2012 Chicago Auto Show: Winners and Losers

Ilxwl

Not many drapes were ripped off all-new cars under bright lights in Chicago over the past few days. The debuts we saw were limited in number, but the size of the show itself is seemingly endless and filled with more commonplace models. At least that's what our feet are saying.

More 2012 Chicago Auto Show Coverage

That doesn't mean we're short on opinions of the few debuts we did see. We've enlisted more editors to make up for the short list of cars. David Thomas, Kelsey Mays, Joe Bruzek, Colin Bird and Mike Hanley grade the debuts. Who doesn't want to hear more opinions from automotive journalists?

2013 Acura ILX

David Thomas: Winner
I was expecting to be impressed with a spacious interior in a compact car, like I was with the new Honda Civic. I wasn't expecting the ILX to be the best-looking Acura sedan at the booth. The brand's design could be better, but if it keeps moving in this direction I see hope.

Kelsey Mays: Loser
Acura (and Buick, for that matter) paid heed to the pitfall potential in the elusive near-luxury segment. Cabin materials feel a lot richer than the Civic's dowdy surfaces, but I disagree with David: The ILX still looks bland, and the odd blank space below the grille recalls Keanu Reeve's Neo having his mouth fused shut in "The Matrix." Gas mileage is well below the Civic, even with the base four-cylinder. For entry-luxury cars to catch on, models like the Buick Verano and ILX can't fall 7 or 8 mpg on the highway below their non-luxury counterparts.

Joe Bruzek: Winner
The ILX has the same premium interior feel of Acura's current entry-level TSX, but it has higher gas mileage ratings, the backseat is more comfortable and Acura says pricing will be well below $30,000, which is the TSX's starting price. All those things point to a winning formula, but it begs the question: Why didn't they just call this the TSX?

Colin Bird: Winner
This is a close call for me, but I'm calling the ILX a success based solely on the fact that Honda's luxury brand seems to have finally accepted its place in the automotive hierarchy. It can't compete with the Mercedes and BMWs of the world, and it shouldn't even bother. Acura's peak years occurred when the brand was selling premium (read: not luxury) cars like the Acura RSX and more humble-looking versions of the TL, RL, MDX and, of course, the NSX halo vehicle. If this car is truly priced well below $30,000, Acura's mojo - sterile but competent engineering and geeky looks with some sportiness - is back.

Mike Hanley: Loser
While I liked the ILX's high-quality interior, I never warmed to its exterior design — even after a second visit to the Acura stand. The brand's beak-like grille is off-putting, and the car incorporates unusual cues, like bulging haunches that recall the Dodge Charger of all cars.

2013 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Convertible

Gt500wl

DT: Loser
Call me crazy but I have no desire to drive a 650-horsepower convertible. Coupe? Yes. Boss 302? Hell yes. This? No.

KM: Loser
The proof will be in the driving, but the last Shelby lacked the throw-around drivability of the Boss. The burden's on Ford with this one.

JB: Loser
I'm all for 650 hp no matter how unusable that power is on the street on low-profile tires. I would, however, feel a wee bit more comfortable with some steel above my dome in a car capable of 200 mph. When does the accessory roll bar come out?

CB: Loser
I agree with David and Joe on this one. Talk about a dyed-in-the-wool muscle car of bygone days. No convertible needs this much power. Convertibles that aren't roadsters should be relegated to touring duties only. Yes, I'm a cantankerous old man.

MH: Winner
You're only as old as you feel, Colin, and I suspect driving the Shelby GT500 convertible could make the years fall off. I admit that a 200-plus-mph Mustang is a bit shocking — frightening, actually — but the thought of not having any steel and glass between your ears and the quad exhaust tips is highly appealing.

2013 GMC Acadia

Acadiawl

DT: Winner
The exterior changes will make the biggest difference in terms of drawing in buyers to what is already a solid-selling crossover. The interior isn't as refined as I expected after seeing the press photos. Still, for the money, the Acadia offers a lot of room and now has more advanced features, too.

