Welcome to the Hooniverse News! This week, I’m LIVE(ish) from the 2016 Chicago Auto Show media preview bringing you the biggest stories from the show floor. Compared to the other major auto shows in America, Chicago always seems to be the most practical show of them all. There are plenty of six-figure luxury cars and carbon fiber-tubbed sports cars on display, but the actual debuts are of more modest and at least somewhat family-friendly offerings. There’s quite a bit to talk about, so let’s get to it. This week:
Nissan double-downs on land-yacht SUVs with the 2017 Armada
Chevrolet Camaro 1LE returns
Kia reveals a trio of new hybrids
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is prepped for off-road duty
Ram updates their ultimate off-road truck
Hyundai refreshes the Santa Fe
Chevrolet updates the Trax to remind you it exists
What’s your automotive news?
2017 Nissan Armada
Recent trends in the automotive industry call for reducing the number of large SUVs in lineups, dropping cylinders, and making a thousand different variants of crossovers. Nissan themselves have been doing this to an extent by axing the Xterra and offering all sorts of crossovers, so imagine the surprise when this V8-powered land yacht drives into the light for the first time at their press event. It’s unabashedly old-fashioned and probably not the kind of thing green car advocates want to see, but it’s probably one of the last real SUVs remaining and it’s worthy of a bit of respect. With the introduction of the 2017 Armada, Nissan has completed the once-a-decade transformation of their SUV/crossover lineup. It’s a fresh design on traditional body-on-frame construction to offer the kind of ruggedness that other SUVs turned sort-of-SUVs-but-actually-crossovers can only dream of. Nissan went for a typical “powerful and refined” look on its exterior design, but unlike other vehicles that try do to the same, this design looks very welcoming in person – by that I mean it doesn’t look like it’s angry or over-the-top at all. It doesn’t look like it’s trying to eat the Prius blocking the left lane. It just looks normal, civilized, and welcoming. To me it says “hey, family, let’s go for an adventure!” Not enough SUVs look like that anymore. But don’t let its friendly looks fool you – this thing is tougher than ever underneath. The side rails of the fully-boxed frame are beefier which helps make it 20% stiffer. When “properly equipped”, it can tow 8,500 pounds. The powertrain underneath it all has also been completely redesigned. Nissan engineers laughed at the idea of downsizing and adding turbos and instead have made the V8 that came with it more powerful than before. It’s an all-new 5.6-liter naturally-aspirated Endurance V8 which produces 390 horsepower (up from 317 hp) and 401 lb.-ft. of torque (up from 385) lb.-ft.). It utilizes a new direct injection system to improve performance, boost fuel economy (lol), and lower emissions. This Endurance V8 will also be available in the Titan pickup later this year. The Armada’s only transmission option is the new seven-speed automatic which further boosts efficiency through wider gear ratios, ATF warmer, and idle neutral control. Two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive options are available, both of which are capable of that 8,500 pound towing rating. The Armada has room for eight inside and has generous amounts of space for anyone not in the 3rd row – that’s still very much for kids only. The ergonomics and materials used are more comfortable now and the upgraded climate control is fit for quick cooling and heating the vast expanse that is the Armada’s interior. They’ve also worked to make the interior as quiet as possible through the use of acoustic glass and sound absorption materials, making it the perfect place to enjoy the thirteen-speaker Bose sound system. The driver also benefits from a host of new safety features including Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Lane Departure Prevention/Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Blind Spot Intervention (which warns of vehicles approaching blind spots), Around View Monitor, and more. Assembly for the Armada has been shifted from its US plant to Japan in order to free up more space for expanding Titan production in America. The Endurance V8 engines are built in Tennessee. Yes, the engines are build in America and then shipped to Japan to be slapped into an SUV being sold in America. The 2017 Nissan Armada will be on sale in the coming months. [Source: Nissan | Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE
