Chicago auto show: Trucks, trucks and more trucks

The Chicago auto show has a reputation as a truck show, and it won't give much ground on that this year. General Motors gm, especially, is rolling out an intriguing array of trucks not seen at the Detroit show last month — or anywhere else.

Other automakers have a variety of models top show, including sleek coupes and updated sedans. Dodge is unveiling the production version of the Challenger at the show.

Here's the hot stuff making its debut at the Chicago show, open to media representatives Wednesday and Thursday and to the public Feb. 8 through 17.

2009 GMC Sierra dual-mode hybrid: A big truck with a small appetite? GM says that's what you get when you combine a powerful V-8 with an electric drive system. On sale fourth quarter this year, it'll be available with either rear- or four-wheel drive, but only in the crew-cab configuration. GM says it's possible to run on battery power up to 30 mph before needing the gasoline engine. Which is a serious one: 6-liter V-8 rated 332 hp, 367 lbs.-ft. of torque. Totes more than 1,400 lbs. in the cargo bed, GM says, and tows up to 6,100 lbs. Fuel economy boost from the hybrid system is supposed to be 40% in town, 25% overall. That implies 18 to 20 mpg in most types of driving, up from 13 to 16 mpg for the gasoline-only versions, depending on drivetrain.

GMC Denali XT hybrid concept: A product of Holden, General Motors' Australian unit, it sports a cargo bed that might be just a skosh undersize for the U.S. — half an inch too narrow to slide in a 4-foot-wide sheet of plywood or drywall, and just 4 feet 7 inches long – unless you drop the Chevrolet Avalanche-style midgate to open the interior for cargo use. A concept with little chance of making production, its hybrid drivetrain mates a 4.9-liter V-8 to an electric-drive system. GM says such a vehicle should be able to tote 1,100 lbs., tow up to 3,500 lbs. — similar to a conventional compact pickup. GM calls it an SUT — sport-utility truck — and says it's meant to test reaction to some ideas GM has for future designs.

2009 International LoneStar semi-tractor: Big-truck maker International loves to waltz into a car show and pull the covers off a huge commercial truck, as if it's the most natural thing in the world. This year at Chicago, it's the 2009 LoneStar, a semi-tractor rig that the company says combines the aerodynamic advantages of streamliners favored by penny-wise trucking fleets, but has the long hood and the mega-chrome beloved by truckers who buy their own machines, instead of driving somebody else's. International says the huge, laid-back grille is meant to recall 1930s-era International D-series trucks. New-tech clean-diesel engines and the sleeker design are good for about 1 mile per gallon more – 6 instead of 5, more or less, depending on which engine and what the tractor's pulling. Truckers can order them in April, starting at $115,000, and get delivery beginning this fall. The equipment list reads like a luxury liner's: Wood floor in the sleeper cab, Monsoon killer stereo, microwave and mini-frig, leather. Plus the gamut of auto-style safety hardware such as anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, Bluetooth hands-free phone link.

2009 Hummer H3T: If you like the idea of coming full circle, pay attention. General Motors, which owns the Hummer brand name, used the Chevrolet Colorado compact pickup as the base for the Hummer H3 SUV. That's the small (relatively) Hummer. Now, GM is stretching and tweaking the H3 back into a pickup, called H3T. It goes into production third quarter this year at Shreveport, La., and will be available with the Colorado/H3 in-line five-cylinder engine (242 hp, 242 lbs.-ft. of torque) and in the Hummer Alpha version. That's the V-8 – 5.3 liters, 300 hp, 320 lbs.-ft. Thus equipped, GM says, the H3T Alpha tows up to 5,900 lbs., or 900 pounds more than a V-6 Jeep Liberty. Cargo bed's 5 feet long, which GM says is plenty for dirt bikes and the like.

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