• Aug 16th 2007 at 8:29AM
  • 42
Click the image above for a gallery of all the IIHS contenders.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has just released its most recent round of crash tests, rating everything from the Kia Amanti to the BMW 5-series in one fell swoop. With a focus set on more luxury-oriented vehicles, the IIHS tested six new models to destruction, and walked away with results for front, side and rear impacts.

Topping the list, were the 2007 Acura RL, Kia Amanti and Volvo S80, all of which earned top marks. The S80, not surprisingly, garnered the Institute's Top Safety Pick for overall crash worthiness, rating good in all three categories, plus having standard stability control. The BMW 5-series didn't fare as well, getting a "marginal" score on the side impact test, despite being equipped with side airbags.

Mercedes asked the IIHS to retest the 2007 E-Class after only scoring an "acceptable" rating when test previously. After re-engineering a number of interior bits, the score remained the same, although the Institute noted a slight improvement, but not enough to affect the overall score. IIHS president, Adrian Lund, remarked that the E-class could have earned the Top Safety Pick award if the side impact rating had increased.

The IIHS also retested a revised version of the 2007 Cadillac STS, which included reinforced B-pillars, front door trim and a modified side torso airbag, which resulted in an "acceptable" rating.

The Institute made it a point to say that nearly every passenger vehicle now earns a top rating for frontal crashes, but side and rear impacts remain all over the board.

The full IIHS press release is posted after the jump.

[Source: IIHS]


ARLINGTON, VA - Three of six large car models earn the top rating of good, but one is marginal in side impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Results show a range of performance in how well large cars are designed to protect people in serious side crashes.

Ratings of good, acceptable, marginal, or poor are based on a crash test in which a barrier designed to replicate the front end of a typical SUV or pickup truck strikes the tested vehicle in the side at 31 mph.

The best performers are the Acura RL, Kia Amanti, and Volvo S80, all 2007 models. The S80 also earns the Institute's 2007 TOP SAFETY PICK award for superior overall crash protection. The S80 qualifies because it's rated good in the Institute's front, side, and rear tests and has electronic stability control as standard equipment. The 2007 Cadillac STS and Mercedes E class earn acceptable ratings in the latest round of side tests. The worst performer is the 2008 BMW 5 series, which earns the second lowest rating of marginal for side impact protection. All 6 cars are equipped with standard side airbags that protect the heads of people in front and rear seats.

Side impacts are the second most common fatal crash type after frontal crashes. About 9,200 people in passenger vehicles were killed in side impacts in 2005. In crashes with other passenger vehicles during 2004-05, 49 percent of driver deaths in 1-3-year-old cars and minivans occurred in side impacts, up from 31 percent in 1980-81. During the same time, the proportion of driver deaths in frontal crashes declined from 61 to 46 percent.

"These changes are attributable to two effects," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "There have been significant improvements in frontal crash protection - standard airbags, improved structural designs, and increased use of safety belts, for example. At the same time, growing sales of SUVs and pickups have exacerbated height mismatches among passenger vehicles, thereby increasing the risks to occupants of many vehicles struck in the side."

High price doesn't always predict safety performance: The lowest priced vehicle in the group the Institute recently tested, the Amanti, was one of the best performers. One of the most expensive models, the 5 series, was the worst.

"The Amanti shows that you don't have to buy an expensive car to get good protection in crashes with SUVs and pickup trucks," Lund points out. The side structure of the Amanti allowed more intrusion than in the other cars in this group, but all of the injury measures recorded on the dummies were low. The standard head curtain airbags for front- and back-seat occupants kept the dummies' heads from hitting any hard structures including the intruding crash test barrier.

The head-protecting airbags in the BMW 5 series are tubular structures that differ from the curtain airbags in the Amanti but also are effective. However, torso protection is rated poor for the driver dummy in the 5 series, even though it has separate airbags designed to protect the chests and abdomens of front-seat occupants. Measures recorded on the driver dummy indicate that rib fractures and internal organ injuries would be likely to occur in a real-world crash of this severity. A pelvic fracture also would be possible.

