CHICAGO | Race cars! Obstacle courses! 4-D virtual reality! A Toyota Scion tricked out in honor of the thrash metal band Slayer including a shift stick with a skull on top!

The 107th Chicago Auto Show could bring out the giddy inner child in everyone.

Plenty of wonders and marvels await at the McCormick Place convention center at 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive starting Saturday. Between Feb. 14-22, more than 1 million square feet in the North and South Exhibit Halls will highlight the automotive industry's latest models as well as the out-there ideas automotive engineers have been tossing around. More than 1,000 new cars and trucks will be seen, in some cases for the first time.

"Exciting performance cars, limited-edition specialty models are important to help build brand awareness and drum up consumer enthusiasm, but vehicles like the Equinox, Pilot and RDX meet consumers on their level; they are cars the average consumer can afford and one day own," said John Webb, chairman of the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

Concept cars include the stylish Buick Avenir, the adventurous Hyundai Santa Cruz, the sporty Global MX-5 Cup race car, the Batmobile-esque Toyota FT-1 Concept, and the eco-friendly 2015 Mitsubishi Concept GC-PHEV, a next-generation full-size plug-in hybrid electric.

Automakers want your feedback. Hyundai representatives will, for instance, be on hand to gauge the public reaction to the new Santa Cruz crossover truck concept, and whether it's embraced warmly will determine if it goes into production. Chevrolet also will ascertain if public interest in its Colorado ZR2 Concept is strong enough to make it a prototype for future models.

According to the organizer, The Chicago Automobile Trade Association, concept cars are one of the top three reasons people give for attending the show, which is open daily between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., though it closes at 8 p.m. on the last day.

The second reason cited is to see new cars. Beyond the usual rollout of new models, this year's Chicago Auto Show debuts include the 2016 Acura NSX supercar, 2015 BMW X4, the 2016 Cadillac CTS-V, the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, and the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder.

The third reason given is it's fun. And fun abounds in the cavernous exhibit halls, which include three indoor test tracks that feature an obstacle course, a slalom and an acceleration lane. The 27,000-square-foot Camry Experience, for instance, lets people re-create a recent Toyota "Bold New Camry" television commercial.

Most visitors stay at the auto show for four hours, the Chicago Automobile Trade Association estimates. There are plenty of cars to see and a lot to do, like dropping by Lexus' "Versus and Flow" Music Lounge or checking out interactive displays of technology such as Apple CarPlay.


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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