The only high-performance debut of the Chicago Auto Show was in the Chevrolet booth. The bright green Camaro was the center of attention, but it wasn’t until I perused the GM media site just now that I noticed it was something new. Oops. The big news here is the return of the 1LE package for the 2017 Camaro. As with the last one, this package focuses on attainable track performance, improving handling, composure, and features to make it a force to reckon with. Also, for the first time, they’ll give it to you with a choice of engines. The 1LE package can be tacked on to the LT (V6) or SS (V8) Camaro model this time around, each one shares many of the same components giving you the option of a true track beast either way. The LT 1LE uses the 3.6-liter V6 rated at 335 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission to drive the rear wheels. Special equipment includes FE3 suspension components (adopted from the SS) such as the dampers, rear cradle mounts, and stabilizer bars. It rides on twenty-inch forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. Other unique features include Brembo 4-piston front calipers, mechanical limited-slip differential, suede steering wheel and shorter-throw shifter, dual-mode exhaust system, satin black hood, front splitter, unique three-piece rear spoiler, and Recaro seats. The SS 1LE benefits even greater from the package. Its 6.2-liter LT1 V8 still cranks out 455 horsepower and is only available with a six-speed manual. It also features Magnetic Ride Control, electronic limited-slip differential, unique forged aluminum wheels with 285 front/305 rear width Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires, six-piston front Brembo brakes, track cooling package (adds engine oil, differential, and transmission coolers), suede steering wheel with short-throw shifter, dual-mode exhaust, three-piece rear spoiler, front and rear diffusers, Recaro seats, and available Performance Data Recorder. The 1LE package is available on 2017 Camaro LT and SS Coupes starting near the end of 2016. Pricing isn’t official yet, but the 1LE Camaro is sure to be a serious contender at your next track day. [Source: Chevrolet | Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
Kia Niro, Optima Hybrid, Optima Plug-In Hybrid
Kia revealed a trio of hybrids here in Chicago, two of which they say are all new and one of which that actually is all new. The Optima will be available as a Hybrid (again) and now as a Plug-In Hybrid, but the newest thing there was what they call a Hybrid Utility Vehicle, or better known as the Niro. The 2017 Kia Niro is what they call a no compromise package, that being a utility vehicle with practicality, comfort, and “style” with outstanding fuel economy. The numbers aren’t official yet (the EPA is a little busy with other things) but Kia is targeting 50 mpg combined with this one. Kia is making that happen (hopefully) by designing this from the ground up to be as efficient as possible, starting from its very core. The platform has been designed to accommodate unique gasoline/electric powertrains and is comprised of high-strength steel (53% of it) and other lightweight materials such as aluminum for certain body panels. They’ve even optimized the battery and parking brake pedal for weight savings, but structural integrity was still a priority with the use of hot-stamped components and industrial joint adhesive to keep it strong and rigid. The powertrain on the Niro consists of a Kappa 1.6-liter GDI four-cylinder engine, engineered specifically for hybrid applications. It makes 103 horsepower on its own and represents the first use of the Atkinson Cycle, cooled exhaust gas recirculation, and a long-stroke-narrow-bore specification, all aimed at improving efficiency. It also uses an exhaust heat recovery system, which speeds up engine warm-up by routing cooling to a heat exchanger in the exhaust system. A transmission-mounted, 43-horsepower electric motor works in tandem with the gas engine to produce a total of 146 horsepower and 195 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s all routed through a new six-speed dual-clutch automatic. Kia also claims the two systems work seamlessly together to make it feel a perfectly normal car when driving. It’s packed with other fuel-saving technologies that are too detailed to mention here in summary, but I’d say they’ll achieve that 50 mpg no problem. It comes loaded with a connected infotainment system borrowed from other models and gives you the option of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto displayed on a seven-inch touch screen. Pricing is not available yet. Now for the 2017 Kia Optima Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid. The Kia Optima Hybrid features a tweaked powertrain and improved aerodynamic efficiency for a 10% boost in efficiency. The Kia Optima Plug-In Hybrid like an Optima Hybrid but it’s actually a plug-in hybrid – you can tell by the way it is. [Source: Kia | Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