Changes are made to improve occupant protection in side impacts: The Mercedes E class was re-engineered for 2007 with an emphasis on improving occupant protection in side crashes. When the Institute tested an early production model in 2007, the car earned an acceptable rating mainly because of high forces recorded on the driver dummy's torso. Mercedes changed the front door trim panels on cars built after May 2007 to try to fix the problem and asked the Institute to test the revised car. The result was a slight improvement but not enough to change this car's rating. The test of the revised design still showed high forces on the driver dummy that could result in rib and pelvic fractures in a real-world crash of similar severity.

"The E class earns the Institute's top rating of good for front and rear crash protection. If this manufacturer can improve side impact protection, this car will earn TOP SAFETY PICK," Lund says.

General Motors made changes to the Cadillac STS including reinforcing the B-pillars, changing front door trim panels, and modifying the side torso airbags. The car with these changes earns the second highest rating of acceptable.

The side impact test is only one aspect used to evaluate vehicle crashworthiness. The Institute also conducts 40 mph frontal offset crash tests and evaluates vehicles' seat/head restraint designs for protection in rear crashes. Nearly every passenger vehicle, including all of the cars in this group, now earns the highest rating of good for frontal crash protection. However, side and rear evaluations vary widely. Consumers shopping for safety need to be aware of these differences and choose vehicles that offer the best overall protection in crashes. For comparative evaluations of hundreds of passenger vehicles, go to www.iihs.org/ratings.

How side tests are conducted: A vehicle's side evaluation is based on performance in a crash test in which the side of the vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31 mph. The barrier represents the front end of a pickup or SUV. Overall ratings reflect injury measures recorded on two instrumented SID-IIs dummies, assessment of head protection countermeasures, and the vehicle's structural performance during the test. Injury measures obtained from the two dummies, one in the driver seat and the other in the back seat behind the driver, are used to determine the likelihood that a driver and/or passenger in a real-world crash would sustain serious injury to various body regions. The movements and contacts of the dummies' heads during the test also are evaluated. Structural performance is based on measurements indicating the amount of B-pillar intrusion into the occupant compartment.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Japtraplex, your notions about Kia shaving metal off to save money are quite naïve and sophomoric to say the least, Hyundai Motor is far too established at this point that such a tactic would save a company with annual revenues in excess of $66 billion (note: Hyundai Motor ranks 76 in global revenues, in the league of AT&T, Boeing, and BMW) hardly any money at all. Companies of this size lose a heck of a lot more money in more mundane areas.

      From what I've seen, South Korea is now a highly ambitious, self-conscious nation, intrinsically opposed to the corruption rampant in the early 80's. Read BusinessWeek or Fortune sometime, it is clear they have every intention to repeat what the Japanese have acheived in the auto industry, and their economy and political stability is certainly capable of accomodating this, just as it has for the likes of Samsung. There is only so much pace that a company can advance at so that its marque does not excessively undervalue the product. So...I am sure that they would not be doing the things you suggest unless we were to use your apparently impeccable logic.
      • 8 Years Ago

      I’m afraid japtraplex is blowing some hot air.

      First of all, comparisons btwn Kia and MB and BMW are hardly fair (a more apt comparison would be with Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Chevy and Dodge).

      Second, all auto manufacturers test (or “rig”) to (at least) meet the standards set by NHTSA and to perform well on both the govt. and insurance-backed collision tests (BMW will likely give the standard answer that all auto manufacturers give when their autos don’t test as well and will “re-engineer” the model so that it will perform better in a re-test).

      Third, yes – German autos generally tend to be well-engineered with regard to safety, however, that doesn’t mean that their engineers aren’t infallible (in this case, it seems that it’s not the structural integrity as much as the placement of certain side airbags when inflated).

      Fourth, all KIA sedans (at the very least) meet the NHTSA requirement of being able to withstand the direct pressure of about 1.5 times the vehicle's gross weight.

