The 2018 Chicago Auto Show may have been light on new-vehicle debuts, but it was heavy on snow, which made our Best in Show winner all the more fitting — even if it's not a vehicle you can snowshoe out to the dealership and buy.
Related: More 2018 Chicago Auto Show Coverage
We were tempted by the new-for-2019 Volkswagen Arteon, but that very stylish sportback wouldn't have a chance of cutting through all this white stuff in the Windy City. There's only one vehicle here that could embrace the challenge of fresh powder: the Nissan 370Zki (pronounced like "ski") project car. With a custom 3-inch lift kit to fit massive American Track Truck Dominator tracks in place of rear wheels and industrial metal skis instead of front tires, the 370Zki is a snowmobile masquerading as a car. editors Aaron Bragman, Fred Meier and Brian Wong weigh in below on why the Nissan took top honors.
Wong: I am tickled by Nissan's choice to use a 370Z roadster as a base for the 370Zki — and even more tickled that the top still works so you can rip around in the snow with the roof off (as God intended). It's unconventional for us to pick a one-off custom car as our Best in Show, but working in the 370Zki's favor is that it has an untouched powertrain. That's a stock Used Engine and transmission under the hood, and Nissan has already run the thing in the snow to prove that those treads aren't just for show — they work in the real world, too.
Meier: Yes, Nissan put treads on four-wheel drivers before, but this takes crazy to a new level. And that makes the yellow-and-orange Z a standout at the 2018 Chicago Auto Show. To reiterate, this really is a snowmobile masquerading as a car. And not just any snowmobile — the king of the mountain, the envy of your buddies with mere Polaris or Yamaha high-powered sleds.
I love it even if the yellow snow-goggle headlight covers seem to have the purpose of snow goggles backwards. Oh, and even though you have no real brakes to avoid stray elk, Nissan says those big treads slow it down fast when you lift your right foot. But the 370Zki truly can take you where no Z has gone before in the comfort of a showroom-370Z interior with a decent sound system. It's also good to see Nissan showing some love for the aging Z, one of a dying breed. Maybe next year we'll see a redesigned Z ... with wheels.
Bragman: We keep hearing rumors that the Z car is going away and that it's not going to be replaced since the world seems to have fallen in love with small SUVs instead, much to enthusiasts' despair. Well, if that really is the case, and the accessible sports car is truly dying, what better way to send Nissan's off into the annals of history than having some modified fun with it?
The 370Zki is just madness. It's not something you can take down the street (although, as I write this, 10 inches of snow has piled up outside the window overnight), and it's not even something you can re-create from a parts bin — Nissan Used Engine ered this thing to work, but repeating the feat would be expensive. So we're glad Nissan did it, even if it's only a fun reminder of the fact that not everything out there should be an autonomous, electric, five-passenger crossover.
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