KM: Winner
I expected mild changes, but the Acadia's remodeling impressed. The stitched dash and doors elevate the usual interior quality in a large crossover, and the center controls have large, easy-to-use dials. The best part? The Acadia, like its Buick and Chevrolet siblings, still boasts a lot of cargo space: 24.1 cubic feet behind the third row and a near-minivan 116.1 cubic feet of maximum room. Left brain meets right brain.

JB: Winner
In person, the Acadia's new design appears more fluid and complete than in photos where the new styling looks clunky and tacked on. Along with the higher-quality interior, I'm also happy to see the old navigation system replaced by something new. We haven't used it yet, but anything should be better than the old system's pitiful graphics.

CB: Winner
I'm blown away by GMC's new design language. I didn't expect this type of styling (originally seen on the Granite concept) to scale so well to larger GMCs, especially on a refresh like the Acadia, which still keeps its rather boring side profile. Now that Ford has abandoned the Gillette grille look, someone had to pick up the baton. I'm glad GMC was there eagerly waiting. Put this look on everything, GM: the Sierra, Terrain, Yukon and even the Camaro. Everything.

MH: Winner
I agree with the guys: The 2013 Acadia impressed. GMC actually had some earlier versions of the crossover on the show floor and the difference is rather dramatic, especially in front where the new vertical grille works really well with the rest of the design. Upper sections of the interior have a more premium look, but take a glance lower and materials quality quickly diminishes. More concerning, though, are the touch-sensitive controls that have sprouted alongside the center screen. We weren't able to test it, but I sure hope it's better than MyFord Touch.

2013 Hyundai Elantra Coupe

Elantracoupewl

DT: Loser
I've owned coupes like this one before and enjoyed it, but these days if I want a coupe I'd go with something wild like the Hyundai Veloster that was a few steps away on the show floor. Plus, that rear overhang looks awful.

KM: Winner
I didn't mind the overhang. Overall, the styling wears well. Visibility inside is OK, and the backseat is generous. I jumped in a Honda Civic coupe's backseat for comparison and it's cramped. Kudos to Hyundai for putting seat belt extenders on the B-pillars. This keeps the belts in close reach and is a must for any coupe. I didn't have to twist, but I'll still shout: The Elantra coupe wins in my book.

JB: Loser
Like David, I can't see anyone who's looking for a small sporty car choosing the Elantra coupe over Hyundai's own Veloster. The Elantra coupe is well done in its own right, maintaining the Elantra sedan's large interior dimensions and trunk.

CB: Loser
Are coupes back? I know coupes are a cyclical fad in the automotive industry, but the whole idea behind this model strikes me as very '90s. I'll pass.

MH: Winner
I like the Veloster, but not everyone wants a three-door small car, and now Hyundai has something for traditional coupe buyers. Sedans may rule in the U.S., but it's nice when an automaker is willing to offer more than one body style of a car.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

Elantragtwl

DT: Winner
The coupe doesn't make much sense, but a hatchback to battle those from Ford and Mazda makes a lot more sense. The available panoramic roof is crazy in this class, but I wonder how much it'll cost.

KM: Winner
This is where my interior-materials geek comes out. Padding atop the doors, stitched armrests, fabric-wrapped A-pillars? The Acura ILX has plastic pillars, for goodness sake. Show 'em how it's done, Hyundai. Like David, I question how much a well-appointed GT will cost, but Hyundai's characteristic value proposition allays some concern.

JB: Winner
The Elantra GT has a good start sharing the sedan's sizable interior and good looks. My gripes with the car we saw at the auto show were with the heft of the folding backseat and long reach to close the hatchback. I don't think those will be enough to deter shoppers from the GT's large size and good gas mileage, but a lot depends on price.

CB: Loser
I have the opposite feelings on this car than I had on the Elantra coupe. I really liked that the Elantra Touring was, essentially, the only non-luxury station wagon available to Americans. Europeans love hatchbacks, and I'm sure Hyundai primarily designed this model to suit the needs for our European brethren. Thanks a lot!