      “Kia on the other hand shaves as much steel as it can off its roof to save money, until it barely meets flimsly federal requirements from 1976. Roll your Kia over and the roof will crush like it was being held up by toothpicks.”

      Uhh, could it be that Kia (along with Hyundai) are now using high tensile steel in those areas?

      “Kia, a company plauged by a historic reputation for poor crash test ratings (for whatever those are worth), a company who has never attempted to innovate in the realm of safety, a company who is among the last to bring new safety features to market, a company who counts beans and cuts corners when it comes to the structural soundess of its vehicles?”

      Actually, Hyundai and Kia (to a lesser extent) were among the earlier non-lux makes to include safety features such as stability control. And Hyundai in its upcoming models (such as the Genesis) are
      utilizing ultra high-tensile steel that are only found in high-end autos.
        • 8 Years Ago
        "I’m afraid japtraplex is blowing some hot air."

        I guess if by hot air, you mean telling it like it is and supporting my argument with completely logical and factual claims...

        "First of all, comparisons btwn Kia and MB and BMW are hardly fair (a more apt comparison would be with Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Chevy and Dodge)."

        Agreed. I wasn't the one the tried to compare them in the first place.

        "Second, all auto manufacturers test (or “rig”) to (at least) meet the standards set by NHTSA and to perform well on both the govt. and insurance-backed collision tests."

        True to a certain extent, which just goes to show you how worthless the ratings are in the real world... especially for cars whose companies have a reputation for cutting corners when it comes to safety (kia) to save a few pennies.

        This is not always the case though. Take the '97 BMW 5 series for example. Introduced in Europe fall of '95 means it went through its design process somewhere around '92. This was several years before the IIHS started testing, so clearly BMW couldn't have had the foresight to build it accordingly, yet it still received a "best pick" award.

        "Third, yes – German autos generally tend to be well-engineered with regard to safety, however, that doesn't’t mean that their engineers aren’t infallible (in this case, it seems that it’s not the structural integrity as much as the placement of certain side airbags when inflated)."

        True, which is exactly why one foulup, if you can even call it that, by BMW is not grounds for saying Kia is a safer brand overall. More often than not German and Swedish autos are on the leading edge. Their dedication to safety has been proved time and again through their pioneering of safety technology, development of crash tests and innovation.

        "Fourth, all KIA sedans (at the very least) meet the NHTSA requirement of being able to withstand the direct pressure of about 1.5 times the vehicle's gross weight."

        What is your point? That Kia meets federal roof strength requirements from '76? I already acknowledged that. The problem is that this requirement is so outdated and lax that the NHTSA only gets away without updating it because of bean counting lobbyists representing GM and Ford. Hell, GM and Ford were the ones that designed the standard back in the 70s. What does that tell you about it? 1.5 times static weight is not that much force at all.

        Cars built to this standard often barely meet it because it saves money not to use more steel or higher quality steel. As a such, when they roll the roof caves in a and people become quadriplegic vegetables. GM doesn't care. Kia doesn't care. Not many of them care at all because they can make money by cutting corners.

        Not only do all European vehicles meet a far more stringent European roof strength requirements, many brands like Mercedes, Volvo and BMW far exceed it and have done so for many years. In addition to exceeding the strength requirements of both NHTSA and Europe, these brands voluntarily conduct complex rollover tests, where vehicles are actually rolled over at high speed. No one makes them do this, they just do it because they want to build safer cars.

        Mercedes for example, rolls and drops all its cars, SUVs and convertibles in one of the most rigorous barrages of rollover tests of any company. What do you expect form the company that introduced the automatic convertible rollbar and the first SUV with a highly reinforced roof?

        "Uhh, could it be that Kia (along with Hyundai) are now using high tensile steel in those areas?"

        Why would they? The common person who doesn't know any better looks at a Kia and says "hmmm it has 8 airbags so it must be as safe as a $100k Mercedes." Its as ridiculous as assuming that two cars that have seatbelts are equally safe. But thats all they need to suck in buyers. In other words, they just need to do absolutely the bare minimum so as to appear safe on paper.

