Luxury dented in car-crash study

An expensive car may not always get you side-impact protection, according to a new report.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena, staff writer

Dearborn, Mich. ( -- Luxury doesn't always buy complete car safety, according to a new report.

In side impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), three of six large car models tested earned a top rating of "Good." They were the Kia Amanti, Acura RL and Volvo S80, all 2007 models.

2008 Volvo S80
The 2008 Volvo S80 earned "Top Safety Pick" from the IIHS.
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Two cars, the 2007 Cadillac STS and Mercedes E class earned the institute's second-highest rating of "Acceptable."

The worst performer was the 2008 BMW 5 series, which received a "Marginal" rating, the second-lowest of four possible ratings, with "Poor" at the bottom.

"The Amanti shows that you don't have to buy an expensive car to get good protection in crashes with SUVs and pickup trucks," Institute president Adrian Lund said in a statement.

The Volvo S80's "Good" rating in the side impact crash test earned it a spot among the IIHS' "Top Safety Picks." The S80 had already earned top scores in front and rear impact safety tests.

A BMW spokesman noted that the company's cars are engineered to do well in crash tests run by a variety of organizations and government agencies around the world.

"We are confident that, on the road in the real world, BMW vehicles are among the safest," said BMW's Tom Plucinsky in a statement. "This conclusion is supported by real-world crash data not only in the US, but worldwide."

The Institute's test is designed to mimic the impact of a pickup or SUV into the side of the car. Because the point of impact is higher on the door, it's virtually impossible for a vehicle to do well in the Institute's side impact test unless it is equipped with airbags designed to protect occupants' heads.

Side impacts are the second deadliest after frontal crashes, according to the IIHS. About 9,200 people in passenger vehicles were killed in side impacts in 2005.

Among crash deaths, the percentage of deaths from side impacts has been increasing. The institute gives two reasons: improved front impact safety, which has reduced the number of front impact deaths, and the popularity of SUVs and large pickups.

Taller vehicles like SUVs and tall trucks increase the risk to car occupants because they strike cars higher up on the body and away from stiff structures that can help resist the crushing force of the impact. Taller vehicles also strike closer to the heads of those in a lower vehicle like a car. Top of page