Only three out 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars earned Good or Acceptable ratings in a new US crash test.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s new small overlap frontal crash test has caught out many of the vehicles considered to be among the safer ones around. Only Honda’s Acura TL and the Volvo S60 earned Good ratings. The Infiniti G earned an Acceptable.
The Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC managed a Marginal rating, but even that eluded the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350, which all scored a poor.
What’s the big deal?
According to the Institute, about half of all passenger vehicle occupants killed on US roads die in frontal crashes. This has occurred although testing programmes have helped beef up frontal crash protection.
The Institute conducts two different frontal crash tests: a moderate overlap test (formerly known as the frontal offset test) and a small overlap test. In the moderate overlap test, a vehicle travelling at 40 mph (64 km/h) impacts a 60 cm tall barrier, its deformable face made of aluminum honeycomb, with about 40 per cent of its frontal area. This simulates an overlap collision between two cars.
The small overlap frontal crash test introduced recently is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object such as a tree or pole. Twenty-five per cent of the total width of the vehicle strikes a 1,5-metre-high barrier on the driver side. This crash test is a challenge for some safety belt and airbag designs because occupants move both forward and toward the side of the vehicle.
Most modern car bodies are based on safety cages, designed to cocoon occupants and resist impacts. Crush zones absorb and channel crash energy to reduce forces on the safety cage in frontal impacts, but are not as effective in small overlap frontal crashes. That’s because the crash forces go directly into the front wheel, suspension system and firewall and may even force the wheel rearward into the footwell, with potential for serious leg and foot injuries.
Wallpapers: Click New on the block (November 2012 issue) to download wallpaper images of selected cars.