With an estimated 1,000 new vehicles spread out over 1.1 million square feet at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, there may be temptation to drive one or a hundred of them. The doors of show floor models may be opened to get a feel behind the wheel, but most of the driving will be reserved for another time at dealer lots.
There are a handful of riding and driving experiences, however, to put a rumble in your seat and a throttle at your feet. From ride alongs at five indoor test tracks to virtual reality simulators and real world driving experiences outside McCormick Place, there’s enough new car experiences to get your motor running.Mini Lego Batmobile build station Robert Duffer
Lego builders make mini Lego Batmobiles at the Chevy display during the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. The 350,000-piece life-size Lego Batmobile waits in the wings.
Lego builders make mini Lego Batmobiles at the Chevy display during the 2017 Chicago Auto Show. The 350,000-piece life-size Lego Batmobile waits in the wings.(Robert Duffer)
Indoor test tracks (all South Hall)
New for 2017, Mercedes-Benz tucked its steel mountain named after a peak in Austria in the far back corner of the South Hall. Don’t miss this rocky gem, however. Ride in a G 550 V-8 SUV, or Gelandewagen, up a 42 degree incline to a height of 27 feet above the show floor, then totter on a see-saw before descending--and stopping mid-descent--where you’ll be glad you buckled in. The demo takes less than 2 minutes and registration is required at the display.
The iconic Chicago display which has been around since 2004 features a 35-degree hill rising above the show floor from the back of the South Hall. Rock on three wheels with a pro driver, stop on a thirty-degree bank, bust some boulders and, new for this year, climb up a down a set of stairs in any Jeep trail-rated product, from the Renegade subcompact crossover to the topless Wrangler Rubicon. Jeep predicts 20,000 people will partake, so expect a line; it’s pretty cool to watch even if you don’t feel like waiting. Camp Jeep riders must be at least 44 inches.
FCA City Drive
Next to Camp Jeep is a more urban-minded test track with everything from the Chrysler Pacifica minivan to a 485-horsepower Dodge Challenger Scat Pack or Charger Daytona with a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 engine that you can hear throughout the South Hall. There’s a winding road and a sound dampening demo before you get to the main event, a straight shot acceleration and braking demo where the pro driver will slam the gas then the brakes in a roar of combustion and squeal of rubber. The topless Fiat 124 Abarth Spider will be available as well.
Ram Truck Territory
Ram’s 30,000 square-foot pickup-truck course features towing, a culvert element to test the suspension, hill descent and approach at a 30-degree angle, in the Ram Rebel, Ram 2500 and the Ram 3500 diesel, which will pull a 30,000-pound weight over a pulley. New for 2017.
Toyota Go The Distance course
The tamest of the indoor test tracks features the RAV4 and Toyota Highlander with gas and hybrid engines. It too has a teeter-totter but is more about how the tech works, such as an all-wheel drive demonstration and how rear cross-traffic alert works. Also on the Toyota display is plenty of Cubs-wrapped vehicles, including a Tundra with a giant World Series trophy replica. Toyota sponsors the Cubs and Wrigley Field. There is a Sox-wrapped RAV4 as well, but it comes in second.
The 2017 Chicago Auto Show held its media preview at McCormick Place on Feb. 9, 2017. The show opens to the public Feb. 11 and runs until Feb. 20, 2017.(Chicago Tribune)
Outdoor test drives:
As of press time, Ford, Kia, Mazda and Subaru are offering outdoor test drives of certain 2017 models. Sign up for test drives at the automakers' display areas; the staging areas are usually in the lower level. Must have a license and may have to pass a breathalyzer. Visit the events tab for more info (www.chicagoautoshow.com/news/events) during the show.
Ford (South Hall) models include the Fusion, Escape, Explorer, Focus, Edge, and F-150. And the old 2017 Mustang.
Kia (North Hall) models include Cadenza, Forte, Optima and Optima Hybrid, Sedona minivan, Sorento, Sportage, and possibly the Niro. The product specialists we spoke to were unsure about the Niro.
Mazda (North Hall) models include the Mazda3, Mazda6, MX-5, CX-3, CX-5, CX-9 all in top-of-the-line Grand Touring or Signature (CX-9) trim.
Subaru (North Hall) models include the Legacy, Outback, Forester, Impreza and Crosstrek. Only the sporty Subarus such as the BRZ and WRX will be out of the lineup.Chicago Auto Show: If you go Nausheen Husain and Jemal Brinson The 109th Chicago Auto Show takes over McCormick Place for a little more than a week beginning Feb. 11. The show brings nearly 1,000 kinds of vehicles from more than 30 automakers. When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 11 to Feb. 20, (10 a.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 20) Where: McCormick Place North and South, 23rd Street... The 109th Chicago Auto Show takes over McCormick Place for a little more than a week beginning Feb. 11. The show brings nearly 1,000 kinds of vehicles from more than 30 automakers. When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 11 to Feb. 20, (10 a.m.-8 p.m. Feb. 20) Where: McCormick Place North and South, 23rd Street... (Nausheen Husain and Jemal Brinson)
If you prefer the pixelated driving experience, or want to get your hands on a steering wheel and a fake gas pedal without leaving the show floor, try these simulators.
Ford F-150 Raptor simulator shakes, rattles and almost rolls drivers over a virtual off-road course. Must be at least 5-feet-2 inches tall.
Ford GT Sim-Zilla returns! The three-person supercar simulator blasts engine revs and throttles drivers on its six hydraulic legs, as they navigate a LeMans-like track on three wide screens. Must be at least 5 feet 2 inches to operate but kids can sit along.
Ford Dynamometer is the loudest display on the show floor with the roar of the 2017 Mustang GT V-8 engine. Exhaust is mostly piped out the building but you still get the feel of the rear-wheel-drive pony car accelerating towards 150 mph on this stationary display that in years past has drawn a big crowd.
Dodge Challenger simulator rocks drivers back and forth and hums with engine vibration based on the display outside the virtual “muscle car.”
Acura NSX simulator: Design your own NSX supercar then take it for a spin, with virtual reality goggles, a steering wheel and gas pedal.
Chrysler Pacifica play zone has a mini slide, mini ball pit, sliding door, and back-of-headrest screens for kids to play with--and plenty of seating for parents to rest.
Nissan GT-R simulator lets you steer while standing.
Hyundai brings back its two racing simulators.
While you can’t drive it, you can build a mini Lego Batmobile beside the 350,000-piece life size Lego Batmobile at the Chevy display. The build center features two tables with a seven-step build process that you can take home in a mini Chevy bag. In the words of Emmet from The Lego Movie, everything is awesome.
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