2014 Chicago Auto Show, Part II: Trucks and stuff

The Chicago Auto Show press days had temperatures in the single digits, but we’re bringing you more of the hot new stuff from inside. Be sure to check out Part I of our show coverage.

2014 Nissan Diesel Runner concept

Forget the fancy paint on the 2014 Nissan Diesel Runner concept. The real news is the diesel under the hood. (Click to enlarge)

Nissan Frontier Diesel Runner Concept

While Chevrolet was announcing that a CNG (compressed natural gas) Chevy Silverado HD 2500 would join the lineup for 2014, Nissan was off exploring diesel fuel for the Nissan Frontier pickup. Although not exactly saying that the Frontier would gain a compression ignition engine, the appearance of Nissan’s mid-size pickup concept strongly hints that one is on the way. Officially, the Frontier Diesel Runner, as the concept is officially known, is only on the show circuit to gauge public interest in a diesel, but the debut of the nudge-nudge-wink-wink concept follows Nissan’s announcement six months ago that a Cummins 5.0-liter V8 Turbo Diesel engine will go into the long overdue redesigned Nissan Titan full-size half-ton pickup.

The concept displayed at the Chicago Auto Show shows Nissan has been working with Cummins on a 2.8-liter four-cylinder in the Frontier Diesel Runner. The engine produces “nearly 200 horsepower” with more than 350 lb-ft. of torque. Nissan says the Frontier with a 2.8-liter Cummins diesel gets 35 percent better fuel economy than a V6-powered two-wheel drive 2014 Frontier, with payload and towing in the same range as the V-6 Frontier

The engine in the Diesel Runner is paired with an eight-speed ZF 8HP70 automatic transmission.

Although Nissan says the engine/transmission combination isn’t exactly “plug-and-play,” many of the Frontier Diesel Runner’s key components are from the production Desert Runner, which would ease going production with the diesel. Among other bits, the body, wiring harnesses and radiator are all from the Desert Runner.

Interior bits and the exterior paint-and-tape are to sex up the Frontier Diesel Runner for the show circuit. Pay more attention to that Cummins Diesel under the hood. It’s a preview of Cummins attractions.

2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Toyota not only gave the 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro its world debut at Chicago, it also built a dirt track to give show goers a ride. (click to enlarge)

Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro and Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

“TRD,” for those not already aware, stands for Toyota Racing Development, and it has been seen on any number of cars and trucks also wearing the Toyota brand. As if that weren’t enough, Toyota enhances the enhanced with a new package available on the Toyota Tundra, Toyota 4Runner and Toyota Tacoma. Dubbed “TRD Pro,” the setup for the Toyota trio takes them from off-road ready to really ready for offroad. All three TRD Pro-equipped Toyotas will have TRD Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, TRD-tuned front springs, TRD front skid plate, with additional equipment appropriate to each, including higher front ride height (by 1.5 to 2.0 inches, depending) with decreased spring rate for better off-road ride and control. All three vehicles will receive special wheels (all in black, but different per model), and all will get Toyota TRD Pro interior trim, specific to each model.

Toyota, however, will supply all three TRD Pro models with a bit of throwback exterior treatment,  the front grille with “TOYOTA” badging that looks like that on early Toyota models. And of course, you can get it only in black or white or in a new color available only on TRD Pro trucks, Inferno, a burnt orange with a remarkable resemblance to Texas mud. The Toyota Tundra TRD Pro, 4Runner TRD Pro and Tacoma TRD Pro will be ready to get dirty in Texas or anywhere else beginning in the fall of 2014.

Lingenfelter Reaper

The Lingenfelter Reaper is designed to go after the Ford Raptor.

Lingenfelter Reaper

Lingenfelter is perhaps best known for making monster Chevrolet Corvettes, but with Chevrolet not making a moral equivalent to the Ford Raptor off-road ready pickup, Lingenfelter steps in with a specially-prepped Chevy 1500 Silverado out-of-the-box ready to go rapping Raptors. Lingenfelter has dubbed the high-performance pickups “Reaper.” Lingenfelter’s contribution includes a choice of either a 550-horsepower Lingenfelter TVS1900 Magnuson Supercharger package based on the Chevrolet 6.2-liter V-8, or a 475-horse Lingenfelter TVS1900 Magnuson Supercharger package based on the 5.3-liter V-8.

