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Luxury Vehicles -- Not All Are Safe
By Steven Marks / January 1, 2013

When shopping for a new car, most consumers expect luxury cars to offer a great level of safety through advancements in technology. Relative to the extra cost, buyers expect to have the highest level of quality construction integrated with security reinforcement and peace of mind. However, a new crash test developed by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety proved a set of luxury sedans not to be as safe as assumed. In a recent battery of tests of the entry-level luxury segment, only 3 out of the 11 vehicles passed a new crash test developed by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, or the IIHS.

The new "small overlap crash" involves driving the car's front end at about 40 mph into a five foot barrier that impacts 25% of the vehicle's width on the drivers side. For comparison, the traditional frontal crash test sends nearly 40% of the front end into a barrier. The latest test is constructed to replicate a well-known crash situation where a vehicle may collide into a tree, utility pole, or an offset head on collision.

The new evaluation is set to add more stress on the car's front corners and wheel assemblies. The replicated impact is noted as a major cause of fatalities and normally goes unnoticed. In 2009, the IIHS conducted a study that showed nearly a quarter of fatalities and injuries for front seat passengers were a result of small overlap crashes.
Besides select manufacturers utilizing their own proving grounds, the test had not been previously required for safety, but recently has gained more awareness from the automakers.

According to the IIHS, only the Volvo S60 and Acura TL earned a "good" rating on the new test, out of the 11 total luxury vehicles that were tested. The Infiniti G37 was the only vehicle that earned the test's 2nd best rating of "marginal", which is also considered passing. However, some of today's most popular luxury sport sedans including the Audi A4, BMW 3 series, and even the Lexus IS earned the lowest "poor" safety rating in the new test. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety states that the "poor" vehicles were likely to cause "high risk injury to the legs and feet". In most of the vehicles that earned a "poor" rating, the crash test dummy's feet were found wedged up underneath the brake pedal due to the collapse of the A-pillar and intrusion of various body structures.

The new test shocked various safety officials when certain vehicles such as the Lincoln MKZ actually allowed the crash dummy's head to miss the airbag, due to crash intrusions during the new test. Another notable failing contender during the assessment was the Volkswagen CC that actually caused the driver's door to be released from its hinges, and fly off from the impact. Popular models like the Lexus IS sedan showed nearly 10 times as much crash intrusion in the passenger compartment than the Volvo S60.

The new evaluations will also help to regulate the coveted "Top Safety Pick" recognition awarded by the organization. The award recognizes vehicles that perform the best in protecting passengers during front, side, rollover, and rear crash tests performed by the IIHS. The institute plans to make the award more stringent by adding the new "small overlap test" to the tests by the end of 2013. As a competitive advantage, both Acura and Volvo have recently released advertising campaigns, which highlight the new crash achievement. The luxury sport sedan is the first of many segments to be tested with the new small overlap test. Next up, the flooded midsize sedan segment followed by more.




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