By Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Only two out of 11 midsize luxury cars tested earned a "good" rating on a new partial frontal crash test, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The only two of the 2012 models to make the mark were the Acura TL and Volvo S60. The Infiniti G was judged "acceptable." Those rated as "marginal" included Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS, Audi A4 and Lexus ES were considered "poor."
Automakers go to great lengths to ace the IIHS crash tests and widely advertise the results when they do well. While they often design their cars to excel on existing tests, a new test presents new challenges. IIHS spokesman Russ Rader says automakers had been told that the new test was coming.
In the new test, 25% of the driver's side front end on a car strikes a 5-foot-high barrier at 40 miles per hour. The institute, the insurance industry's safety-testing arm, says it was created to replicate real-world crashes, borne out by the accident data it receives.
"Nearly every 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 in a statement.
The number of fatal frontal crashes involving vehicles 3 years old or newer have dropped:
They're down 55% since 2001. Lund said the Volvo S60 was the safest structurally of the 11 models tested.
"Reinforcement of the S60's upper rails and a steel cross member below the instrument panel helped to keep the safety cage intact," he wrote.
The Lexus IS had up to 10 times as much intrusion into the occupant compartment as the Volvo. The Lexus IS' front pillar and footwell bent.
Testing also got ugly for other models. On the Volkswagen CC, the driver's side door was sheared off its hinges. That hasn't happened before in IIHS crash tests.