Welcome to Motoring Monday for February 16, 2015.

We’ve got all the good stuff from the Chicago Auto Show including concepts from Nissan and Mitsubishi and new models from Honda and Chevrolet.

We’ve also got a rundown of the hottest vehicles of the show according to you

Mitsubishi Concept GC-PHEV

At Chicago, Mitsubishi showed us they still have a design studio with their Concept GC-PHEV plug-in hybrid SUV concept.

It’s a futuristic robot fighter ship which demonstrates the brand’s future hybrid powertrain systems. Its styling overtures are decidedly different and prove that recent grad students from art school are given a free pen at Mitsubishi.

Inside, the cabin only seats four people even though the concept is nearly the size of a Chevy Tahoe. Room had to be made for all the technologies provided the occupants here such as the “Tactical Table”.

Located in the center of the interior, the touch-screen seeks to provide an interactive experience to all passengers. Mitsubishi explains it “provides an advanced means of two-way communication between the vehicle’s occupants”. Perhaps actually talking is a thing of the past.

Motivating this galactic inter-mountain crawler is a supercharged 3.0 liter V6 and an electric motor which produce a maximum system 335 horsepower delivered through all-four wheels.

Because it is a plug-in hybrid, it can charge at the mother ship, storing 1500 watts of burst power in its lithium-ion battery pack, giving it a 25 mile EV mode range.

More important to survivors of the future, the battery pack and a tank of gas to recharge the battery when necessary can provide nearly two weeks of emergency power to the average household during inter-stellar emergencies.

Overall, it’s a fun concept. If now Mitsubishi could begin impressing us with production vehicles which have some market relevance they might themselves have a future.

Nissan NISMO Roadster Concept

Nissan brought their 370Z NISMO Roadster Concept to the Chicago Auto Show, a car that actually has some relevance to the showroom.

The NISMO Roadster Concept gets a more robust 350 horsepower 3.7-liter V6 under the hood and was mated up with a seven-speed automatic transmission prorgrammed with all the sport mode snaps you’d expect.

It gets a more aggressive suspension of course and larger brakes featuring 14-inch discs up front and 13.8-inch discs at the rear.

Larger 19-inch NISMO super-light forged aluminum wheels by RAYS are planted at each corner and wrapped with sticky Bridgestone Potenza S001’s

Styling gets the familiar NISMO treatment front to rear with a full aero body package and red accents. The cabin too is re-cast with rich leather Recaro seats with sport accents and trims everywhere you look. Nice.

One of the more stunning concepts of the show in the Second City, the 370Z NISMO Roadster brings a level of over-the-top sport-import gravitas back to the stage we’ve been missing for some time.

The one-off design study Nissan outwardly says is here to gauge market interest in offering one for the showroom, all but saying it is likely already on its way.

2016 Honda Pilot

At the Chicago Auto Show, Honda introduced their all-new 2016 Pilot three-row crossover, taking it in a more stylistic direction than before.

New from the ground-up, the 2016 Honda Pilot brings styling that’s much more flowing and friendly to the eye than the current model. Instead of the upright Legoland appearance of before, it comes off as sleek and modern, even artistic.

It looks larger too because it is, gaining 3.5-inches in length overall yet Honda says it’s up to 300 lbs. lighter than the outgoing model.

It gets all the latest in lighting tricks with LED projector-beam headlamps and running lights as well as standard LED taillights. A first for Honda, the 2016 Pilot will also be available with wheel sizes up to 20-inches.

The interior design too is more appealing than before, with a more swept and eye-catching layout, A larger center mounted touch-screen infotainment system has all the toys, and the instrument cluster is now of the customizable digital kind.

A center console tech locker sits down low, giving space for all manner of phones, tablets, and other devices. Connectivity will be at its max with a laundry list of wired and wireless options including up to to five USB ports.

Seating for up to eight starts with front seats now available with both heating and ventilation. The second row can have captain’s chairs with a low console or a bench seat for three-across seating.

Under the hood is the latest generation 3.5-liter, direct-injected V6 which can now be had with either a 6-speed or a new 9-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Pilot of course will be available in both front and all-wheel drive.

Designed and built in North America, the 2016 Honda Pilot will arrive in dealerships this summer with pricing to be announced closer to launch.

2016 Chevrolet Equinox

Chevrolet’s popular compact crossover got its first major refresh at the Chicago Auto Show as the 2016 Equinox made its debut.

Averaging about 20,000 units a month in sales, the Chevrolet Equinox is as popular in showrooms as any of its peers, so a fresh face and infusion of features was in order.