        If a car has lots of airbags and does well in two or three crash tests, then its golden in the eyes of buyers. They think to themselves, how could a top safety pick Volvo be any safer than a top safety pick Hyundai? They don't consider that the Volvo has likely, judging from the company's reputation, been designed to perform in all manner of crashes, including ones that no government or insurance agency currently tests for. They also don't consider the fact that just because the two get the same rating at 40mph doesn't mean they will offer the same protection at 60mph, even if all other variables remain constant. They also may not consider that the Volvo has addi
      • 8 Years Ago
      It says so right here on my name badge. This is the Interweb, where everybody's an expert... meh.
      • 8 Years Ago
      So, to sum it up. Who cares?

      Need to feel safe, buy a security blanket and carry it around with you.

      So front crashes are now "safer" so are rear, actually so are side, once we are totally safe from front, side, rear, rollover then we can work on the largest part of the car safety issue that we ignore. The driver.

      • 8 Years Ago
      This test doesn't really prove much. Brands like Kia rig their cars to perform well in specific tests like this, but in the real world they crush like rusty sardine tins.

      Roll that Kia over on the freeway and the roof will crush to the door frame. Rear end that same Kia at high speed and the seat will collapse, crushing anyone in the back seat and launching the occupant into the rear window. Change any criteria of the above mentioned crash test (speed, angle, size of impacting vehicle, height of impacting vehicle, etc.) and the Kia would show its true colors.

      Companies like Mercedes and BMW (also the oldest designs of the group) build their cars to have superior safety overall, not just in one or two tests that they know will be exposed to the public.
        • 8 Years Ago
        Wow, you sound like you actually performed these tests? Or are you just talking out of your ass because your insecure that a budget maker like Kia has better safety technology than a car nearly double its price.
        • 8 Years Ago
        "..but in the real world they crush like rusty sardine tins. "

        Proof please.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Amanti looks better after the crash...
        • 8 Years Ago
        Good point!

        Keep in mind folks that this test doesn't include all cars. It's a small sample of only six cars. They shouldn't release stats until all the figures are in IMO...
      • 8 Years Ago

      you're certainly helping to make my point. let's move that side impact area back a foot, and let's make the vehicle hitting us in the side a full-size SUV pulling a trailer with a combined weight of 14,000 pounds. ...or perhaps hitting a pole while sliding sideways at 40 MPH on a wet road.

      IIHS uses labratory conditions, and does not take any real-world ones into consideration. don't know about you, but I don't drive in a labratory.

        • 8 Years Ago
        That's the whole point of standardized tests. Apparently, you don't get the concept of 'standardized tests'. The point is NOT to simulate real world conditions, no one who does these would argue that they do that.

        The point is to eliminate as much variance between tests as possible so that it is possible to compare the outcomes. The results are RELATIVE to other results, not ABSOLUTE. They say 'given these exact same test parameters, this is better than that'. That's all, and that's the only way you can do comparative tests.

        What you don't see is all the work that IIHS and others do looking at real world crash stats and the tests they do with cadavers. Both of those are used to judge how accurate the testing parameters in the standardized tests correlate to real-world situations. That's how they can say that there is a 20% chance of cranial injury or whatever.

        It's well proven, throughly vetted way of doing comparative analysis and judging the results, but it's not an absolute vs the real world and was never meant to be.

        • 8 Years Ago
        it's a damn good indicator. obviously they aren't going to destroy 100' s80's to test 100 different ways.

        When Consumer reports rates toaters, do they use every type of bread and muffin.

        it provides a guide line man, as for what does well and what does not.

        but hey maybe your right, in the real world the Brilliance is safe, they just had the Ram bar over to the left too far.
      • 8 Years Ago
      No, actually I'm speaking because I know something about autmotive safety and the technologies companies use to make their cars safer. I should know, its my job.

