By on September 3, 2019

Honda Research family of dummies

Overwhelming geek that I am, I’m often reminded of The Simpsons in odd situations, mostly as the show’s been on so long, it can’t help but have covered a circumstance ad nauseum. In the car-centric season four episode “Mr. Plow,” the family heads to an auto show, where a suspiciously named automaker shows a slow-motion video of a crash test while Lisa watches. Disconcertingly, one of the dummies starts to crawl away from the scene of the crash, at which point the OEM rep shuts down the exhibit.

I did recently get the chance to watch a controlled car crash at Honda’s research facility. Just as important as seeing how the car handles the stresses of the impact is measuring how a human occupant reacts. Honda has a massive family of dummies, all ready to sacrifice themselves for the real people of the world.

(Read More…)

By on August 16, 2019

Audi’s E-Tron has become the first battery electric vehicle to receive the coveted Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick+ award. However, considering the group rarely tests EVs, it may soon find itself with company. The IIHS requires an automobile to earn high marks in six crashworthiness evaluations, as well as an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and a good headlight rating to be eligible for the commendation.

Chevrolet’s Bolt managed to achieve the necessary ratings in all categories, save for headlight illumination. The same was true for Tesla’s Model S — though that vehicle also received an “acceptable” rating for the small frontal overlap crash test. Other EVs have yet to undertake a full complement of tests, potentially giving the E-Tron a bit of a head start.  (Read More…)

By on August 8, 2019

lincoln-continental-2017-iihs-crash-test

It’s likely your average new car buyer can’t come close to guessing the number of airbags poised to deploy in their new ride. Gone are the days when Lee Iacocca would hit the airwaves, bragging about his company’s standard driver’s side airbags. New vehicles are festooned with then.

However, one particular airbag could be doing more harm than good, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (Read More…)

By on December 19, 2018

2019SantaFe

Despite perpetually raising the bar on what constitutes automotive safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just gilded nearly five dozen models with Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus awards. The metrics, which now hinge largely on a vehicle possessing crash avoidance systems and superior headlamps, require the highest rating available in passenger-side protection during its small overlap front crash to get the coveted Plus decoration — which 30 vehicles qualified for in the initial 2019 model year evaluation.

Hyundai, which managed to walk away with the most awards, swiftly issued a press release to humblebrag that it bested the competition two years running. Considering how well the Koreans performed, it was likely warranted. Automakers absolutely love this kind of stuff, so you can expect to see future references made to the awards in the next batch of car commercials.  (Read More…)

By on November 8, 2018

Image: IIHS

You win some, you lose some. For Fiat Chrysler, the new Ram 1500 represents more of a win, both in terms of quality, drive experience, and especially crash ratings, which just rolled in from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The previous-generation 1500 lost marks in two areas: driver-side small-overlap front impacts (a weakness it shares with FCA’s rear-drive passenger cars) and roof strength. Both of these tests earned the 2018 1500 a “marginal” rating from the IIHS, sinking its overall score. FCA engineers clearly did their homework — the new truck aced all crash tests. Too bad about those peepers, though. (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2018

tesla model 3

Following the release of crash test results in 2013, Tesla claimed the Model S earned more than five stars on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s ranking scale. Nuh uh, said the NHTSA. There’s only five stars to hand out. No one gets more than that.

Fast-forward five years and the exact same thing is occurring, this time centered around the just-tested Model 3. That sedan, which still isn’t cheap, earned five stars in all NHTSA crash categories. Kudos to Tesla engineers. However, the NHTSA isn’t happy with Tesla’s weekend boast that suggested the Model 3 is the safest car ever tested by the federal agency. (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2018

You don’t need a family to own a minivan, it just helps avoid a series of awkward follow-up questions. However, regardless of whether you’re riding with your complete progeny or your only friend in the world, you probably hope your vehicle has your back in the event of an accident.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test separated the wheat from the automotive chaff ever since its introduction in 2012. The test imagines what happens when the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or an stationary object, focusing an immense amount of energy on a small area of the automobile. It’s a worst-case scenario for the structural integrity of a model and makes for a great viewing experience, as it really does a number on the test car.

Despite fielding a rather pathetic number of vehicles, the minivan segment performed pretty well in the IIHS passenger-side small overlap front crash test on the whole. However, while no outright deathtraps revealed themselves, the group still saw some mixed results. (Read More…)

By on June 12, 2018

Image: IIHS/YouTube

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety never rests, always thinking up new ways to expose flaws in contemporary passenger vehicles. Lately, the IIHS has begun applying the dreaded small overlap front crash test to the passenger side of new models. There’s a seat on that side for a reason, and it’s not inconceivable that a roadside utility pole or obstruction could take out that corner of the vehicle.

The latest IIHS test put popular midsize crossovers through their paces, exposing serious safety concerns in two models. (Read More…)

By on May 11, 2018

You might want to sit down for this one. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study this week showing older cars without modern day safety hardware are — and I’m sorry to say this — far more dangerous than newer vehicles. Unbelievable, right?

