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SUV's Still Rule ... Mudfest Proves It!

    SEATTLE, Feb. 6 -- In the great Pacific Northwest where you
can drive from the rain forest through the snowy mountains and into the desert
all within two hours, SUV's rule. The geography and climate of the Northwest
creates unique demands on daily transportation, so SUV's caught on early to
meet the challenge.
    Over the past decade the Northwest Auto Press Association (NWAPA) has
sponsored Mudfest, a grueling two-day event to see if the automakers live up
to their claims and consumers are getting what they think.
    The big news from Mudfest 2002 was the agile Kia Sorento, winning both its
category, under $25,000 and Best Overall Value.  Surprisingly, the Sorento was
chosen best value from all the category winners
    Choosing the best vehicles from a list of 25 is the job of automotive
journalists.  Each year has brought more reliable, safer and creative SUV's to
the forest with better capabilities and more interesting designs and features.
    There were four price categories in the competition, the next category up
was the $25-35,000 and the winner was the totally redesigned 2003 Toyota
4Runner. The winner in the $35-$45,000 category, the Volvo XC90, also took top
honors as the best overall SUV. As the first ever SUV from Volvo, the XC90,
has many inventive features including anti-rollover sensors and very flexible
seating arrangements.
    In the top category, over $45,000, it was the Range Rover HSE, a truly
amazing and capable vehicle that could be seen almost perpendicular to the
ground during the testing portion of Mudfest.
    The soul of Mudfest, has got to be the mud, several inches deep and deeper
still by the end of the day. "Each of the auto writers makes over 50 vehicle
switches driving over many different wet and dry, hard and loose roads and
plenty of mud," says Ashly Knapp, Mudfest Chair, reporter for Boardroom
Reports' Bottomline and CNBC contributor. "And scoring is kept simple and to
the point."
    Two scholarships have being established from the proceeds of Mudfest. One
will go to an automotive journalist at the University of Washington and one to
the University of Oregon.
    The Northwest Automotive Press Association dates for next year's Mudfest;
will be October 9th, 10th and 11th, 2003.