Volvo, Acura Models Protect Well In New Crash Test; Many Others Don't

August 13, 2012
Families who want to choose one of the safest cars on the market have a new and compelling reason to consider the Volvo S60 or Acura TL: Of eleven luxury sedans run in a tough new frontal-impact test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these two are the only models to achieve the highest rating.

The new so-called small overlap frontal offset test, better simulates one of the kinds of particularly deadly or injurious accidents—when the corner of the vehicle impacts another car or a utility pole—by measuring the forces and intrusion when a vehicle is run at 40 mph into a rigid barrier that makes contact with just 25 percent of the vehicle’s front end.

The existing IIHS offset frontal test—now renamed the moderate overlap frontal test—has 40 percent of the vehicle’s front end strike a deformable barrier. While the difference might sound subtle, it makes a big difference in survivability; and that’s reflected in the surprisingly poor performance of some vehicles that have performed well in existing frontal impact tests.

In that group of eleven, only those two models were rated ‘good,’ while only the Infiniti G earned a rating of ‘acceptable.’ The rest of the models offered ‘marginal’ or ‘poor’ protection, with the 2012 Audi A4 and 2012 Lexus ES 350 ranked at the bottom; it should be noted that both of these models are being replaced with all-new 2013 models.

Some embarrassing (and worrisome) results

That said, the performance of a number of some of the models pointed to plenty of room for improvement. The Volkswagen CC completely lost its door in the test—the first time this has ever happened in an IIHS test—while the Mercedes-Benz C-Class pinned the test dummy’s foot below the brake pedal. The test also changes the trajectories of airbag deployment. For instance, in the Lincoln MKZ, the front airbag deployed to the side of the driver’s head and chest, due to sideways motion of the steering column.

2012 Lexus IS 250

2012 Lexus IS 250

Enlarge Photo
The Lexus IS had a survivability-affecting ten times the level of intrusion that the best performer, the Volvo S60, had. The IIHS notes that Volvo has run small overlap tests as part of vehicle development since the late 1980s, while some other automakers still don’t use the test.
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