      Unlike you... an ignorant peon who believes 2 or 3 primitive crash tests actually correlate to the real world.
      • 8 Years Ago
      boy volvo has done it again, they spend all of that time in Sweden perfecting the art of crash testing their cars. Good for Volvo they will always be on the forefront of safety even when mercedes thinks that they have the best systems out their. Benz just manage to have more funds at their disposal to create all of these features like infared night light, and they also have the entire German nation at their disposal like BOSCH. Volvo on the other hand still gets the majority of their parts from germany, but they have to do some much with crappy Ford, but by the end of this year Volvo will be all back home in Sweden under Swedish ownership. Shitty Ford can just do what they do best all along again, make garbage.
      Volvo won that top award because of all their patented systems like SIPS, IC, WHIPS, safety cage, front rear and side cross member structures, transverse engines.
      Props to Volvo, one of the best automakers out their, fine, simple, european, luxury cars. Volvo For Life.
        • 8 Years Ago
        So lets see, the Ford Tarus received 5 star NHTSA rating in front and side impacts, and 5 star rollover resistance. Three words: Big F*cking Deal.

        Congrats Ford, you managed to get high marks in a low-speed, 30 year old crash test that has virtually no bearing on actual vehicle safety.

        Using the NHTSA rating as a guide for vehicle safety is flawed from square one. The criteria used to measure crash protection is so primitive and watered down that I can hardly believe NHTSA gets away with it. For example, a car that keeps chest loading relatively low will receive a high rating even if the occupant compartment collapses and severs the drivers legs at the thigh. Similarly, in a side impact a car will receive a high rating for adequate chest protection, even if forces on the pelvis or head are high enough to splinter them to pieces. Having a high star rating is like saying "this vehicle offers a bare minimum of crash protection" or "congrats you've just cleared the bar on the bottom rung of the safety ladder."

        The NHTSA hands out these 4 and 5 star ratings like food stamps at a welfare office mainly because they are so easy to obtain. Even the cheapest, most primitive car can pass these misleading "tests" with flying colors. In fact, most manufacturers specifically design their cars to pass NHTSA with little to no regard for crash performance in areas that they wont be tested for. For example, a car may easily receive 5 star front and side rating from NHTSA, but rotate by 5 degrees or increase speed by 10mph and all of a sudden, that same 5 star car crushes like a rusty sardine tin. Or, rollover that same 5-star car and the roof collapses and bends as if it were built from metal clothes hangers.

        The Taurus also received an IIHS "top safety pick award"... as did many other cars. Many cars have yet to be tested by the IIHS in all criteria to even be eligable to "the safety pick." Many cars will never even get the chance to win this distinction because they will never be tested by the IIHS period. Take the Mercedes S class for example. Mercedes poured millions into designing this car with all the latest and greatest safety technology and structural engineering. Yet it wont ever be tested by the IIHS because it sells in too low a volume.

        Ultimately, any company can build a car to pass one particular crash test. However, a few brands clearly value a comprehensive approach to safety more than others. This can be seen in their historical commitment to safety innovation, technology and real world protection that encompass more than just one or two primitive crash tests. Before safety became a buzzword, they pioneered technologies that we now take for granted. I need not mention their names, but they hail from Sweden and Germany...But thats another matter all together.

        I could write a book...

        • 8 Years Ago
        So basically your answer is? Big F... deal Taurus is the safest car in America.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Kia is not a 'POS'. Idiotic comments like these come from people who have never driven this redesigned vehicle.
      • 8 Years Ago
      @japtraplex, dude, just shutup already. Go buy your self a BMW (Break My Wallet), or whatever German crap you desire.
        • 8 Years Ago
        I'd gladly pay a premium for a car with superior safety, style and performance. Looks like the only contenders come from Germany.

        Enjoy driving whatever deathtrap brand it is that you own...
      • 8 Years Ago
      I think erick is afraid of being shown up and exposed as a hack who doesn't have anything intelligent to contribute to this debate. I know because I did it. :)
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