In its latest round of crash testing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined six large cars and gave three of them a Top Safety Pick+ award.
The Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan, and Toyota Avalon nabbed top honors from the agency. All three vehicles earned “Good” scores in all crash categories and “Superior” ratings in front crash prevention technology.
Thanks to automatic braking, the three vehicles were able to avoid collisions at test speeds of 12 mph and 25 mph. The E-Class and Continental earned “Good” headlight scores with optional equipment, while the Avalon received an “Acceptable” score in this category.
The Tesla Model S and Chevrolet Impala fell short of earning an award from IIHS because they received “Acceptable” scores in the small overlap test. This evaluation replicates what happens when the front corner of a car hits a tree, pole, or another vehicle at 40 mph. In the Impala, the vehicle structure was well maintained, but the dummy’s head hit the front airbag and slid off the left side, leaving the head partially unprotected.
Tesla’s problem, which the automaker said it had fixed in models built after January, lies with the seat belt. Despite the attempt at improvement, the seat belt still allowed the dummy’s torso to move too far forward, resulting in the head striking the steering wheel hard through the airbag. Both the Model S and Impala also have headlights rated “Poor.”
Similarly, the Ford Taurus received an “Acceptable” score in the small overlap test and a “Poor” headlight rating that prevented it from joining the Continental, E-Class, and Avalon. It also received a “Basic” rating in front crash prevention because it doesn’t have automatic braking technology.
After running the small overlap test on the Taurus, IIHS concluded that a driver may injure the left lower leg in a real-world crash of the same severity.