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2003 Utah International Auto Expo Car show goes bigger, better

Popular vehicles combine car’s ride with SUV features

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Utahns' love affair with big trucks, pricey sport utility vehicles and concept cars will be the center of attention at this weekend's annual Utah International Auto Expo.

Featuring hundreds of 2003 models of both domestic and import vehicles and 35 major manufacturers, this year's display also will introduce added safety features and more crossover vehicles, which combine the ride of a car with the features of an SUV.

For example, Volvo's first SUV, the $40,000 XC90, is described as a crossover SUV based on a passenger-car platform. It seats seven passengers and offers an anti-roll stability system, side-curtain airbags, a roof reinforced with strong Boron steel and 85.1 cubic feet of cargo space.

"The crossover feature is definitely big, and everyone is always adding safety features," said DeeDee Taft, a spokeswoman for the expo. "I think it's that people want the convenience and flexibility of space of an SUV, but they want all the bells and whistles of a nice car."

Acura is adding interior child safety seats. A driver's-side window, which automatically rolls up if the car thinks it is getting in an accident, is also a new attraction on the CL model.

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class presents an on-board computer that anticipates an unavoidable collision. Seats and seat belts instantly adjust to best absorb the impact, and the sunroof closes if the car skids.

In addition to better safety features, manufacturers are introducing stand-out models, like the Chevrolet 2004 SSR convertible pick-up, which allows a driver at the flip of a switch to lower the top behind the front seats.

Craig Bickmore, executive director of the Utah Automobile Dealers Association, said the 2003 crossover models have been received well in Utah, with sales at local dealerships remaining strong.

"All of us love to go out-of-town, and they're a great vehicle to do that in," Bickmore said.

The expo opens Friday and runs through Monday at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy.

The exhibit will again include the "Three-Million Dollar Exotic Car Display," which this year will showcase the Murcielago, Lamborghini's first new model in 11 years, bragging a V-12 engine with 580 horsepower and a sticker price of $270,000.

Other exhibits will include a 1967 Shelby GT500, the Segway Human Transporter and the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor, making its Utah debut.

The expo is owned and presented by the Utah Automobile Dealers Association, sponsored by the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune, produced by Motor Trend and managed by Liberty Productions Inc.

When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday

Where: South Towne Exposition Center, 9575 S. State in Sandy

Cost: $7 for adults (13 and older), $4 for senior citizens (62 and over), $4 for children 7 through 12, free for children six and under.

E-mail: danderton@desnews.com