For 2012, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has introduced what it calls the small overlap frontal crash test. Based on its findings using the new crash-test method, only three of the 11 luxury sedans it tested passed the test.
The small overlap frontal crash test is conducted by having a vehicle travel at 64kph to strike a five-foot-tall rigid barrier with only 25 percent of the vehicle's total width colliding with the barrier on the driver's side. According to the IIHS, the test was designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. The difference, however, between this test and the moderate overlap frontal test is that the latter strikes a two-foot-tall deformable barrier made of aluminum honeycomb with 40 percent of the vehicle's total width striking the barrier on the driver's side.
"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. "Small overlap crashes are a major source of these fatalities. This new test program is based on years of analyzing real-world frontal crashes and then replicating them in our crash test facility to determine how people are being seriously injured and how cars can be designed to protect them better. We think this is the next step in improving frontal crash protection."
Of the 11 luxury sedans tested by the IIHS using its new small overlap frontal crash test, only three models passed, with the Acura TL and the Volvo S60 earning 'Good' ratings and the Infiniti G receiving 'Acceptable'. The Acura TSX, the BMW 3-series, the Lincoln MKZ and the Volkswagen CC earned 'Marginal' ratings, while the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Lexus IS250 and IS350, the Audi A4 and the Lexus ES350 were all classified as 'Poor'.
Based on the tests, the Volvo S60 performed the best as its cabin only had a few inches of intrusion after the crash and it reportedly "looked much the same as it did in a moderate overlap test."
The Lexus IS, on the other hand, had up to 10 times as much cabin intrusion as the Volvo, with its A-pillar bent and the footwell collapsed after the left front wheel and tire were forced rearward. The dummy's left foot was also entrapped by intruding structure, and its right foot was wedged beneath the brake pedal.
"These are severe crashes, and our new test reflects that," added Lund. "Most automakers design their vehicles to ace our moderate overlap frontal test and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's full-width frontal test, but the problem of small overlap crashes hasn’t been addressed. We hope our new rating program will change that."
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