yesssssss! -Ed.)
Yes, somewhere in all that spaghetti is the 6.6L Duramax LML; that little blue cap at the top left of the engine compartment is the urea fill spout. Testing is still ongoing, so horsepower and torque numbers were not announced, but a Chevy executive advised that output is expected to top the current diesel Duramax, suggesting that 375 horsepower and 675 lb-ft of torque would not be out of the question. This fifth-generation Duramax has a number of internal revisions to improve durability, and will use selective catalytic reduction aftertreatment (urea injection) to become significantly cleaner. Urea injection will actually help improve fuel economy by reducing particulate filter regenerations by 75 percent. Cold-weather starting characteristics are said to be on a par with gas engines.
New Raptor Motor
It was announced back in November '09 that Ford will put a new 6.2L V-8 into the Raptor, as well as the Super Duty. This cutaway display allowed us to inspect the internals, showing that the new engine uses a large bore and a short stroke to produce peak horsepower at a relatively modest 5,500 rpm. Ford is calling the engine "race-inspired," in part because a specially calibrated production-based 6.2L engine achieved 500 horsepower and ran hard in the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor R race truck in the 2008 Baja 1000.
The single-overhead-cam powerplant is rated at 411 horsepower, with 434 lb-ft of torque. Key features include a cast-iron engine block and four-bolt main bearing caps with crossbolts for durability; aluminum cylinder heads with two valves per cylinder and two spark plugs per cylinder; forged steel connecting rods; cast-aluminum pistons with oil cooling jets; and 9.8:1 compression ratio.
Jeep Proving Ground
On press day, Jeep engineers were working the kinks out of their auto-show obstacle course. At the Chicago show, anyone interested in trying out a Jeep can get into a vehicle and drive a Camp Jeep-inspired "proving ground" obstacle course, with suspension articulation demonstration, short-but-steep hill climb and descent demo, plus experience a sidehill and other obstacles. We hear the line is a mile long once the doors open to the public.
Yer Tow Rig
This Chrome Shop Mafia All American Hauler F-750 Super duty is a tow vehicle made to handle anything you can throw at it. It's a four-door crew cab in XLT trim, with a 25,999-pound GVWR. It's powered by a Cummins 6.7L ISB with 325 horsepower and 750 lb-ft, and has an exhaust brake, 130-amp alternator, three batteries, and Allison 3000 HS close-ratio five-speed.
Front axle rating is 10,000 pounds; rear axle rating is 21,000 pounds, and axle ratio is 4.33:1. For $132,055, you also get rear air suspension, air-ride cab system by CSM, tow hooks, dual 65-gallon fuel tanks, air horn, 22.5-inch polished aluminum wheels, five storage compartments, LED lighting, custom front bumper, custom leather seating, 13-inch flip-down monitor in cab, and high-performance audio system/GPS. Not to mention a 2 5/16-inch gooseneck ball installed on the deck and polished stainless trim.
The frame for the 2011 Chevy HD is all new, with a new steel frame crossmember. GM is sticking with the independent front suspension, but has redesigned it to beef up front axle weight ratings for snow plowing. The suspension keeps the same short/long arm torsion-bar front suspension, but has forged steel upper control arms and heavier lower control arms. Chevy executives said the IFS suspension gives a better ride and handling, and is more adjustable, than the competition's straight front axle. The brakes have larger brake rotors, stronger calipers, and larger wheel and hub bearing assemblies. The frames are stiffer, with new jounce bumpers, shock mounts, and hydraulic body mounts. The steering system has been revised with a larger steering gear, power steering pumps, and linkages. Four-wheel ABS will be standard on all single-rear wheel models, as will trailer sway control.
Possibly the coolest vehicle turned up at the Suzuki press conference, a 1972 LJ20 Jimny-essentially, a forerunner to the Samurai. The Samurai, of course, was pulled from the North American market 20 years ago after Consumer Reports characterized the vehicle as a rollover risk. This tiny little jeeplet, part of a series produced between 1960 and 1981, had no doors and the cutest little axles we've ever seen. We were hoping to hear Suzuki say they were bringing back the Samurai, but no dice-it ain't gonna happen.
These days, Suzuki's SUV is the Grand Vitara, shown here decked out with adjustable coilover shocks with attached reservoirs, 31x12.50/15 Interco Thornbird tires, Baja rack, winch, rock rails and a custom MX-style exhaust. The whole idea, said Suzuki spokesmen, was to remind everyone of Suzuki's long history in the off-road market, and continued large-scale participation in the powersports arena. Either way, we wanna testdrive one.
Toyota Baja 4Runner
This would be the very same 2010 4Runner driven by Ivan Stewart in the Stock 4x4 class in last November's Baja 1000, still covered in Baja dirt. It is, of course, hardly stock. The rules allow for upgrades like General Grabber 35x12.50R17 tires on 17x8 Fuel forged alloy wheels, Bilstein racing shocks, Hella lights and horns, Hawk brake pads, Eibach front coilovers, Old Man Emu rear springs, an ATL fuel cell, Redline synthetic lubricants, and TRD exhaust.
Think of it as a Humvee on steroids. The Oshkosh Medium Tactical Vehicle, or M-ATV, is designed to be a durable solution to getting troops to battle zones and back again in almost any kind of terrain. It has Oshkosh axles, Marmon-Herrington transfer case, Allison 3500 SP transmission, and a 370hp Caterpillar C7 engine. The independent suspension is set up according to a 30-percent on-road, 70-percent off-road profile using 395/85R20MichelinX radials with central tire inflation capability. The rig seats four, plus a gunner. The integrated all-terrain system has four settings to handle a variety of challenges.
The Big Ugly
And then, when the going gets really tough, our troops can bring out the MRAP-the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. It's built by Navistar for the armed forces to withstand ballistic arms fire, mine blasts, IEDs, and nuclear, biological, and chemical environments. Even though it was on display at the Auto Show, the marines in the booth were touchy about photography. They specifically forbade any shots of the interior, the V-shaped hull that deflects blasts, or the engine, a Navistar MaxxForce D 9.3L I-6. What are they hiding? Probably a trick independent suspension and blast-attenuating seating. Navistar has produced 6,444 MRAP vehicles, 1,222 for Afghanistan.