CHICAGO — Ford Motor Co. had plenty of news to make here at the Chicago Auto Show in February, what with the arrival of the new SVT Mustang Cobra and the announcement that the auto maker's plant here in the Windy City will assemble the CrossTrainer in 2004 (see story, p.23).

But the No. 2 auto maker gave equal billing to a year-old story: the propping up of Mercury. It was a year ago at Chicago that Mark Hutchins, then president of Lincoln Mercury, delivered the same message — that Mercury is a great brand with a long history and a bright future.

This year, Ford President and Chief Operating Officer Nick Scheele carried the Mercury torch, saying the division will have six new products within five years: A new-for-'03 Grand Marquis, a new Villager minivan for model year '04, an all-new sedan, a specialty niche vehicle and a multipurpose cross/utility vehicle, perhaps a version of the CrossTrainer.

The sixth vehicle is the Marauder, a sporty version of the grandfatherly Grand Marquis that bows this summer. The division also unveiled a supercharged Marauder convertible concept at the show.

Ford also smokes the tires in Chicago (literally) as it rolls out the '03 SVT Mustang Cobra, which produces a tantalizing 390 hp, 70 more ponies than its predecessor.

And with its 6-speed Tremac manual transmission, it joins the 170-hp SVT Focus as the only Ford production vehicles to boast six numbers on their shift knobs. The new Cobra's 4.6L DOHC V-8 gets significant boost from a Roots-type supercharger and water-to-air intercooler.

At the General Motors Corp. stand, it's hard to argue that the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra fullsize pickups are outdated, but that doesn't stop the No. 1 auto maker from rolling out redesigns.

Only four years old, Silverado/Sierra get a noticeable interior and exterior design facelift and expanded availability of 4-wheel steering (see story, p.25).

The interior enhancements include a passenger-sensing air-bag system, modified instrument panel and new steering wheel controls. There's also a new center console, new seats and the first industry application of a Bose audio system in a fullsize pickup.

Toyota Motor Corp. expands its fullsize truck lineup with a Stepside edition. Billed as a concept version of the Tundra Limited Access Cab, the Stepside features unique taillamps extending back over the rear wheel arches for a sleeker appearance. The Stepside bed is as wide and long as Tundra's standard bed and will be available on some versions of Tundra this fall.

Power comes from Toyota's 4.7L I-Force V-8 engine boasting 240 hp and 315 lb.-ft. (427 Nm) of torque.

DaimlerChrysler's Dodge Div. takes the come-big-or-stay-home approach in delivering two new engines for the Ram 2500 and 3500 pickups.

Dodge says the 5.9L inline 6-cyl. High Output Cummins common-rail turbodiesel produces 305 hp at 2,900 rpm and 555 lb.-ft. (752 Nm) of torque at 1,400 rpm, and that the class-leading towing capability of 23,000 lbs. (10,433 kg) bests even the impressive GM Duramax turbodiesel.

The second engine — the 5.7L Hemi Magnum — revives the legendary hemispherical combustion chambers of Dodge muscle cars, the last being the 1971 Barracuda.

The Hemi Magnum produces 345 hp at 5,600 rpm and 365 lb.-ft. (495 Nm) of torque at 4,400 rpm. Although the Hemi will be the standard engine for Ram HD, DC expects 75% of customers to choose the Cummins diesel.

Kia Motors America Inc. shows its latest SUV, the midsize Sorento, which goes on sale in the fall to compete against Ford Escape and Jeep Liberty. It should be priced in the $20,000 range.

The 5-passenger Sorento is powered by a 192-hp 3.5L V-6. Available in 2- and 4-wheel drive, Sorento only will offer a 4-speed automatic transmission.