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Car crash tests: Midsize heavyweights do well
Insurance researchers rate five luxury models
ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- Three midsize luxury cars -- BMW 3 Series, Volvo S80 and Cadillac Catera -- all got top marks overall in 40 mile per hour crash tests conducted by insurance industry researchers. Two other models in the same category -- Saab 9-5 and Audi A6 -- were rated "acceptable."
All of the cars are priced in the $27,000 to $49,000 range and weigh in excess of 3,300 pounds.
"Overall this is a good group of vehicles," said Brian O'Neill, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
What the tests measured
Each vehicle's crashworthiness evaluation was based on its performance in a 40 mph frontal offset crash test.
In offset tests, only one side of a vehicle's front end, not the full width, hits a barrier. That means there is less bumper area to absorb the crash, making intrusion into the occupant compartment more likely after impact.
The institute says its ratings depend on:
How well the structure/safety cage protects the occupant compartment.
The risk of injury measured for an average-size male.
How well the restraint system controls occupant movement.
Of the three midsize luxury models rated "good," only the BMW 3 Series received the institute's "Best Pick" designation. "The occupant compartment held its shape together very well. The injury measures recorded on the (crash) dummy were low," O'Neill told CNN.
At 3,347 pounds, the BMW 3 Series models were the lightest of the five midsize luxury vehicles tested.
Although the Volvo S80 and Cadillac Catera also were judged "good" overall in the offset frontal crash test, they received a "poor" rating in separate evaluations that found fault with their bumpers.
In the Volvo, that meant front airbags could deploy unnecessarily in common low-speed crashes. O'Neill said the institute also found that airbag gasses on the S80 were hot "very close to where a driver would be holding the (steering) wheel."
While Volvo said it couldn't duplicate the problems in five tests it carried out, the Sweden-based carmaker plans to make design changes.
Correspondent Ed Garsten contributed to this report.
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