True to form, the 2023 Chicago Auto Show (February 10-19) is turning the spotlight on SUVs and trucks. A brand new model is making its global debut at the event, while a handful of redesigned or updated models also need to be talked about.
The team at The Car Guide was on hand for these introductions, so here’s a quick recap. By the way, all five vehicles listed below will hit the market later this year.
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
Ever wished for more space in the Highlander? Toyota now has the Grand Highlander, which slots below the Sequoia as an alternative for families that need to sit seven or eight but don’t necessarily want a full-size SUV.
It’s a unique product with sharper and more muscular styling. Standing 16 cm longer and 6 cm wider than the Highlander, the Grand Highlander accommodates normal-sized adults in the third row, not just kids, thanks to 14 cm of extra legroom. Also, with close to 600 litres, there is apparently enough space behind the seats for seven carry-on suitcases. Total cargo capacity amounts to nearly 2,800 litres, or about 400 litres more than in the Highlander.
Under the hood, the same turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and hybrid system based on a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre mill are available. However, there’s a third option: a performance-focused Hybrid MAX system that uses the aforementioned turbo-four engine and cranks out 362 hp along with 400 lb-ft. of torque.
If you’d like a similarly sized package with more luxury, don’t miss the equally new Lexus TX coming later this year as a replacement for the three-row RX L.
2024 Subaru Crosstrek
The third-generation Crosstrek is appearing in North America for the first time in Chicago. It is essentially the same size and shape as its predecessor. Width and height are unchanged, and the 5 mm removed from the overall length are added to the wheelbase. That being said, the chassis is stiffer and all the body panels have been redesigned, Subaru assures. The plastic cladding on the bumpers, wheel arches and lower body is more pronounced, too.
The interior similarly evolves in subtle ways, though with one exception. Higher-end models receive a new 11.6-inch touchscreen (as found in the Legacy, Outback and WRX). There are fewer physical buttons as a result. Meanwhile, Subaru worked hard to improve noise insulation and make the 2024 Crosstrek quieter. A more supportive front seat design increases overall comfort and minimizes fatigue.
When it comes to engine selection, the 2.0- and 2.5-litre options return, which is no real surprise. Output is still rated at 152 hp and 182 hp, respectively. The only change is the elimination of the manual transmission, so all models now rely on a CVT. And great news for safety-minded drivers: Subaru’s next-generation EyeSight system is included, complete with a wide-angle monocular camera and a new feature called Automatic Emergency Steering.
2024 Volkswagen Atlas
Volkswagen came to the Chicago Auto Show to introduce the 2024 Atlas. The refreshed and updated midsize SUV looks sharper and gets new features, but more importantly, the 3.6-litre V6 is no longer part of the lineup. The only engine available going forward will be the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder. Thankfully, output is increased from 235 hp to 269 hp. It’s the same thing with torque, which is now rated at 273 lb-ft. instead of 258 lb-ft.
Outside, the 2024 model year brings a new front end design including a wide four-bar chrome grille. On all but base trims, the daytime running lights wrap around the headlights and continue into an illuminated lightbar that sits atop of an illuminated VW logo. Inside the Atlas, more premium materials are adopted throughout. For example, top-of-the-range models feature diamond-patterned quilted leather seats.
2024 Chevrolet Trailblazer
Chevrolet’s small crossover also gets a refresh for the 2024 model year. Designers have made slight revisions to the Trailblazer’s front fascia, grille, headlights and taillights. Also, each trim level gets updated wheel designs, while two new body colours can be specified including the same Cacti Green that we previously saw on the new Corvette E-Ray.
Arguably the most important change can be found inside. The size of the centre touchscreen is increased to 11 inches, while an eight-inch digital instrument cluster faces the driver. It’s business as usual under the hood, though, with customers having a choice of two turbocharged triple-cylinder engines rated at 137 hp and 155 hp.
Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 20th Anniversary
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Wrangler Rubicon. For the occasion, Jeep is introducing a commemorative edition of the 4xe and 392 models. Designers have slightly revamped Jeep’s famous seven-slot grille, while the suspension gets a half-inch lift. The vehicles are decorated with decals celebrating the 20th anniversary. They also feature a plaque on the tailgate and a special medallion on the gearshift
Gearheads will be pleased to know that the special edition comes with a toolbox that includes no fewer than 83 pieces, not to mention a Mopar-designed, factory-installed, on-board air compressor.
With the Chicago Auto Show wrapping up, we now turn our attention to Toronto for the Canadian International Auto Show (February 17-26), where the AJAC will announce the 2023 Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year.