Families seeking comfort, space, and affordable, yet stylish, transportation often choose large sedans. And key among considerations for any family vehicle is safety. For 2011, families have some great choices in affordable large cars that are also rated Top Safety Picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Criteria to achieve Top Safety Pick designation include a “Good” rating in high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test (which now includes roof crush test), and evaluations of seat/head restraints for protection against neck injuries in rear impacts. Vehicles must also offer electronic stability control.
Here are the four 2011 model year affordable large cars the IIHS rates as Top Safety Picks. Note that Buick Regal is generally considered a mid-size car, while the IIHS classifies it as large.
Ford TaurusFord Taurus, marketed by the Blue Oval as “It’s America’s most innovative full-size sedan,” is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick. Backing up its assertion, Ford compared Taurus against luxury models--Infiniti M45, Acura RL, Lexus LS, and Audi A6 (versus Taurus SHO). Stylish design, excellent cabin electronics, balanced ride, and affordable price make Taurus a good family car contender. Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRPs) for the four Taurus models begin at $25,170 for SE up to $37,770 for the high-performance SHO. Besides standard safety features that include airbags, ABS, stability and traction control, Taurus also offers optional safety technology: blind spot information system (including cross-traffic alert), class-exclusive adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, and rear-view camera as part of voice-activated navigation system (standard on Limited and SHO, available on SEL). Another unique safety feature is the optional MyKey system which comes with a separate set of keys parents can give to new drivers that limits what the car can do (such as top speed and capping the radio’s volume).
With its well-balanced performance, comfortable and inviting interior, the sporty all-new 2011 Buick Regal is something of a contradiction. It’s priced like an affordable sedan, but competes well with some luxury models--and is a Top Safety Pick. Smaller and sportier than its sibling, Buick LaCrosse, with which it shares some components, Regal is based on the Opel Insignia (available only in Europe). Safety features include six standard airbags plus optional rear seat thorax airbags, antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control system, OnStar with Automatic Crash Response, and available rear parking assist. Starting MSRPs for six trim levels range from $26,245-$31,030.
2010 Buick LaCrosseEnlarge Photo
Clearly aimed at Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL (as well as Toyota Avalon), the 2011 Buick LaCrosse (2010 model pictured right), a Top Safety Pick for 2010-2011, offers consumers entry-level luxury sedan features while priced like higher-trim models of affordable cars. Base MSRPs for 2011 LaCrosse range from $26,495 for the front-wheel drive CX to $32,570 for CXL AWD. Standard safety features include six airbags, plus optional rear-seat side airbags. One caution for families is that the latter may dislodge infant safety seats in the event of a crash. Rear parking assist, side blind zone alert, head-up display, and OnStar with Automatic Crash Response are other LaCrosse safety technologies.