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Chicago Auto Show: Gut reactions from the floor



This is a bit of a delayed Gut Reaction to the Chicago auto show.

For those of you familiar with AutoWeek vernacular, GRs are our quick-hit reactions from the show floor in the wake of car reveals and press conferences. So apparently it took awhile for my stomach to settle, but now that it has--the Windy City spectacular can be condensed into two must-see things: the Taurus SHO and the Corvette Stingray.

To borrow from some more AW jargon, we’ll call this Truth & Beauty.

The Truth, or perhaps substance, is the new performance version of Ford’s flagship sedan. This is a car to check out. At $37,995, it’s priced a bit below Chrysler’s 300C with awd, and it’s a true sleeper. At first glance, it appears identical to the regular Taurus, and you have to look closely to check out the SHO badging on the trunk lid in the back.

But think about this: all-wheel stability and performance, and 365 horses and 350 lb-ft of torque from an EcoBoost V6 powerplant. That’s not bad. Throw in the 25-mpg highway figure, and it’s a car that makes a nice commuter cruiser for parents looking to spice up their mundane work-a-day-lives.

And the Taurus is a good base to work off for a performance-oriented sedan. Just enough chrome, nice taillights that sort of channel the Interceptor concept and some understated sheetmetal. If you’re dropping by Chi-Town, the SHO is one of the show’s stars.

Now for the Beauty. That’s the Corvette Stingray concept that General Motors unveiled at Chicago. It’s a true looker, blending cues from the 1959 Stingray race car and the 1963 split-back. Spectacular styling lines, a sharky-style grille, chrome wheels--it’s one of the best-looking rides at the show.

But here’s the rub. GM held a splashy press conference to unveil a movie prop. This concept doesn’t even run, design boss Ed Welburn said, and he was particularly careful not to allude in any way if it might hint at future Corvettes. It’s main role is to play the character Sideswipe in the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen film due in June.

The concept is a styling exercise created by some Corvette designers a couple of years back, and Transformers director Michael Bay was taken by its looks on a tour of GM studios.

Like the Hollywood director, you too will be blown away by the lines and presence of this sports car. Just try not to think about the lack of engine under the hood and the half-interior.

Beyond those two, it’s a fairly calm show. Lots of cars have already been seen by the media, but it’s very consumer-oriented with spread-out displays and room to sit in most of the sheetmetal. If you make it to Chicago, it’s worth your time to scope out the Genesis coupe, which is going on sale this spring, and is a worthy Mustang fighter. The R-Spec version is an option worth investigating if you’re a driving enthusiast, but don’t want to drop serious cash.

The Dodge Ram Heavy Duty is simply monstrous, and worth taking pictures of--plus the Chrysler exhibit has cars you can actually drive. Acura’s TSX with a V6 powerplant pushing out 280 hp is a nice option for those looking for an upscale ride, and considerable improvement over the four cylinder. With fuel at reasonable levels again, it’s a smart move for Acura.

So there you have it. After a couple of days of pacing the floor in Chicago, those are our basic conclusions. It’s a true consumer show with some eye candy and some decent displays to benchmark future purchases.

And--it’s in Chicago. Get your fill of cars and than hit one of the city’s many museums or watering holes. Seems like a win-win for car people.

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