The Acura TL and Volvo S60 were the only two out of eleven luxury cars to pass a new crash test from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) with a “Good” rating, including the ones that earned positive reviews in traditional frontal crash tests.
The new test simulated a 40 mph crash where the corner 25-percent of the car strikes a five-foot tall object, such as a signpost or wall.
The IIHS calls this the small overlap frontal crash test. In a 2009 study, the IIHS test found that small overlap crashes account for nearly a quarter of frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injuries to front passengers.
"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," said IIHS President Adrian Lund.
So then what took the IIHS so long to start this test? The small overlap frontal crash test is apparently very common in the real world, at speeds that are sometimes far faster than 40 mph. It seems like a rather obvious scenario to test, and considering the fact that many of the cars tested had previous rated very well in IIHS frontal tests, it begs the question whether automakers have been catering to IIHS rather than real world collision scenarios.
While that may seem like a stretch, keep in mind that the IIHS is traditionally not really ahead of the curve – it took them 41 years to develop a test dummy for women.
Nevertheless, the TL and S60 topped the list in the small overlap frontal crash test, while the Infiniti G earned an “Acceptable” rating.
On the other side of the scores, the IIHS found some concerning results that had never been seen before in their tests. The Acura TSX and BMW 3-Series were named “Marginal” along with the Lincoln MKZ, in which the dummy’s head completely bypassed the front and side curtain airbags.
The Mercedes C-Class and Lexus ES fell into the “Bad” category. They weren’t the only ones. Compartment intrusion in the Lexus IS was ten times as bad as the Volvo and the dummy inside had its left foot trapped inside the collapsed footwell.
Perhaps most surprising was the Volkswagen CC, whose driver side door sheared away from the rest of the vehicle – the first time the IIHS has ever seen that in a test. Similarly, the Audi A4 door opened but remained attached. Ironically, the CC still scored a better rating with “Marginal” while the A4 marked “Poor.”
If you couldn’t find your car on the list, don’t laugh; the IIHS will next test moderately priced cars like the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
The IIHS plans to use the small overlap frontal test to its Top Safety Pick award evaluations – but not just yet, as the 2013 criteria will not change. Vehicles like the TL and S60 that performed well in the new test, however, will be recognized with a new level of scoring in 2013. The ones that scored poorly? Their ratings will not effect next year’s awards.
"Models meeting the current award criteria still offer outstanding protection in most crashes,” says Lund.
Just not a quarter of them.
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2012 Acura TL - Official Website
Build Your Own 2013 Acura TL
Volvo S60 - Official Website