CHICAGO — The Windy City is the new Motor City — at least when it comes to auto show season. With the Detroit expo moving to a warmer schedule in June, Chicago now hosts the first major show of the year. While Chicago didn't have splashy new-model and concept debuts to kick off 2020, it offered a number of key new variants and refreshes. Here are highlights.
Opening act: Highlights from Chicago Auto Show
The 2021 Pacifica will be the first Chrysler minivan with all-wheel drive since 2004. The freshened Pacifica gets an appearance update with a restyled grille to go along with a new all-LED taillight that runs the entire width of the vehicle. The latest Pacifica will also be the launching pad for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' fifth-generation Uconnect infotainment platform. Uconnect 5 boasts processing speeds five times faster than its predecessor.
The freshened Honda Civic Type R hot hatch receives new exterior and interior touches for 2020, in addition to a tweaked suspension, upgraded brakes and standard Honda Sensing safety and driver-assistance technology.
The hybrid version of the eighth-generation Hyundai Sonata, due in U.S. dealerships in the spring, offers fuel economy of up to 52 mpg combined, more than 680 miles of range, new hybrid transmission technology that allows faster shifts and a new solar roof panel that provides 3 miles of the total range.
With a sleek new face and interior upgrades, Jaguar's freshened 2021 F-Type sports car has the same starting price as the outgoing model: $62,625 for the coupe, $65,725 for the convertible, including shipping. The F-Type's new headlights are slimmer and blend more smoothly into the contours of the hood and fenders. Inside, the instrument cluster was upgraded and enlarged, with a 12-inch reconfigurable screen.
The Gladiator Mojave introduces Jeep's Desert Rated badge. The rating is based on ride control and stability, traction, ground clearance, maneuverability and desert prowess. The Gladiator Mojave comes with specially tuned Fox 2.5-inch internal bypass shocks with external reservoirs, industry-exclusive Fox front hydraulic jounce bumpers, a reinforced frame, a 1-inch front suspension lift with a silver front skid plate, stronger axles with cast-iron steering knuckles, aggressive front seats with integrated upper bolsters and standard 33-inch Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires.
High Altitude versions of the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator sport a premium look with new 20-inch black aluminum wheels and a full suite of exterior LED lights. The Wrangler and Gladiator High Altitude models mark the first time either vehicle has featured 20-inch wheels.
A decked-out Jeep Wrangler is on the way for Mopar lovers. The limited-edition Wrangler JPP 20 is loaded with an array of parts and accessories from the Jeep Performance Parts portfolio.
Nissan has upgraded the powertrain on the Frontier — months before the workhorse pickup receives its first major redesign since 2004. The 2020 Frontier features a more fuel-efficient 3.8-liter direct-injection V-6 engine that delivers an additional 49 hp — for a total of 310 hp — and a new nine-speed automatic transmission that delivers greater acceleration. The updated powertrain will carry over to the next-generation Frontier, which will be revealed in the fourth quarter.
Toyota has given the redesigned Highlander crossover a sporty new XSE trim level for 2021, with an improved suspension and exterior and interior styling treatments. Riding on 20-inch wheels, the XSE will feature higher-performance springs and a rear stabilizer bar, with retuned shock absorbers and electric steering for sportier performance.
Toyota also revealed six special editions for its truck lineup, including Trail versions of the Tacoma, 4Runner and Tundra that highlight the vehicles' capabilities in the wilderness, with added storage and convenience. The brand also featured Nightshade special edition appearance packages for the Tacoma and Tundra pickups and the Sequoia SUV.
Volkswagen's freshened 2021 Atlas three-row crossover will boast sharper exterior styling. But the biggest changes will come in an upgraded infotainment system that picks up some fancy tricks. The Atlas features an edgier front facade and updated LED front and rear lighting on all trim levels. Two engines — a 276-hp V-6 and a 235-hp turbocharged inline-four — will be available, and awd is optional with either powertrain. The previous version limited the inline-four to lower trim levels and did not offer awd with the smaller displacement engine.
The Car-Net infotainment system features many upgrades and new app-based functionality, such as the ability to use the vehicle as a safe place to receive and store delivered packages. In addition, the system will allow consumers to contract directly with their mobile carrier to add 4G LTE service to the vehicle through their data plan. Doing so enables the vehicle to serve as a mobile hot spot, and it eventually will allow streaming entertainment into the vehicle.
Volkswagen has an initial agreement through Verizon Wireless to enable the feature, but the automaker is working with other carriers to broaden service in the U.S.
The infotainment system allows remote access to the vehicle via smartphone, enabling users to turn the engine on or off, lock or unlock the doors, honk the horn and flash the lights. The app also shows the vehicle's location when parked and can provide remote information on fuel level, odometer reading, and whether the doors and windows are open or closed.
— Compiled from reports by Vince Bond Jr., Omari Gardner, Urvaksh Karkaria, Larry P. Vellequette and Jack Walsworth
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.