Eight out of 11 premium sedans have failed an alarming new IIHS crash test. Volvo S60 was one of three that passed.

Only three of 11 midsize luxury and near-luxury cars evaluated earned good or acceptable ratings in an alarming new crash test conducted by the United States’ Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The small overlap frontal crash test is designed to replicate what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole at 64km/h. Outside of some automakers’ proving grounds, such a test isn’t currently conducted anywhere else in the United States or Europe.

Rather than striking the object dead-on as in most crash tests, the IIHS delivers a more glancing blow that only impacts a quarter of the car’s front end. These types of collisions are particularly dangerous, as the impact will often miss the energy-absorbing structures built into the car’s frame.

The Acura TL and Volvo S60 earned good ratings, while the Infiniti G earns acceptable. The Acura TSX, BMW 3 Series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC earned marginal ratings. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 were rated poor.

“Small overlap crashes are a major source of fatalities.”

IIHS President Adrian Lund said: “Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the Institute and the federal government, but we still see more than 10 000 deaths in frontal crashes each year.

This new test programme is based on years of analysing real-world frontal crashes and then replicating them in our crash test facility to determine how people are being seriously injured and how cars can be designed to protect them better. We think this is the next step in improving frontal crash protection.”

In a 2009 Institute study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants. Another 24 percent of the frontal crashes were moderate overlap crashes. - Star Motoring