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Trucks grab spotlight at Chicago auto show

Ram jumps into commercial van segment while Toyota shows off new Tundra pickup

Published: February 8, 2013, 9:00 PM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 3:25 PM

Chicago auto show, 2014 Toyota Tundra

There was also news in the car segment, with Kia, Nissan, Volkswagen and Chevrolet all revealing new models.

Read on for details.

Ram ProMaster:

Fiat’s takeover of Chrysler has had an impact on the North American brand’s product line – the compact Dodge Dart sedan, for example, has roots that connect directly to the Italian company’s products. Now Ram’s commercial truck division is capitalizing on the collaboration with the launch of the ProMaster cargo vans and chassis cabs.

These new, full-size, front-wheel-drive trucks are based on the Fiat Ducato, a popular commercial vehicle in Europe. The powertrain and suspension have been changed to suit the North American market, with a choice of two engines – a 3.6-litre V-6 or a 3.0-litre turbo diesel. Both are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

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The ProMaster cargo van, which will challenge the new Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Nissan’s NV lineup in the segment, can be ordered in 13 different configurations, with two roof heights, three wheelbases and four body lengths available.

Thanks to the front-wheel-drive format, outfitters have a completely clear package to work with aft of the cab. The layout also allows for a flat floor in both the cab and cargo area, as well as a lower ride height, making access easier. The ProMaster is scheduled to go on sale in the third quarter of this year.

Toyota Tundra:

It’s been seven years since the full-size Tundra pickup was given a major overhaul, so there was much anticipation to see what the 2014 iteration would be like when it was unveiled here. The changes to the interior are significant, while the exterior styling is an attractive evolution of the previous design.

The new Tundra will be available in five trim levels, each with its own unique interior styling features that are suited to the needs and budgets of the buyer.

The lineup starts with the basic work truck, followed by the SR5, the expected volume leader, plus three upscale trim levels, including two premium models – Platinum and the new 1794 E[dition.

This addition to the lineup has a western theme featuring premium saddle leather seat coverings and leather and suede trim – a tribute to the Texas ranch where the company’s San Antonio truck assembly plant is now located.

The Tundra will be offered as a regular two-door cab and a four-door Double Cab, available in two-wheel and four-wheel-drive configurations, as well as the four-door CrewMax, which is only offered as a 4x4.

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The spacious cabin in all models features a new instrument panel with easy-to-read gauges and a centre-mounted information display. The centre stack has been moved 66 millimetres closer to the driver, making access easier. As in its predecessor, the knobs for the audio and climate control systems can be operated while wearing gloves.

There’s ample storage space in the centre console for all kinds of gear, whether the Tundra is being used as a working vehicle or a family hauler. The seats have been redesigned to provide better support and comfort and front-seat ventilation has been improved.

The Tundra’s exterior has been redone to reflect a more chiseled look with bold new grilles, new three-piece bumpers, sculptured side panels and a tailgate with built-in spoiler. Again, styling touches unique to each trim level are implemented to distinguish among the siblings.

While the new interiors and exterior changes are noteworthy, the available powertrains are unchanged from those introduced with the current generation seven years ago. Only two engine choices are available – both V-8s (the base six-cylinder engine in the U.S. will not be offered in Canada), and they are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission.

There’s no diesel in Tundra’s immediate future, nor are there plans to pursue the advanced technologies, such as turbocharging and eight-speed transmissions, that competing brands are introducing in the pursuit of more power and improved fuel efficiency.

The base engine is the tried-and-true 4.6-litre DOHC i-Force V-8, which pumps out 310 horsepower and 327 lb.-ft. of torque. The optional choice is another familiar V-8, this one with 5.7 litres of displacement and generating 381 horsepower and 401 lb-ft of torque.

The new Tundra will be launched in September, with pricing expected to be at that time.

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel:

Forty percent of European Cruze sales are diesel powered and Chevrolet thinks North Americans may finally be ready to jump on the oil-burner bandwagon, too. For 2014, Chevy is adding a diesel sedan to its Cruze lineup, taking dead aim at Volkswagen’s Jetta TDI sedan.

This new Chevy is reported to be the first diesel-powered car offered by General Motors in North America since the 1986 Chevette.

The Cruze Diesel will be powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder featuring the latest in clean diesel technology plus impressive fuel efficiency – GM engineers expect to will deliver 5.6 litres/100 km or better on the highway.

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The engine kicks out 148 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, plus it has an overboost feature that will pump the torque output up to 280 lb-ft. for a 10-second burst. It will be equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. Pricing in the U.S. is expected to be under $26,000.

Chevrolet also announced the roadster version of the new Corvette Stingray will be unveiled next month at the Geneva auto show, with availability scheduled for late this year.

Kia Forte 5-Door:

Kia is on a tear,  promising seven new models this year, and it kept up the pace here with its fourth debut in the string – the Forte 5-Door. The all-new compact hatchback is wider, longer and lower than the previous generation and features styling with a European flair.

Two models will be offered – the base EX, powered by a 2.0-litre direct-injected four-cylinder pumping out 173 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, and the performance-oriented SX, with a new 1.6-litre turbocharged four that generates 201 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque.

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It’s the first turbo ever offered in a Forte – and it’s also the most powerful. The SX will be available with a six-speed manual gearbox or an available six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The Forte 5-Door will go on sale this fall.

Kia also unveiled a stunning new concept, the hybrid-powered Cross GT, which combines the sleek lines of its GT sedan concept shown a year ago with the functionality of a modern crossover.

Nissan Juke NISMO:

Nissan has spiced up its Juke lineup with the introduction of a NISMO edition. This Juke borrows from Nissan’s motorsports efforts and features aerodynamic enhancements that increase downforce 37 %, a specially tuned suspension, quicker steering and a tweaked transmission.

The front-wheel-drive model gets a six-speed manual gearbox while the all-wheel-drive version has a sport-tuned Xtronic CVT. New 18-inch aluminum wheels and Continental summer tires are sure to give this Juke a lot more grip than the standard model.

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The 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine, with direct injection, a turbocharger and an intercooler, is rated at 197 horsepower, compared to the standard output of 188, while torque is boosted from 177 lb-ft to 184.

The Juke NISMO, which will be displayed at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto, is expected to go on sale this spring.

Nissan also announced exterior and interior upgrades for the sporty 370Z NISMO edition for 2014, as well as the introduction of a limited production GT-R Track Edition. Both are due to arrive by this summer.

Volkswagen Beetle GSR:

Volkswagen is reviving a nameplate from the’70s and sticking it on its new Beetle. The 2014 iteration of the GSR will feature the same yellow and black paint scheme as the original and, like its predecessor, the production run will be limited to 3,500 cars.

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In addition to some exterior additionssuch as a large rear spoiler and 19-inch alloy wheels, plus some interior trim upgrades, the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder will pump an extra 10 horsepower – 210 in total. The GSR, expected to go on sale this fall, will be offered with a six-speed manual or a DSG automatic.