Our Rides: Closer To Normal: The 115th Chicago Auto Show

2023 Acura Integra. Photos by Randy Stern
2023 Acura Integra. Photos by Randy Stern

There are signs of normalization in 2023. Many of the events that had been put on hold or rescheduled – or even reconfigured – began their return last year. This year promises even more normalization after the COVID-19 Pandemic hit the pause button on the world.

The Chicago Auto Show was one of them. While going full scale in 2020 in its regularly scheduled February slot, the Pandemic caused a scramble to see whether the Chicago Auto Trade Association can hold it in the first place and what it would actually look like at McCormick Place south of The Loop.

The 2021 edition was reconfigured into a mix of indoor and outdoor experiences for that summer. Even with restrictions, the shortened Auto Show still attracted its share of visitors, along with a limited number of journalists and industry people.

The following year saw the show return to its traditional February timeslot. CATA reduced the actual space with many manufacturers holding off exhibiting with concerns about safety and the continued pandemic in the city.

2023 Toyota Prius

For various reasons, I have been unable to attend the Chicago Auto Show since that 2020 show. It has been at the core of my overall automotive work, working that show every year from 2011. The show helped plan on which vehicles should be featured in Lavender and to get a sense on how to cover our own local auto show in the Twin Cities.

For 2023, I have returned to McCormick Place, as CATA welcomed the media to the 115th edition of the Chicago Auto Show.

The City of Chicago opened up both the North and South Halls of McCormick Place for the show again – over a million square feet of vehicles from a number of brands. Included in that space are seven indoor tracks. They range from exhibiting the prowess of the most capable off-roaders in the market to electric vehicle experiences. The latter include a new program that began last year called Chicago Drives Electric as a way to help consumers experience a number of EVs they were considering.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek

One of the big attractions for visitors – and the media alike – was the Wintrust Super Car exhibit. This features the most desirable automobiles in the world, from brands such as Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce. The exhibit showed off the resurrection of the Lamborghini Countach – essentially a rebodied Aventador made to look almost like the original poster car.

The purpose of a major auto show was to introduce us the newest offerings in the market. Big press conferences to trot out the latest wares available within the next few months. Chicago used to be known for the biggest debuts of the year, as it was the first place to show the world some of the industry’s icons. That list included the original Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Acura NSX.

This year, we witnessed the arrival of a larger 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, engineered to accommodate adults in the third row of seats. Subaru also rolled out a revised 2024 Crosstrek, which should be of interest to our demographic. Plus, Volkswagen unveiled their updated Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport for 2024. Those were the noteworthy debuts the Chicago Auto Show hosted.

2023 Toyota Crown

Going into the show, I had been compiling a list of new vehicles I wanted to see up close. Some of which I had in mind for our magazine. For example, the fifth-generation 2023 Toyota Prius is the latest chapter of one of our community’s favorite vehicles. It is lower, sleeker, more powerful, and have sparked many conversations that would change the image of this vanguard of electrified vehicles.

Another vehicle that I was happy to see was the new 2023 Toyota Crown. They replaced the Avalon sedan with a completely new-to-North America all-hybrid “apex” vehicle that looks like a fastback with a hatch. The truth is that it is really a sedan – with a trunk. It just looks very sleek, something Toyota has been working on in turn towards changing up their design philosophy.

Alas, one cannot truly meet their heroes on an auto show floor. We’re not talking about that $2.8 Million Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4 that was mentioned earlier in this article. On a personal level, it was the 2023 Acura Integra.

Lamborghini Countach LPI 800 4

If you owned something truly special at the most appropriate time in your life and you enjoyed every second behind the wheel, there is always some sort of spark when a new version of that vehicle becomes available. For me, that car was the Integra. I’ll explain more when we get one in for this magazine.

By the time this issue comes out, the show’s run would be over. However, the Twin Cities Auto Show is just around the corner. It will return to the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 31 – celebrating its 50th anniversary. Lavender will have a preview article coming up in our next issue.

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