Hybrids, electrics, plug-ins, and alternative fueled vehicles have dominated the news at recent industry exhibitions. However, this year's Chicago Auto Show proves that there's still life left in the old internal combustion engine.
The ponycar battle began more than 45 years ago with the seminal Ford Mustang, followed by the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Charger, then the Chevrolet Camaro, which rounded out Detroit's entry list. Indeed, ponycars were so named because they were smaller than the then-intermediate-sized cars in the marketplace. (However, as the ads stated, the "Charger was larger.") They were blank canvases to which buyers could add their own personal predilections, which often included fire-breathing engines barely tamed for the street. Thus, the seeds of rivalry were sewn between Chevy, Dodge and Ford.
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1Now, amidst a sea of green alternatives, Chicago becomes the scene of the latest big-gun battle with the 550-hp Camaro ZL1, the 465-hp Dodge Charger SRT8, the limited-production Mustang-based Shelby GT350 Convertible with up to 624 hp. All this American muscle fights for elbow room with new players in new segments, like theHyundai Genesis5.0 R-Spec sport sedan, and the comparatively frisky Volkswagen Jetta GLI sedan.
With an average of almost 450 horsepower, the manufacturers involved in this melee have apparently taken heed of Sean Connery's classic line from "The Untouchables": "If they bring a knife, you bring a gun. That's the Chicago way."