Lingenfelter teamed with Southern Comfort Automotive, a specialty automotive manufacturer, for their off-road expertise. Southern Comfort added a three-inch lift with long travel off-road suspension, Fox Racing performance remote-reservoir shocks, 20-inch Reaper wheels fitted with General Grabber light truck tires. Special Reaper paint treatment will be available, along with front clip restyling with a special grille with a high-clearance front bumper and reinforced skidplate and special lighting. In case you’re wondering, Lingenfelter warrantees its engine for three years or 36,000 miles, the same warranty provided by Southern Comfort. Lingenfelter will build as many as people will order them through selected Chevrolet dealers. Fear the Reaper.

Volkswagen Beetle GRC Rockstar rallycross

Tanner Foust will drive the Rockstar-sponsored AWD 560-horse Volkswagen Beetle in the GRC in 2014. (click to enlarge)

Volkswagen Beetle GRC

Volkswagen debuted a smaller though no less dirt-capable vehicle, though VW’s on the more unlikely basis of a Volkswagen Beetle. That unlikely, however, is only for those not familiar with rallycross, a mix between rally and motocross. Highly modified compact cars compete on dirt tracks more spectator—and TV—friendly than the traditional through-the-woods rally course. VW will enter rallycross competition this year with a factory-backed effort with drivers Global Rallycross Championship series champion Tanner Foust and Scott Speed. While the pair will begin the season with VW’s European rally-prepped Polo subcompact, the specially-prepared Volkswagen Beetles will appear at the second event.

The special preparation of the rallycross VW Beetles will include all-wheel-drive and more than 560 horsepower from a turbocharged and direct-injection TSI engine. VW isn’t saying much other than that about the tech specs of the cars, but cites the pedigree of the team putting together the racing effort, with Andretti Autosport to form the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross. That’s Andretti, as in racer Michael Andretti, retired CART Indy car racer (really, Michael is old enough to be retired?). Tanner Foust was GRC champion in 2011 and 2012 and runner-up in 2013, and will drive the Rockstar Energy Drink Beetle. Scott Speed, in addition to having one of the coolest names in racing, won two races and finished fifth overall in the GRC in 2013, and has competed in Formula 1 and NASCAR.

In addition to the usual reasons for going racing, VW hopes to muscle up the Beetle’s image. That said, we want a 560-horsepower all-wheel drive VW Beetle to muscle up our image.

2015 Subaru Legacy

The 2015 Subaru Legacy has a new “nosecone” front end design. (click to enlarge)

2015 Subaru Legacy

While Subaru has confirmed elsewhere that it will return to the Global Rallycross Championship series, its big news for the 2014 Chicago Auto Show was the debut of the all-new 2015 Subaru Legacy. The Legacy is Subaru’s entry in the midsize sedan segment, and the new car gets bigger inside than ever, and in fact has more room inside than any of its competitors, despite the 2015 Legacy having a footprint no greater than its predecessor. The new Legacy will look different than its predecessor as Subaru searches for a design language that works, this time with a new “nosecone” front section that integrates the hexagonal grille and front bumper, and a windscreen that’s more raked than before for better aerodynamics.

The 2015 Subaru Legacy will continue with the 2.5-liter four that was new for 2013 but improved for 2014 with a broader torque curve. The 3.6-liter six-cylinder engine is rated at 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque, and both horizontally-opposed engines will put power down to all-four wheels—all-wheel drive continues as standard equipment—via a continuously variable transmission. Quick-ratio electric power steering is new, and active torque vectoring, an enhancement of stability control system, is standard for 2015. New safety technology includes rear radar with blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross-traffic alert, all optional, with side curtain airbags deploying in a vehicle rollover and seat-mounted airbags holding front seat passengers in place in case of a collision are new standard features.

We’ll take another look at the outgoing Subaru shortly, but we look forward to driving the 2015 Subaru Legacy when it debuts this summer.

Honda Civic Si Forza

The Honda Civic Si Forza was designed by a gamer for gamers. (click to enlarge)

Honda Civic Si Coupe Forza Concept

Honda brought fantasy to reality with a concept based on designs submitted by players of the Forza Motorsport video game. The Forza Civic Si Coupe design selected by the Forza Motorsport players from nearly 170 entries, was created by Tiffany Labedz of Phoenix, Arizona. Honda is using video gaming to build brand loyalty, with Chicago Auto Show attendees being among the first to play the new Honda Legends Car Pack for Forza Motorsport 5 on Xbox One, featuring the redesigned 2014 Civic Si Coupe, the 1984 Mugen CRX and the 1994 Prelude. And you thought kids didn’t like to play with cars anymore.