The return of the Chicago Auto Show for 2021 allows car shoppers to scratch an itch they’ve been waiting to scratch for well over a year — seeing new vehicles in the flesh. The Chicago Auto Show opens to the public today, and although it looks different from previous years, what hasn’t changed is the plethora of new vehicles, special editions and concept cars to get excited about.
The preview day started with a Jeep press conference, where the automaker showcased two new offerings for 2022. Up first was the live reveal of the 2022 Compass that gets a significant interior refresh and tech upgrades.
Jeep also highlighted a new Xtreme Recon Package that outfits the Wrangler with 35-inch all-terrain tires straight from the factory, a 1.5-inch factory suspension lift and specially tuned shocks. The package offers what Jeep says is best-in-class approach, breakover and departure angles of 47.4, 26.7, and 40.4 degrees, respectively, plus water fording of 33.6 inches and ground clearance of 12.9 inches.
The second big reveal came when Volkswagen took the wraps off its hot-hatch duo, the 2022 Golf GTI and Golf R. Both vehicles keep many of their iconic styling features, but receive noteworthy performance and tech upgrades. More power comes from an updated turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and handling improvements come courtesy of the now-standard electronically controlled torque-vectoring limited-slip differential. The Golf R also gets a new AWD system for improved cornering. If you weren’t part of the media in attendance at the debut, then you missed these new VWs because the redesigned Golf GTI and Golf R aren’t sticking around for the show’s public days.
The Chicago Auto Show gives attendees a closer look at Ford’s new all-electric F-150 Lightning and the Maverick with its standard hybrid powertrain. The F-150 Lightning stands out with a target of a maximum 563 horsepower and 775 pounds-feet of torque, an optional 15.5-inch tablet-style display and its large frunk (front trunk).
The affordably priced Maverick is also on display, showing off its ability to fit a bike in its small bed — though with the tailgate lowered and the front wheel of the bike removed.
Two vehicles steal the show at Nissan’s display this year: the all-electric Nissan Ariya and the Z Proto. The Ariya targets up to 300 miles of range for the long-range version, gets 300 hp and sports a more conventional, less futuristic design than we expected. Sports car enthusiasts will be more interested in the Z Proto that arrives in Chicago in close-to-production form. Nissan says it will launch the production version at the New York International Auto Show on Aug. 17.
The 2022 Kia EV6 shows off the brand’s first dedicated battery-electric vehicle in Chicago. The crossover (in its preproduction form) looks even better in person, with a unique exterior that boasts a commanding presence and a spacious interior with plenty of storage and ambient lighting. The EV6 is expected to get a maximum 300-mile range estimate and anywhere from 167 hp to the EV6 GT’s 576 hp.
Ram shines the spotlight on three new special edition 1500 pickup trucks in Chicago. A 2022 Ram 1500 Limited 10th Anniversary Edition gets premium interior materials, a standard multifunction tailgate and an exclusive Blue Shade paint job. The 2022 Ram 1500 Laramie G/T and Ram 1500 Rebel G/T get a Mopar performance exhaust, cold-air intake and standard performance pages. Paddle shifters, a console-mounted performance shifter and a metal pedal kit are added for the first time in models other than the TRX. Lastly, a new BackCountry Edition adds uniquely tuned shocks, all-terrain tires, skid plates, electronic rear differential and hill descent control to the 2022 Big Horn and Lone Star trims.