If you want a new Toyota Tacoma that’s fully-prepped for spending more time off road, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) has your new ride. On display at the Chicago Auto Show is the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, the most off-road capable Tacoma ever offered from the factory. Toyota’s TRD Pro series was launched a few years ago with the introduction of the Tundra and 4Runner TRD Pro in an effort to show off their capabilities and honor their off-road racing heritage. The 2017 Tacoma is the third vehicle to join the TRD Pro lineup. What makes this a TRD Pro is the factory-installed off-road equipment designed or certified by TRD’s off-road racing experts. The same team that used to race and win at Baja spec’d out the new Tacoma with 16″ TRD black alloy wheels wrapped in Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Kevlar-reinforced tires, aluminum skid plates, Rigid Industries LED fog lights, all-important badging, FOX 2.5 Internal Bypass shocks tuned by TRD, specially tuned front springs with a 1″ lift, and tuned rear suspension with progressive-rate off-road leaf springs. Every Tacoma TRD Pro also come with some unique exterior and interior touches that just make it look cooler and don’t affect its off-road ability in any way. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 with DOHC, direct-injection, Atkinson Cycle stuff, and variable timing. Some amount of horsepower is distributed through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox hooked up to its 4WDemand part-time 4WD system with a transfer case and automatic limited-slip differential that are both electronically controlled. The 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro is available this fall as a double-cab short bed model only. Vehicle assembly is in Toyota’s San Antonio, Texas plant. [Source: Toyota | Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
2017 Ram Power Wagon
Ram was at the Chicago Auto Show to reveal the all-new, completely redesigned 2017
Dodge Ram Power Wagon. They’ve given it a substantial amount of attention for the 2017 model year and have sought to make it truly stand out in the incredibly competitive truck market, especially compared to its closest rival, the Ford F-150, which just had a major overhaul of its own. With the 2017 Power Wagon, Ram has proven they’re more worthy of your hard-earned dollars given the sheer amount of effort they went through to give you the newest, most advanced truck available. They’ve accomplished this by making it look more like the Ram Rebel… All of the changes in order include:
- New front grille design.
- New paint colors.
- New wheels.
- New interior colors and materials.
- New “Macho Power Wagon”-inspired side graphic.
- Ram “Articulink” front suspension for greater flexibility, the only substantial update on this truck.
Nothing else worth mentioning was upgraded. The only substantial change I could find on this was the new suspension… I mean, sure. I guess that’s all it needed to move more units. It’ll hit dealerships towards the end of the year. [Source: Ram | Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport
Hyundai’s successful Santa Fe lineup is getting a bit of a refresh this year. This one consists of new styling, an expanded offering of entertainment/convenience technology, and new safety features. Starting with the 2017 model year, more of the Santa Fe’s production is being moved to Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama plant to meet greater demand. 2017 Santa Fes are arriving in dealerships meow. The exterior is lightly updated this year (it just had a major redesign a few years ago) with a redesigned front fascia including a new grille and redesigned headlights, new rear fascia, new wheel designs in 17-19″ sizes, new available LED running lights, and new trim pieces. On the inside, it receives a new standard seven-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto or an available eight-inch touchscreen display with navigation and Android Auto, available Infinity premium audio, and other convenience features throughout the cabin. Updates to the safety systems include the mandated standard backup camera, available Mutli-View Camera system, Smart Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Bending Light (moving headlights), and High Beam Assist. Drivers will also notice the addition of three new driving modes tuned for different situations. Its new Drive Mode Selector includes Sport, Eco, and Normal modes. Everything else is carried over from the previous year, including its front or all-wheel drive configuration, seating for five, six, or seven passengers, and three engine options dependent on trim level and the number of seats. [Source: Hyundai |Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
2017 Chevrolet Trax
Remember this thing? I don’t either. Chevrolet launched a fresh new design for what they claim to be one of America’s best-selling small SUVs, the Trax. For the 2017 model year it’ll sport a fully reworked exterior design based off Chevrolet’s latest design language along with new interior materials with a few visual updates, new safety features, and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto integration. Yep. It goes on sale this fall. [Source: Chevrolet | Images © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]
What’s your automotive news?
It’s been a wonderful couple days in Chicago, as always, and it’s tough to leave this city once again. The auto show here is never the most exciting or grandest show in the US, but it’s still wonderful in its own way. The public days start tomorrow. Now let’s hear from you! If you saw anything, fixed something, broke everything, or otherwise did anything even remotely car related that you want to share with your fellow hoon, sound off in the comments. Have a good weekend. [Image © 2016 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]