MH: Winner
The GT's premium interior is impressive in this class, and the hatchback delivers on the style front, too. As with the new coupe, I like the addition of another body style to the Elantra line.

Kia Track'ster Concept

Tracksterwl

DT: Winner
I'm not sure why you'd want a smaller Kia Soul since it isn't that sporty, but if you based this off of Hyundai's Veloster, I could see it being fun to drive. Of course, this is but a concept — something cool to look at between checking out practical cars — and in that regard it's a big winner.

KM: Loser
Kia says it will never build the Track'ster, which, in the vein of the Soul's exclamatory trim levels, throws in some nameplate punctuation for good measure. I didn't get it. Whatever - I mean, wha!t+ev'er.

JB: Winner
Who knew the Soul would look so good as a two-door. The Track'ster looks ready to race with its mean stance, wide tires, bulging fenders and pizza-dish-sized brakes.

CB: Winner
The Soul is one of Kia's best-sellers and I could see a two-door version doing very well, too. Despite what Kia said to Kelsey, I'm sure that's what its primarily trying to figure out with this concept. It could make for a fun, cheap alternative to the Mini Cooper and could give the Fiat 500 a run for its money, too.

MH: Winner
The Track'ster looks like what you'd get if you sculpted a Soul out of a giant block of butter and let it sit in the driveway for a few hours. Somehow, the melted look works on this concept in a way it never did on bygone versions of the Chevrolet Caprice and Ford Taurus.

2013 Nissan 370Z

370zwl

DT: Winner
The changes are minimal, so normally I wouldn't label this a winner. However, you have to give props to Nissan for continuing to produce one of the few pure sports cars on the road ... that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

KM: Winner
The Z may not cost an arm and a leg, but it's not cheap, either. For one, I hope Nissan fleshes out the audio equipment on base models once the car goes on sale in June. But David's right: The Z is a hoot behind the wheel. I was on the fence on this one, but maybe Chicago's warm winter already has me thinking springtime driving.

JB: Loser
Don't get me wrong, I love driving the 370Z, but it will be lost on auto show public days when a kid is standing in front of you and blocks everything that's changed.

CB: Loser
I liked the shark-toothed lower intake of the previous model, but I get a bass-mouth feel from the new air intake; it's emasculating to me.

MH: Loser
I like the Z's performance as much as the next driving enthusiast and I'm glad to see that it doesn't appear to have been diminished with this update, but I'm with Joe: Its auto show impact is essentially nil.

Comments 

sheth

that view of the ILX is the worst. It looks very bland and low rent from that angle. Too much air between the wheels and fenders, odd front end, small wheels. Verano has standard 18s- ILX needs them at least as options.

Skankzilla

There is nothing in the Acura lineup that excites me and the ILX isn't changing that.

The Mustang should really have a roll-bar as standard equipment or at least be a factory option. I wouldn't accept it as a dealer add-on.

WTF

Chicago Auto Show: Loser

Not one new car was unveiled. All were variations of, refreshes or previously unveiled cars.

tbird635

Guys, that 2013 Acadia looks just like the old Saturn Outlook. I mean IDENTICAL.
Oh, found this: http://blog.caranddriver.com/2013-gmc-acadia-raises-saturn-outlook-parts-from-the-dead-chicago-auto-show/

Skankzilla

tbird635,

They've been discussing that at another post. It was a "refresh", not a redesign. Since it shared practically everything when the Outlook was in service it is of no surprise that it still looks similar.

Lance

I like the ILX a lot but the mpg and drivetrain offerings are a little puzzling. What do you get in exchange for low mpg? It may be a hair heavier due to luxury content and sound deadening but not enough to explain the huge drop vs. the Civic. Did they retune for a lot more torque or what?

Also, just when I thought I could get a luxurious SI with an auto, it appears the 2.4 will be stick only. I like sticks but my DW will not have it. And even with the stick the mpg will not be any better than the TSX with an auto...a bigger car. Lots of questions on the strategy here.

