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The 2011 Chicago Auto Show: Blow-By-Blow

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Welcome to the Chicago Auto Show! Have you been here before? No? Here's a primer: There's a lot of bitching and moaning. It's cold, and journalists complain about that. There also isn't a lot of news here, which is to be expected, but journalists complain about that, too. And finally, the boiled Vienna Beef hot dogs in the media center taste like refried squirrel ass. (No complaints on that one, oddly, and there was a line stretching out the door. The media: go figure.)

In lieu of 60-0 today, here's my random Chicago observations, randomly:

The Chevy Camaro ZL1 Is A Muscle Missile
In person, Chevy's Camaro ZL1 is intimidating as hell. It's big. It's red. It has nostrils in its hood, nostrils that remind me of the dog that chased me down the block after school in third grade. I walked up on a few GM employees revving the snot out of it on the stand, and my kidneys cavitated. At one point, a writer in the media center looked around and asked if "anyone still cares about the Camaro." Yes. When it sounds like the unhinged freight train of God, people care. Stop asking silly questions.

2012 Dodge Charger SRT8: A new snout and a heaping helping of higher horsepower
Looks cool. Mouth like a giant carp. Succeeds in spite of a few off-putting design cues. Proof that Dodges work best when moderately unhinged. I want one in purple.

Hyundai Veloster Rally Car: Up close with the killer orange-eater
Hyundai trotted out Rhys Millen for the unveil of its Veloster rallycross car. Millen seems like a genuinely nice guy, and you could tell he was a little uncomfortable in front of lights and a teleprompter. They showed footage of him backflipping a truck in Las Vegas, and while it was old footage, it was kind of excellent.

Hyundai Genesis R-Spec Sedan is the most powerful Hyundai ever
The Genesis 5.0 R-Spec is… a thing. It exists. You stare at it, you walk around it, and you have a hard time forming an opinion one way or the other. (I have a sneaking suspicion this means something, but I'm not sure what.) One more thing: As I was walking over to the Genesis R unveil, a GM engineer looked at me and said, "Hyundai. These guys are kind of scary, aren't they?" I have no idea why, but yes. Yes, they are.

2012 Shelby GT350 is pudgy and topless
News flash: Carroll Shelby likes sticking his name on things for money. As Shelby products go, this just seems mildly off-putting, not patently offensive. Neat!

Mazda MX-5 Special Edition smilingly rolls into Chicago
Nice, but to be honest, it doesn't seem that special. This-the chrome, the dingle-dangle add-ons-is what people in the motorcycle world call "farkle." Me, I was drawn to the MX-5 Super20 parked nearby. A friend of mine called it "whimsically demented." Which sounds about right.

2012 Acura TL breaks the beak, keeps 6-speed manual
Looks ten years old from the front and brand-new from the back. Staring into its maw, you get the distinct feeling that Honda is floundering, unsure of everything and trying to center itself. The beak is gone, which is nice, but it's been replaced by... something less interesting.

The Volkwagen Jetta GLI, the one you might actually want
I literally watched someone fall asleep on his feet at the press conference. There's a joke in there, but... that would be a cheap shot, and cheap shots are wrong. Whatever, we'll do it anyway — it's boring! He fell asleep because the car is boring! Get it?

Toyota unveils 2011 Matrix to raucous indifference
Looks a lot like the 2010 Toyota Matrix. Yep. That happened. Look, you know it's bad when they have to write "The New 2011 Matrix" on the windshield so people know what it is.

The rest of it was fairly predictable
Ford has a creepy blue robot on its stand and a Mustang Boss on a dynamometer. The floor is essentially empty of people but packed full of cars. And... oh, hell. I give up. Someone fell asleep during the GLI reveal. Seriously? In other words, not a bad show, but not a great show, either. The Geneva show comes next. Pray they don't have hot dogs.