June 1, 2007

Saab and Volvo top IIHS crash tests of convertibles

Arlington, Virginia – The Saab 9-3 and Volvo C70 have earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award for superior crash protection, in the Institute’s first tests of ten midsized convertibles. The two models earned the top “Good” rating for protection in front, side and rear crashes, and both include standard electronic stability control.

The lowest-rated convertible was the Pontiac G6, which rated “Acceptable” for frontal crash protection but only “Marginal” for side and rear impacts. The Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series earned “Good” ratings in frontal offset tests, but both rated “Marginal” for side impact protection, and “Poor” for protection in rear crashes.

The ten convertibles tested were the Saab 9-3, Volvo C70, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Volkswagen Eos, Chrysler Sebring, Toyota Camry Solara, Ford Mustang, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 Cabriolet, and Pontiac G6. All earned “Good” in frontal crash protection, except for the Mustang and G6, which rated “Acceptable”. In side crashes, all rated “Good” except for the Solara, which rated “Acceptable”, and the BMW, Audi and Pontiac, which rated “Marginal”. In rear crash protection, the Saab and Volvo rated “Good”; the Eclipse, Eos and G6 rated “Marginal”, and the Sebring, Solara, Mustang, 3 Series and A4 rated “Poor”.

To earn a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must have “Good” ratings in all three IIHS crash tests. There is an additional requirement of roll bars for convertibles, to preserve occupants’ headroom if the car rolls over. Both the 9-3 and C70 are equipped with standard pop-up roll bars behind the rear head restraints that deploy if sensors detect a serious crash.

“We wanted to test convertibles because sales are increasing,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS President. “We also wanted to evaluate a group of vehicles that automakers wouldn’t expect us to test, to see if crashworthiness improvements in mainstream cars also are being built into convertibles. For the most part, we found that this is happening.”

Seven of the ten convertibles have standard side airbags to protect the heads of front-seat occupants, and eight have electronic stability control as standard or optional equipment. Data from real-world crashes indicates that the overall risk of death is not higher in a convertible, but there are some safety disadvantages, including a need for automakers to strengthen the vehicle’s main structures to compensate for support lost in removing the roof. The IIHS also says that folding hardtops, which are standard on the C70, Eos, 3 Series and G6, are not as rigid as fixed roofs, and do not make a convertible more crashworthy than if the top were soft; the IIHS says that “foldtops are for comfort, not safety.”

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