WTF,
The ILX was new. Elantra trims too. But I know what you mean...

Tim

The Track'ster? Really Kia? It looks like they stole a MINI and fused all the panels together. I hate it when a company copies an iconic design purely because they feel its "in." Does Kia even know anything about heritage and why John Cooper put contrasting roof colors on the original Cooper S'? Then again, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Ziggy

Looks like the whole show was a bust...very disappointing.

WTF

The ILX already debuted in Detroit so this is just sloppy seconds.

WTF,
Yeah but it didn't have an interior and I thought looked better in Chicago.

The nice thing about the Chicago thing for actual consumers is that you get to see everything that debuted in Detroit (minus a few cars like the NSX concept) plus the ones that debut in Chicago.

For news it has become a bit less of a player though I agree.

WTF,
They also had a black ILX in Chicago. That always helps ;)

Ken L.

That unprotected open air damn on the GT500 is asking for trouble. In addition to the being the vacuum cleaner of the highway, it'll probably suck in small birds that happen to try to get away from it. And if it's ever parked on the street, you can bet some jerk will put some trash in there.

Lance

@wtf
If you really like cars the auto show is never a bust!

That said, if all you like are concepts and new intros than you need to go to Detroit or LA. Chicago's is great for really looking at cars you can buy now or in the very near future. I'm going next week!

sheth

hondas strategy of showing a "concept" in Detroit followed by a nearly identical production car in Chicago is just silly. Ive never seen anything like it, just show the real car ONCE and call it a day. The "concept" was simply the production car with a tint and larger wheels anyway. I hope they show the real RL at NY instead of some silly "concept".

Lance

@sheth
Your complaining about a concept that isn't quite ready and a month later showing the full production model. It may be a little silly but good marketing to get some extra press.

Chevy had the Cruze up on a pedestal where one couldn't even look inside at the auto shows for something like two years before they actually had a production model that looks exactly the same. GM is always showing concepts that are essentially productuon models for huge amounts of time before they are available. I guess that's good marketing too but even more "silly" than Acura is doing. At least the Acuras will be on dealer lots very shortly....not this fall or next year.

Grand looking. I like it so much..

Belly

I have to wonder what is going on at Cars.com these days.

Other commenters pointed out a funny thing about the Acadia and the old Saturn Outlook. The only difference is an upright grill. And these styling change "blows" away some of the reviewers?

Come on guys. You don't need to appease Shet and the rest of the GM crowd here.

Tim

Belly, sorry if you don't like GM for whatever reason. If the new Acadia looks good, it looks good, no matter of they used Saturn parts. My Regal GS looks spectacular, even though the body is a 3 year old Opel. Hey, Sarurns were decent looking cars, so there is no reason for GM not to use those parts. Let me guess Belly, you drive a Toyota?

MD

DT,KM,JB & CB. After your wimpy reviews of the new Shelby Cobra. You guys just need to go ahead and turn in your man cards now.

Belly

No Tim, I don't drive a Toyota. I have a Kia. Drove a Cobalt for a couple years before that, and a Civic for a long time before that. Never owned a Toyota.

And the part that GM borrowed from Saturn (Sarurn?) was not the front of the car. I am saying I agree that they look alike other than an upright grill.

How that styling change "blows" anyone away is very strange.

I could probably agree with that the first time someone saw the new version of the Dodge Ram pickup years ago, but nowadays? Come on...

chubby

Belly`s keepin it real.

sheth

Don't mind belly. He's a broken record. He has been justifying his hate of gm based on cobalt experience for years.

Lance:

The cruze wasn't shown 2 years before going on sale in the us. The camaro was shown as a concept well before it was on sale so I guess that's what your talking about. Automakers often show concepts to represent cars that are years away from production. Showing a concept of a car that is 3 months from production is stupid. I've never seen a concept and production car separated by 2 months before. Its silly and a way to try and drum up more attention with the same few models.

