Newly implemented crash safety tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have redefined what a safe car is, with the first round of vehicles submitted to the latest procedure not faring well. In total just three of 11 luxury models tested had acceptable results.
Of the models tested, only the Volvo S60 and Acura TL earned ratings of “good” while the Infiniti G earned a rating of “acceptable”. Of those that failed to meet the new standards, the Acura TSX, BMW 3 series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC earned a rating of “marginal” while the Mercedes C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 earned ratings of “poor”.
Based on these new results, all but the TL and S60 will lose their coveted “Top Safety Pick” rating from the institute.
The test, where 25 percent of the driver’s side of the car strikes a 5-foot-tall barrier at 40 mph is intended to replicate an accident where a vehicle hits another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. The reason for the test, says the institute, is the number of deaths that still result from these types of crashes.
According to statistics compiled by the IIHS, deaths resulting from crashes in 0 to 3 year old passenger cars has dropped 55 percent since 2001. The agency estimates one quarter of front crashes are “small overlap” crashes.
“Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year,” Institute President Adrian Lund says. “Small overlap crashes are a major source of these fatalities. We think this is the next step in improving frontal crash protection.”
According to the IIHS, the Volvo S60 came out best in the new test, while the Lexus IS suffered as much as 10 times the damage, with serious “occupant compartment intrusion”. The IIHS also went so far as to point out that when tested the Volkswagen CC had its door completely ripped off, the first vehicle to ever have this happen.
The IIHS also targeted airbag deployment in its test, commenting that the S60’s side torso airbag fired too late, while in several other models they didn’t fire at all. Also of note, the Lincoln MKZ’s steering column moved to the right in the crash and as a result the dummy’s head and chest missed the airbag completely.
Lund admits that automakers build their cars to meet the requirements of safety agencies like the IIHS, and so with this new test the institute will adapt their safety systems to better protect passengers in these “small overlap” crash tests and as a result, in similar cashes in the real world. Lund does, however, warn that as luxury and near-luxury cars are often the first to get the most advanced safety features, non-luxury models could fare even worse.
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