The major news is an all new grille and headlight treatment which adds a sense of premium style. A new chrome dual-port grille design comes in different varieties now according to trim levels.

Modern and more expensive looking projector-beam headlamps are now standard on all models and higher trim levels now come with LED daytime running lamps which add even more premium feel.

The tail panel and lighting got a fresh pen as well. And no re-design would be complete with out new wheel selections across the range that come in 17 and 18-inch sizes.

Inside is a new standard seven-inch color touchscreen audio system with Bluetooth connectivity and rear-view camera, a now expected item in this class.

The center stack and dash gets a revised look with additional chrome accents here and there. A new shifter design gets an up and downshift switch on the knob for manual shifting. Neat.

Standard remains the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. And still making the Equinox a standout in its class is its optional 3.6-liter V6 which cranks out 301 horsepower.

The 2016 Chevrolet Equinox will be available at dealerships soon and is expected to have only a modest bump in price.

Hottest of Chicago Auto Show

Now for our hottest of the Chicago Auto Show rundown, these are the cars and trucks that got you our viewers excited the most this week.

For Hottest Concept, the Kia Trailster hybrid off-roader based on the Kia Soul was a popular draw. Getting a 1.6 liter turbocharged engine up front and an electric motor at the rear, it sports 220 total horsepower to all four wheels.

A butch body kit and 2.5” lift take the Soul’s cute demeanor and make it buff enough to compete with the likes of Jeep Renegade maybe. Don’t be surprised to see this one in a showroom soon.

The hottest truck news came from Ram this year as they showed off their new top-trim grade 2015 Laramie Limited which they call a black-tie approach to luxury trucks.

Available on almost all Ram pickup configurations, the Laramie Limited gets lots of chrome, notably that unique port-hole grill and big-letter tailgate. Inside is a class black leather treatment with genuine wood and rich pinstriped trims.

Ford’s 2016 Police Interceptor Utility was arguably the hottest crossover at Chicago, flashing its dress blue and red, and sounding its siren right into the McCormick Place. The new face of Johnny Law is now upon us.

Based on the 2016 Ford Explorer, the PI Utility gets a new grille and fascia with integrated flashing lights and comes standard with a 304 horsepower 3.7 liter V6 we can’t get in the showroom. Optional of course is the 365 horsepower twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 we can.

Hyundai got top nods for hottest compact car with their freshened 2016 Veloster which offers this year a limited production Rally Edition. Only 1200 of the matte blue Veloster Turbo special editions will be available.

Based on the Veloster Turbo R-Spec, it gets special RAYS wheels, carbon fiber look exterior duds, a rich interior with a B&M sport shifter and lots of appearance goodies to add flash all around.

Get the link for our Chicago Auto Show Playlist for full reviews on all of these cars and more in the info section below.

Reality Check

At the Chicago Auto Show, Honda presented a very telling rendering of their upcoming Ridgeline mid-size truck which is due within the next year or two.

Saying the new Honda Ridgeline will “take the original’s award-winning performance, comfort and utility to new levels,” the company stated it will take on a decidedly more traditional pickup truck style.

It clearly looks more squared off, more buff, and yes more traditional. The rendering however has a few
tell-tale signs this Honda Ridgeline may well be more different than meets the eye.

The rear tail-gate shows a line that alludes to side hinged opening capability. And more important, a line while subtle, separates the bed from the cab like that of a traditional pickup truck.

If this is so, it means at the least the new Ridgeline would have a hybrid of a uni-body and ladder frame structure which would allow the cargo box to move and flex separate of the passenger cell. On the extreme end, it could mean Honda is moving toward a full body-on-frame truck design.

The latter is an alluring concept, but unlikely unless Honda is investing huge in an all-new platform architecture we haven’t heard about. Either way, a separated cargo box could give the Ridgeline better cargo and payload capacities by design.

With Chevrolet and GMC re-entering the fold, Toyota upping its ante, and a new Nissan mid-sizer on the way, the mid-size pickup market is heating up.

So regardless of whats underneath its skin, the rendering here shows Honda plans to really compete this time. And this one looks like something a man might actually be seen in for a change.

Money Shot

Boy I’m probably gonna get in trouble for that. Now its time for our Money Shot where we take the hottest photo from this week’s press releases and we show it to ya.

It’s not an all-new photo, but came with the announcement this week that Dodge opened order books for the 2015 Challenger “Shaker”. Available with both the R/T and now the 392 HEMI Scat Pack it just has the look that says f— you and I don’t care. I love it!

That’s about does it for Motoring Monday. Click the link here and subscribe to our YouTube Channel where I’ll keep you updated on all our latest automotive news, test drives and Motoring Monday episodes.

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