Of course not. As tacked on and obnoxious as a lot of safety regulations often seem, they are delivering onto us safer automobiles. The old maxim of “they don’t build cars like they used to” is absolutely true, but not in the way your grandfather meant it. According to data compiled from the U.S. government’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) between 2012 and 2016, fatal incidents occurred in older model-year vehicles at a much higher rate than their newer counterparts. Not surprisingly, the NHSTA also suggested the severity of an occupant’s injuries increase the older a vehicle gets.

Still, the disparity between the vehicle age groups is surprisingly vast. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2018

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released new ratings for seven small utility vehicles. For the most part, the pint-sized crossovers performed amicably. However, none of the models were worthy of the group’s coveted “Top Safety Pick Plus” award due to subpar headlamp performance, while a couple of models were found structurally deficient after being confronted with the dreaded small overlap crash test.

Ford’s Escape received an overall poor rating and came away from the test with the worst structural deformation within the group. Senior IIHS research engineer Becky Muller noted that Ford reinforced the diver’s side of the vehicle for the 2017 model year but negated extending that courtesy to passengers.

“Disparities like this one are why we decided to formally rate the passenger side in the small overlap test after five years of evaluating only the driver side,” she explained. “Manufacturers shouldn’t shortchange protection for front-seat passengers.” (Read More…)

By on January 24, 2018

2019 Ram 1500

Truly, this is a momentous year for trucks. Not one, not two, but three completely revamped or wholly new domestic pickups greeted us in Detroit last week, ready to capitalize on America’s unyielding hunger for vehicles that can haul, tow, ford, climb, traverse, and commute daily with a single occupant.

While we haven’t yet had an opportunity to put the 2019 Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500, or Ford Ranger through their paces, we’d hope to find an increase in refinement and capability in returning models. Over at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, however, there’s a different testing regimen planned. Let’s just say it’s a hard-hitting one.

And if Ram or Chevy wants to get into the IIHS’ good books, those trucks had best perform better than their so-so predecessors. (Read More…)

By on December 8, 2017

IIHS crash test, Image: IIHS/YouTube

While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has steadily upgraded its standards over the last two years, the effort hasn’t been without casualties. In a new effort to improve headlight safety and impact protection, the organization has changed its testing criteria for 2018 to include both illumination and passenger-side frontal impacts.

Unfortunately, including these aspects in its final verdict of how safe a vehicle is has removed numerous models from consideration for 2018’s Top Safety Pick+ awards. Last year, 38 vehicles qualified for the safety plus appointment. This year, however, the grand total only came to 15 models — most wearing badges from Hyundai Motor Group and Subaru.

The IIHS makes no apologies for keeping so many cars from receiving top honors. Instead, it claims it was time to heap higher expectations on automakers for items like visibility and passenger safety. (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2017

IIHS small truck overlap crash test

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently ran eight pickups through the small overlap front crash test, which replicates one of the most infamous and deadly of accident types — one where the front corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or object. The segment, which the IIHS called “small pickups,” could easily be categorized as midsize. But, with no smaller options currently available in the domestic market, their terminology works well enough.

So, how did the smaller pickups stack up when hurled toward a concrete pylon at 40 miles an hour? A little better than you might expect.

If we were absolutely forced to drive into a brick wall, we’d probably prefer to be seated in a full-size truck — specifically the Ford F-150 SuperCab. But the junior pickup group wasn’t a segment full of deathtraps. In fact, they suffered less structural deformation overall and posed less risk of injury to the lower leg region when compared to their full-size brethren. There were exceptions, however.  (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2017

lincoln-continental-2017-iihs-crash-test

Like the rest of North America’s passenger car market, full-size sedan sales are waning. While luxury vehicles haven’t taken quite the same hit as more affordable models, big cars are not in fashion for 2017. However, some buyers still prefer the distinction and mass that only a full-size automobile can provide. They want a luxurious, low-slung ride and, if possible, an equally elegant crash experience.

While big cars tend to perform better in accidents than the majority of their petite contemporaries, very few vehicles do well in the small overlap crash test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently took six of its favorite picks from the segment to evaluate side impact crashes, roof strength, protection from head restraints, moderate overlap front crashes, and the dreaded small overlap front impact.

“This group of large cars includes some with stellar ratings, but our small overlap front test remains a hurdle for some vehicles,” explained David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer.  (Read More…)

By on January 25, 2017

Nissan Titan crash test 2017

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s small overlap crash test — the bane of every automaker’s existence — has prevented another pickup from achieving high marks.

This time, it’s the 2017 Nissan Titan — a full-size pickup struggling to stand apart from its domestic competition after recently undergoing its first redesign in 13 years.

In IIHS testing, the Titan crew cab, like many of its rivals, folded under pressure during the small overlap test. That keeps the truck out of the running for an ad-worthy Top Safety Pick rating. (Read More…)

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