Belly

Shet, shet, there's isn't a GM that isn't the best he's ever met,

he hates Honda and Toyotas because they last so long, its too bad when he says GM makes em like that he is so wrong,

and even years ago when GM looked like it was in the frier, Shet would tell they make the best quality cars - such a fraud and a liar.

Skankzilla

Ooooh! I like rhymes!

...and I don't think anyone has ever had a positive experience with a Cobalt.

Lance


@sheth
Yes, the Cruze was shown at the 2009 and 2010 Chicago auto shows up on pedastals. The same car was being sold in other places in the world so the idea that it was a concept was pretty stupid. The car didn't go on sale until fall of 2010 so it was pretty close to two years. I remember because I was very interested in it and even asked the Chevy reps about why this thing was still on a pedestal and not on the floor where you could really look at it.

I'm just saying that GM does this all the time and with much greater lead times than other manufacturers. There's a difference between a obviously futuristic concept and something that they label concept but is in production form. Look at the new Encore vehicle. They are driving it around at the Chicago auto show and it is obviously in final form. When does it go on sale? A year from now of course. Gee, we first saw the Dodge Dart a month ago. When does it go on sale? In a couple of months.

Oh, and I'm really suprized that you didn't give cars.com sarcastic praise about the five "winner" tags attached to the Acadia. You hardly ever miss a chance.

sheth

@lance:

GM nor anyone else does this "all the time". YOu are inaccurate. The Cruze was first sold overseas so the car shown was a PRODUCTION Cruze. That isnt the same as whats going on here. Only Honda shows "concepts" that are basically production car with large rims. Showing the "concept" two months before the production car is absurd and pointless. For most automakers a concept is a car that is either a design experiment or a model that previews a future model that is still quite a ways from production. HOnda's version of a concept is pointless and apparently they have a policy against showing production cars more than a few weeks before they go on sale unlike most other automakers. THe encore wasnt a concept, its a production vehicle schedule to go into production before end of 2012. It has nothing to do with what Im talking about here. THey announced it as a 2013 PRODUCTION model. ATS was shown in Detroit and goes on sale this summer. XTS was shown in LA and goes on sale in Spring. Years between auto show debut and on sale date? Not unless youre talking Camaro.

sheth

Belli:

Dit say anything about GM quality and didnt say anything about hating TOyota or Honda. You cant hate an automaker (well you can) so the notion doesn't even make sense. Im generally not impressed by their products, but I dont hate them or even care about them one way or another. As far as Im concerned all of the domestic automakers are turning out more interesting products these days. And what is a "frier"?

Belly

Shet, please.

What is a "Dit?" You baron of grammatical inadequacy.

It has nothing to do with what Im talking about here.
-No kidding, Shet can't acknowledge his own double standard. No way!

Shet, you just take your medicine and be quiet.

Lance

@sheth
First you said the Cruze wasn't shown two years before it went on sale.
Then you admit, Oh, yeah it was shown but it was a production model that was being sold in other parts of the world so it doesn't count. Also the Encore doesn't count because GM said it isn't going to be on sale for a year. That's what I mean about GM. They are always showing production ready models that aren't going to be available for a year to two years. Really stupid and frustrating for the consumer. Talk about wanting to generate buzz ahead of time. By the time these things come to market they are old news.

And you are inaccurate saying Honda is the only one to show concepts a few months ahead of introduction. A couple of years ago at the auto show Ford had a 2010 Mustang on the floor all locked up so you couldn't sit in it. I spoke with the Ford people and they said that until a car actually is being shipped to dealers it is considered a concept. That was Ford but I've seen other similar things from other makers. So I don't why you hate on Honda so much but they are no worse than anyone else and not as bad as GM.

sheth

Belly:

That was a typo, not intentional use of a word that doesn't exist. And you didn't address anything else I said. Big Surprise there.

