Three large sedans are among the safest new cars you can buy, according to the IIHS. Three others, including two Detroit mainstays and the Tesla Model S? Not quite as impressive.
The insurance industry-funded crash-testing organization bestowed its top award upon certain versions of the 2017 Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Toyota Avalon. All three of those sedans garnered a Top Safety Pick+ award. Performing not quite as well were three other big four-doors, the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, and Tesla Model S.
For its Top Safety Pick+ award, the IIHS requires cars to ace its small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side impact, and roof strength instrumented tests. It also measures head restraint and frontal crash prevention effectiveness and, for 2017, the agency has added a headlight performance test.
2017 Lincoln Continental after performing well the IIHS' small-overlap front crash test
When fitted with automatic emergency braking and forward collision warnings, the Continental and E-Class earned top marks all around. The Avalon came in a close second with the caveat that its headlights don't light up the road quite as well. Notably, Toyota made a mid-year change to its Avalon range beginning with 2017 models built in March that improves their headlight performance.
The other three vehicles tested were a bigger surprise. Neither the Impala, Taurus, or Model S earned the top "Good" rating in the challenging small overlap test that simulates two vehicles going opposite directions on a two-lane road making contact. Instead, they received the second-highest rating—"Acceptable."
DON'T MISS: Here's what makes an IIHS Top Safety Pick+
Tesla requested a second test of the Model S after making some changes to the electric car's seat belts, but the IIHS says that the fix didn't actually improve the car's performance. Instead, the updated Model S actually had more intrusion into the passenger compartment after the wreck.
Additionally, all three boast "Poor" headlights. The Taurus lacks available automatic emergency braking and the IIHS hasn't yet been able to test a Model S with the automaker's recently updated Autopilot system.