A look at the Chicago Auto Show

A look at the Chicago Auto Show

Former News-Gazette photo editor Darrell Hoemann is back at one of his favorite haunts: the Chicago Auto Show. So we asked him for a tour.

Concept cars

These can be wild or something you might see in three years on the showroom, but they are rarely boring and offer insights into coming technology. An example is the Honda FCEV, a fuel cell powered car with a 300-mile range which the manufacturer says "hints" at a 2015 model. Toyota had the sci-fi looking FV2 (Fun Vehicle 2) on display. The four wheels respond to driver inputs in a variety of ways. Introduced at the Tokyo Auto Show, I'll bet on this one to be the most likely to appear in a James Bond movie.

Cutaways

If you are one of us who wants to know what is under the hood or the sheet metal, you will be fascinated by these. Once they had almost disappeared, but now almost every variation of engine is on display, along with cutaway car bodies and engineering details. Fascinating to both kids and gear heads, Subaru wins this category for me this year, with cutaways of a passenger car and its boxer engine.

Presentations

While not open to the public, the media previews feature announcements and press conferences for new cars or technologies that remind one of "Mad Men" sometimes. The ones this year seemed a little low key, but they still featured sophisticated lighting, sound effects and of course, smoke for the entrance of the new model. This year's highlight came when Volkswagen announced a return to autosports with specially prepared Polos for Global Rally Cross. Led by Michael Andretti of the famed racing family, drivers include Tanner Foust, host of the U.S. version of "Top Gear," and Scott Speed.

Hands on

There are three test tracks. Toyota's features rides in a Tacoma pickup on a course including a balance beam ramp that lowers as you drive up.

Chrysler offers a road course ride and Jeep offers their off-road experience, always a family favorite. Toyota also has a racing simulator, so you can see if you are as good at picking out the best line through the chicane as you think you are. Ford's is even better: a ride that pitches the driver about like a military flight simulator.

Cars only seen in magazines

If seeing a $426,000 Lamborghini Aventador up close and personal helps you through a cold winter, go for it. No touching, though. Others include NASCAR race cars, esoteric Maseratis, a specially modded Lingenfelter 2014 Corvette with 6.2-liter engine and 550 horsepower and my favorite: the 2015 Mercedes SLS AMG GT Final Edition. Love the gull wing doors.

Swag

It's everywhere. Chevrolet announced a partnership with Marvel comics for the next Captain America movie out in April and is giving away a limited edition comic at the booth while they last. Elsewhere is a variety of small items with an automotive theme.

If you go

What: The 2014 Chicago Auto Show, the 106th edition

When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. today through Feb. 16; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 17

Where: McCormick Place on Lake Shore Drive at 23rd Street

More info: chicagoautoshow.com

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