Lance:

Wrong again. I never said cruze was shwon 2 years in advance. I said when it was first shown in the us it was a production model. The only reason it was shown early is because it was going on sale in europe first. There was no point in not showing the car when it was all over the internet anyway. Please list production models shown at an auto show that weren't going to be on sale for 2 years. You are exaggerating and you know it. I gave you several examples where that wasn't the case. You can add sonic, regal, srx, malibu and others to the list of vehicles that were on sale less than a year after auto show debut. I'm not talking about inaccurate info given out by a marketing person at an auto show. All kinds of false info is offered by those folks. No one else offers thinly disguised concepts 5 months before a virtually identical production model debuts other than honda. I don't understand their logic at all and based on media coverage I've seen the press doesn't get it either.

sheth

Lance:

For the record, the "old news" argument has been made before and it never stands up. Remember all the hype over the supposed overexposure of the camaro? I read so many times that people wouldn't be interested once it came out. Turns out that was flat out wrong. Regular people don't follow autoshow news online. Most folks don't know about a new car until they see a commercial. Name one gm model that was a sales disappointment due to premature exposure. And don't say cruze.

Belly

Oh come on shet.

You cant hate an automaker (well you can) so the notion doesn't even make sense.
-Good point, if your age is between 5-8 years old. You are pathetic.

Im generally not impressed by their products, but I dont hate them or even care about them one way or another.
-Yawn, keep on with the bs.

As far as Im concerned all of the domestic automakers are turning out more interesting products these days.
-Even Chrysler? Are they still domestic? Yeah, admit the bias Shet. Its okay everyone on here knows you are a fraud.

that view of the ILX is the worst.

sheth

bellye:

Yes, even Chrysler now that they have an 8 speed in the LX cars and the Dart coming out. I find their latest products more interesting than Honda's recent products. Everyone is biased in one way or another, its called human nature. Unlike you, I dont go around trying to convince people not to buy cars I dont want to buy. If you love TOyota, Honda and Kia that's your choice. If you are happy with what you like I dont see the constant need to remind others than they shouldn't be considering the brands you don't like.

Mike

I have to say the auto show in St.Louis has been the worst it's been in years. I know we're not Chicago but they didn't even have Audi, BMW, Infiniti and some other brands you would expect. One thing that was odd was that there were about 10 Nissan Leafs on display. It was funny that the "nicest" car there was roped off: a Lexus LX....LOL

What is it with these ugly gapping, toothless front ends? Each one is uglier than the previous one. I guess the honkin' SUVs will never go bye-bye, even if they try the hybridize them, have some elephant flatten them and call them crossovers.

Belly

Unlike you, I dont go around trying to convince people not to buy cars I dont want to buy.
-Want a complete and absolute lie.

Everyone is biased in one way or another, its called human nature.
-Shet, you make excuses for your own failures. I can be introspective without being a outright liar like yourself. You should try it, unless GM's payroll won't let you.

If you are happy with what you like I dont see the constant need to remind others than they shouldn't be considering the brands you don't like.
-And like usual, the pot calls out the kettle...

sheth

"-Shet, you make excuses for your own failures. I can be introspective without being a outright liar like yourself."

LOL, its hard to believe you are an adult at times. Are you really being serious? Or is this an act?

Belly

LOL, its hard to believe you are an adult at times.
-LMAOFAROTF! You are an adult? I thought you were just a joke!

Are you really being serious? Or is this an act?
-"You cant hate an automaker (well you can) so the notion doesn't even make sense."

Nik

I really like the Nissan 370Z. I hope soon to try it on the road.

The Nissan 370Z a loser? No way. You can't really ask for more out of a vehicle, and you certainly won't find that kind of performance at such a great price in today's auto industry. Nissan has been doing a great job with it for over a decade now, and continues to make great updates and improvements each year.

Yes, even Chrysler now they have a eight speed LX cars and Dart out. I found that their latest products much more interesting Honda's latest products. Everyone has some prejudice, it is human nature. Unlike you, I do not go in trying to persuade people not to buy a car, I don't want to buy. If you love Toyota, Honda, kia is that your choice. If you are happy and you like something I shouldn't see constant need to remind others better than they should not consider to brand you don't like.

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