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Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs)

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Updated: 3/28/2003 12:53 pm
Sport Utility Vehicles, or 'SUVs' (S-U-Vs), are increasingly popular, now commanding half of the U.S. market for family vehicles. SUVs vary greatly in size, price, engine power, fuel efficiency, and features. You can find SUVs made by nearly every car company, both foreign and domestic, from the most economical to the most luxurious. They combine the cargo capability of a van with the other features of a car. Some provide four-wheel drive and off-road capability, as well. The rear door allows easy loading and unloading of cargo. SUVs provide good views as a result of their height and increased amount of unobstructed window space, often nearly 360 degrees in some models. However, their handling characteristics differ from those of the typical passenger car. Because their center of gravity is higher, they can be more prone to skidding or to rolling over in certain situations. Their height may also make it difficult to enter and exit. There are other safety considerations, both pro and con. In a crash involving an SUV and a car, the driver of an SUV is three times less likely to die as the driver of the car. On the other hand, the SUV's rigid construction can provide fewer impact-absorbing crumple zones. In addition, the taller vehicles can roll over more frequently. Manufacturers are trying to make SUVs less lethal in crashes with conventional cars. Some are changing models to make them lower and less likely to override a standard car's bumpers or door sills in a collision. Other manufacturers are placing hollow, impact-absorbing bars below their bumpers to prevent overrides of automobiles or are reinforcing the SUV's bumpers to spread the impact on a struck vehicle.

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