If you're General Motors Corp., what do you do for an encore to the overwhelming impression made at January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit? You blow into Chicago and punish the competition again.

That's just what GM did at last month's Chicago Auto Show - where the company that proved at the Detroit show it plans to be reckoned with - again unveiled a number of strong products and concepts.

The Buick Rendezvous "crossover" sport/utility vehicle (SUV) was the obvious show-stealer. Nobody much knew what to expect for the new-age Buick SUV - the division's first ever - but the example de-sheeted in Chicago was a surprisingly tasty execution. Rendezvous manages to look contemporary and snazzy while still promoting some "traditional" Buick design cues.

The look is obviously in the Toyota Motor Corp. Lexus RX300 vein; the RX300, in fact, has emerged as the gold standard formula all companies appear to be pursuing. GM says the Rendezvous was not developed as a direct competitor, but the projected starting price of around $33,000 would suggest otherwise.

Whether the moribund Buick division sells an SUV priced quite closely to the Lexus is another matter, as some question whether the Buick brand can compete at that level. Nonetheless, the Rendezvous will boast some advantages, not the least of which is a small third-row seat that the Lexus lacks. Power, for now, comes from the competent but not exactly cutting-edge 3.4L OHV V-6 (same as Rendezvous' platform-mate, the Pontiac Aztek, which launches first), but given Buick's supercharging legacy, a breathed-on version of the 3.4L could be anticipated. Rendezvous goes on sale in the first quarter of next year.

GM also showed the interesting Chevrolet Traverse concept, an intriguing all-wheel-drive tall wagon the company says is "the reinvention of the family sedan." Rear seats have 9 ins. (23 cm) of fore-aft travel, and can fold down to create an area that will accept - through the clamshell-folding "Smartback" tailgate - a full-size plywood sheet. Oh, and of course there's a personal computer inside.

The product blitz continues for Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., too, as it unveils a strong restyling and interior makeover for the relatively new Frontier compact pickup. Nissan officials say that the new Frontier's quick restyling was planned to keep the Frontier fresh and ahead of the market. Power-train choices remain with the same I-4 and V-6 offerings, but the 3.3L SOHC V-6 will be available with a supercharged option, raising power from 170 hp to 210 horses.

Ford Motor Co. unveils its new 2001 Ranger compact pickup, highlighted by a new "series:" the Edge. Ranger now offers the 4L SOHC V-6 (205 hp) in addition to the ancient 3L Vulcan OHV V-6 and the base 2.5L I-4, but strangely, the 4-door SuperCab bodystyle doesn't feature four fully opening doors, as Ford continues with the small "access door" arrangement.

No such stumble for Toyota Motor Corp. and its new Tacoma Double Cab, coming this fall as an '01 model. The Double Cab is Toyota's first run at compact pickups with four standard doors, and will be provided only in the upper Tacoma trim levels of SR5 and Limited. Double Cab can be had in either 2-wheel-drive or 4-wheel drive, with 4- or 6-cyl. power, although all 4-wheel drive models will come with the six.

Perhaps most interesting to note about this year's Chicago gathering: Except for a few tertiary unveilings like Daimler-Chrysler Corp.'s new Stratus, not much attention involved a passenger car.