Day two of the Chicago Show is a lonely day. There are actually two separate and important press briefing in the morning.
One includes the first time we've been able to see the new Porsche Cayenne GTS, which uses the powerful V-8 along with an optional buttery-smooth six-speed transmission. We've spent some time with this transmission in the V-6 (which we should be getting into the office pretty soon) overseas and to have it mated with the V-8 should be a blast. Porsche says it won't be bringing in very many (about 1200), but that number could change depending on demand.
-- The other press conference of note is a small affair outside the confines of the actual McCormick Place Convention halls. Not long ago, Navistar and General Motors entered into a “memorandum of understanding” to discuss the eventual sale of the entire GM medium-duty truck business. This means the two parties are working toward an agreement that would put both the Chevy Topkick and GMC Kodiak in complete control of Navistar. Naturally, and to its credit, GM has required Navistar to keep, maintain, and support the existing GM and GMC fleet and commercial dealerships that sell these products. At this point, both parties say they've bent over backward explaining to the dealers that they'll keep getting trucks and continue to get strong corporate support. Eventually (like in two years), all production of the two medium-duty trucks will go to Navistar and GM will be able to use the existing Flint plant for another, yet to be disclosed, product.
-- Wandering the Chicago show, more than most, is likely to reveal a few hidden treasures. Not sure why that's true but when manufacturers have interesting products or experiments they don't necessarily want to tout with a blowhorn, sometimes they just sit them out there to see if anyone will notice. One vehicle in the Toyota stand like this is the Tundra Warrior, essentially an option package that they're looking to offer down the road. The groupings of stylish package options are meant to give the truck a more burly and menacing look. Beyond that, there doesn't seem to be any real functional advantage.
- -I really like the idea of the Volvo XC70 Cross Country Surf and Rescue. Clearly a wagon with bigger tires, more elevation, and a serious adventure theme, this SUW (sport-utility wagon) was presented originally at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, but also has appeared in Chicago, where winter weather and nasty road conditions seem a perfect fit. Not much surf around the lake, but we see a few potholes on the local roads large enough to swallow small children.
-- Another show-stopper is this Ford F-650 XUV just sitting on the carpet outside the Ford area from Alton Truck Company. They call it their XUV (Xtreme Utility Vehicle) and say they sell about 10 or 12 a year, and their most famous purchaser was Shaq (now on the Phoenix Suns). The modified regular cab has a 158-inch wheelbase, a 25,999-pound GVWR, and used a 7.2-liter C7 ACERT torque monster under the hood. And don't forget about the 42-inch plasma TV screen in the rear, with a custom sound system for those outdoor tailgating parties. The Chassis from Ford will set you back about $65K, but the rest of the custom mods will just about double that price. Still, it's a heck of a lot more impressive than a Bentley GT, and they'll only carry two people.
-- Every so often, to make sure they have something special to show the local audience, the big carmakers will have a shop create something special. Here's a Chrome Shop Mafia Hauler designed to tow just about any show trailer that can be built. This F-650 also has a Caterpillar engine but sits on a 194-inch wheelbase and offers all sorts of custom storage bins in its custom platform. Not too wild but full of custom interior mods, this is the ultimate cross-country hauler.
-- I've spoken with Warrack Leach, lead designer for Holden, about the GMC Denali XT concept vehicle that seems to be getting quite a bit of time on a video we're playing on trucktrend.com. He's the real deal. There's no question he's got a soft spot for this vehiclen and it's clear he thinks it could make a good seller here in the U.S. My only reservation is that this country, unlike Australia, is saddled with the echoes of the El Camino and El Caballero, neither of which ever sold in any respectable numbers. With that said, if Bob Lutz puts his push behind this small-volume, personality-driven vehicle, it'll make it to production without much pushback. They'll be showing the Pontiac version, we're hearing, at the New York auto expo next month so we'll get another crack at seeing what GM can do with a different brand.
-- One of the highlights of the Chicago show is that, somehow, Jeep and Dodge have been able to get around all the usual convention hall restrictions that prevent any vehicles from being started inside the buildings. In the past, union reasons have always been the need for proper ventilation, but that hurdle must have been overcome because a mini Camp Jeep trail drive is one of the highlights here for show goers and journalists alike. There are ruts, stream crossings, hillclimbs, obstacle challenges, and log navigation all to be done in a 4x4 Jeep Wrangler. Even if it's not your thing, it's fun to watch the faces of the drivers and passengers as they climb and descend the man-made mountains in the Wrangler's low-range gearing.
-- International is showing off its newest creation, the International LoneStar big rig, with all the loud music, smoke machines, and flashing lights you'd expect from any big manufacturer new vehicle introduction. Its press conferences have come along way, but that might be because this new commercial hauler is something special. Looking like one of the mid-30s D-Series work trucks (Google it, they're pretty cool), the new cross-country home-on-wheels also looks pretty cool. I thought the MaxxPro was our favorite, but this will be something special too.