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Shelby Truck

In the recent past the Chicago Auto Show was ironically considered a “truck show” show by the world’s vehicle manufacturers. These automakers chose the show to introduce important pickup and SUV vehicles to the media and the nation’s largest public auto show audience. Well, for the recently concluded 2016 Chicago Auto Show trucks took the show back. This year there were numerous production truck intros and special vehicles on display at the show. Here are the ones you need to know about.

Shelby American, Inc. 2016 F-150

This truck was a bit of a surprise in the Ford display. The Shelby American, Inc. takes everything about the Ford F-150 and puts it on steroids, actually supercharges the F-150 to new performance heights. The Shelby F-150 starts with a 395 hp. Ford F-150 and offers the option to boost it (or not), to 700 supercharged horses.

shelby american f 150

In addition to the supercharger upgrade - Shelby American, Inc. indicates that there are more than 45 proprietary high-performance upgrades. Visually, there’s the iconic Shelby full body and rocker striping and badging, ram air hood intakes, a honeycomb racing grille w/ SHELBY Snake insert, unique front bumper, front fender vents (engine cooling), painted fender flares, black powder coated SHELBY step bars, 18” Shelby engraved alloy wheels rolling on meaty BFG all-terrain KO2 35/12.50R18 tires and black-tipped exhaust outlets. A painted hard tonneau cover with a SHELBY Bed rug liner caps the visual upgrades.

Performance hardware features a BDS suspension with exclusive Shelby Engineered FOX Shock System that provides the ability to tune the ride from pavement smooth handling to rough off-road handling. Further enhancements include: Shelby-tuned BORLA performance dual-exhaust, open air performance intake w/ high flow filter, blower and intake manifold that is powder coated Ford Racing Blue, oversized carbon fiber air intake tube, performance aluminum heat exchanger, upgraded Billet throttle body and upgraded high performance fuel injectors.

Interior changes to Lariat Luxury package are minimal except for stitched headrests, mats and minor trim and badging additions.

As for pricing – it’s not for the faint of wallet! The 395 HP naturally aspirated version starts at $85,995 and the primo 700 HP Shelby Supercharged carries a $98,995 window sticker.

santa fe

Hyundai 2017 Santa Fe

With gas prices the lowest in a decade consumers are flocking to pickups, SUVs and CUVs and that spells trouble for car-heavy manufacturers like Hyundai, Kia and Subaru. During the 2016 Chicago Auto Show, Hyundai displayed freshened versions of the mid-size Santa Fe line to generate more interest until reinforcements arrive later in the year.

The 2017 Santa Fe features a redesigned front fascia with brushed-appearance front grille and new headlight design, and LED running lamps in front. There’s also an enhanced rear fascia with new taillights and dual exhaust outlet. The alloy wheels are new in 17-, 18-, and 19-inch designs. The rocker panels have been enhanced with additional trim with integrated silver accents. In addition to the new gingerbread styling there’s also a tech, safety infusion.

Backup cameras are mandated so Santa Fe has one standard now, but adaptive cruise control with a stop-start mode is now available. Keeping current Hyundai adds: automatic high beam assist, lane departure warning, and auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection-something every vehicle should offer. Moderate price increases of $400 for naturally aspirated models and $450 for top turbocharged versions have be levied to help cover the new looks and tech additions. As you read this the 2017 Santa Fe models are on sale at your local dealer


Toyota Tacoma TRD

Keeping with their recent off-roading advertising Toyota introduced a new Tacoma TRD Pro for “extreme off-roading enthusiasts." So poseurs be gone. Toyota beefed up the Tacoma with a suspension overhaul. Up front there’s TRD springs, n increased one-inch lift and Fox 2.5 Internal Bypass shocks. At the rear more Fox dampers and the addition of progressive-rate leaf springs. Rolling stock is black-painted, 16-inch wheels wrapped with Goodyear Wranglers with puncture prevention Kevlar-reinforced rubber.

The TRD Pro's visual changes are minor and I did not care for the uniform company-spec dove grey paint. A blacked-out grille, fender trim, LED fog lights, hood scoop, wheels/tires and minimal badging are the only real clues that this is not your ordinary Tacoma.

Under hood it’s the same 3.5-liter V6, but you do get a choice between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic gearbox. A new aluminum skid plate offers protection.

