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The Driving Force In 2000

The year 2000 is still nine months away, but the auto industry is already set with its new car introductions. What do they have in store for the new millennium? CBS This Morning gets a sneak preview at the New York International Auto Show where Correspondent Jose Diaz-Balart has the details.

The 2000 Ford Taurus

For the first time, Ford has a release lever that glows in the dark and can be pulled to get out of a locked trunk. It is one of the many new safety features on the car. In fact, safety is a key issue at the auto show. Editor of Car and Driver, Csaba Csera says it is the "driving" force of new features in the Taurus:

"Safety is very important because it's a family sedan and the customers want it very much. This has a new air bag system, a dual stage air bag." Csera explains.

"The air bags can fire with a big bang or medium bang. It's based on whether you are wearing the seat belt, the speed of the accident, and how close you are to the wheel. It has optional side air bags."

Another new feature on the Taurus is what Csera calls "an adjustable peddle cluster." He says it is "for people of different sizes - it helps you stay further away from the steering wheel." It offers power-adjustable accelerator and brake pedals that allow the pedals to be horizontally adjusted up to three inches toward the driver from the standard location.

Besides safety options, there is a new look, too. "The roof has been raised two inches to add rear head room. The trunk has been raised. That adds to the trunk interior volume," Csera says.

The Taurus is available with Ford's head-and-chest combination side-impact airbags. The front seat side airbags deploy independently during side impacts. For 2000, the Taurus will be offered in two trim levels - the LX Sedan and the SE sedan. A SE wagon is also available.

The 2000 Chevrolet Suburban

The Suburban has been the ultimate sports utility vehicle, over 16 feet long, but since Ford introduced the 19-foot long Excursion, Chevrolet is ready to do battle. The tactic is to introduce and promote the smaller Suburban as a vehicle that fits today's world - fitting into parking spaces and garages.

Ease of entry is better on this model through a lower step-in height, and wider door openings. Second row seats were moved back, adding leg room. You can choose between a liftgate in the rear or rear cargo doors.

Safety features include dual front airbags, standard front side-impact airbags, a larger windshield, and four-wheel anti-lock brakes with larger break pads.

Csera says, "It's more practical and refined but [still] the Suburban we have known."

The 2000 Subaru Outback

According to Csera, the Subaru has carved out a niche for itself, offering a line ovehicles that all come with four-wheel drive. He says the 2000 Subaru "more ground clearance. It's got a raised roof. A lot of people like this machine. It has a very aggressive front end on it that gives you . . . a lot of the same characteristics of the SUV from the user standpoint."

To attract buyers, Subaru offers vehicles that some in the industry categorize as a hybrid - it looks like an SUV but is actually a car.

The trunk, he says is roomy:
"It's a station wagon, has a lot of luggage space. This has more because of the redesigned rear suspension."

The Outback is all new for 2000. It has new sleek design with a class leading low aerodynamic drag.

Visibility is enhanced with a more sloping hood in the front and a rear window shaped like a lazy "V" for increased visibility of small objects directly behind the vehicle. And all of the pillars have been strategically placed to minimize blind spots.

Safety is also a selling point with the Outback. The new Outback is stiffer than before, with much of the increase rigidity attributed to the newly designed Ring-Shaped Reinforcement Frames.

The newly designed independent rear suspension not only gives the car a better ride, but its location below the rear cargo floor gives more interior cargo area too.

The Dodge Dakota Quad Cab Pickup

From the front, it looks like a normal truck. But it's got a new four-door cab on it. "What is different about this, the four doors are big. Rather than having the tiny helper doors that are good for a kid or a bag of groceries, this has full-size doors accommodating full-size people," Csera says.

He adds, it has head room and leg room like a regular automobile and the pick-up bed is still there, "It's shorter than normal. It's five feet long [with] lenty of room for cargo."

This is for people who like pick-ups, but also need to accommodate the family.

According to Csera, there have been 4-door full size trucks available in America for years, but they have been limited production and usually sold to the working males who have a hard hat job, construction and utility companies, or highway departments. These were real work trucks. But now that image and market could change with the Dakota, and the other trucks coming out.

He says, "This is a up and coming trend because other companies like Ford and Chevy will also be introducing four-door compact trucks soon, and they are not going to marketed just to the hard hat crowd."

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