For a rugged get dirty truck Toyota equips the TRD Pro in leather with TRD Pro logos on the headrests. On-road driving aids include a navi system, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.

If you want a Tacoma TRD Pro package, its only available on a 4x4, Double Cab, Short Bed model.


RAM Power Wagon

Recalling a blast from the past (1979-look it up), Ram re-introduced a colorful 2017 Ram Power Wagon to the assembled Chicago Auto Show media by “walking it” down a series of steep, tiered stage platform steps.

The 2017 Ram Power Wagon is the division’s stoutest off-roader, and receives all-new exterior and interior design elements to match its aggressive behavior and off-road biased lifestyle.

Visually, the 2017 Ram Power Wagon makes an entrance, blacked out, beefed up and pumped up this truck looks tough. The Rebel-look bold grille with chrome RAM logo means business, the black powder coated bumpers and painted pieces have a uniform two-tone look that works in six body colors with black or silver graphics.

The interior offers a sharp black out option, I liked the wheel tread pattern seats otherwise the interior is a little monotone. A very useful optional is Ram’s exclusive cargo-view camera. A touch screen toggles your choice on the Uconnect 8.4, alternating the view from tailgate to truck bed. If you want less splash and want just the work truck toughness there’s a basic Power Wagon Tradesman version.

The “power” in the wagon comes from a 6.4-liter Hemi V8 with 410 horsepower and a stout 429 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a 66RFE six-speed automatic utilizing a manually-shifted transfer case.
On the work end the Power Wagon will tow 10,030 pounds, The Power Wagon’s axles are the pinnacle of durability. Ram indicates the units measure 9.25 inches in the front and 11.5 inches in the rear (an increase from 10.5 inches), delivering power via a 4.10:1 ring and pinion ratio. Robust rear axle shafts are upgraded to 38 mm, providing rotating force directly to the 33-inch tire/wheel combination. Both axles include electronic-locking differentials driven by electro-magnetic actuators. All Ram Heavy Duty trucks incorporate an-exclusive, front-axle disconnect system. When conditions warrant, front drivetrain components are disconnected to reduce parasitic loss and improve overall efficiency. Another exclusive are optional Ram Box rear fender locking cargo compartments an tiered bed cargo and divider options. You can drive through up to 30 inches of water before your feet get wet, and if you get in trouble, a beefy, standard 12,000-pound Warn winch can help get you out. At the press intro Ram did not provide pricing. Expect this truck to arrive by this summer.

nissan armada

Nissan 2017 Armada

The long-awaited successor to the original Nissan Armada was introduced at the show. As it was widely speculated, Nissan confirmed the 2017 Armada shares its body-on-frame platform with the global Nissan Patrol SUV verses current gen on the Titian pickup platform.

For 2017 Armada will be available in three trims: SV, SL, and Platinum.

Armada receives a full-slate of upgrades including a fully boxed ladder frame that , according to Nissan improves torsional stiffness by 20 percent and improves handling and ride comfort. Dimensionally Nissan pulls a slight of hand as the wheel has shrunk by 2.1 inches, is slightly over a half inch wider, but the overall length has increased 1.2 inches verses the 2016 model. For better entry/exit ease Armada not rides 2.2 inches lower than the first genertion.

The redesigned exterior basically shares the same greenhouse as the Infiniti QX80 that was launched earlier. I like the new rougher, tougher chiseled look.

The ponies come in the form of a 5.6-liter V8 with 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque, directed by a seven-speed automatic transmission. Engine size is the same but the internals have been fortified with direct injection, new pistons to boost power up from the previous 317 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. Armada comes in 2WD and 4WD and can tow up to 8,500-pounds. All trims offer an 8.0-inch navigation screen, 13-speaker stereo and heated front seats. The SL adds a power third-row seat and liftgate, remote start, and Around View Monitor. “Lux” is the word with the Platinum model with choice of second row bench seat or captain’s chairs, moonroof, a rear seat DVD system connectivity and suite of safety tech items.

By being built on the Patrol/Infiniti QX80 platform, the Armada’s ride and handling abilities should rise substantially The 2017 Nissan Armada will be available this summer at a dealer near you.

All these trucks fit different needs, tastes and desires and that’s what’s great about auto shows – there’s something for everyone.