Road & Travel Magazine

                Bookmark and Share  

Automotive Channel

Auto Advice & Tips
Auto Products
Auto Buyer's Guides
Car Care Maintenance
Earth Aware Awards
Insurance & Accidents

Car of Year Awards
Legends & Leaders
New Car Reviews
Planet Driven
Road Humor
Road Trips
Safety & Security
Teens & Tots
Tire Buying Tips
Used Car Buying
Vehicle Model Guide
What Women Want

Travel Channel
Adventure Travel
Advice & Tips
Airline Rules
Bed & Breakfasts
Cruises & Tours
Destination Reviews
Earth Tones
Family Travel Tips
Health Trip
Hotels & Resorts
Luxury Travel
Pet Travel
Safety & Security
Spa Reviews
Train Vacations
Travel Products
Travel Directory
What Women Want

Follow Us
Facebook | Pinterest

Convertible Crash Testing

Car Safety Stats for 2007 Convertibles—
Saab & Volvo Top First Convertible Test

Forr the first time, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested 10 midsize convertible models. Ranking at the top with good protection in front, side and rear crashes are the Saab 9-3 and Volvo C70, which both include electronic stability control (ESC), which research proves can help in avoiding crashes.

"Performance of the Saab 9-3 and Volvo C70 are impressive. These cars combine
what buyers should look for
if they're shopping with
safety in mind.

The lowest rated convertible model overall is the Pontiac G6. It's acceptable for frontal crash protection but only marginal for protection in side and rear impacts. The Audi A4 and BMW 3 series earn good ratings in frontal offset tests, but both are also rated marginal for side impact protection and poor for rear protection.

The IIHS's "Top Safety Pick" designation is intended to make it easy for consumers to locate top-rated vehicles without sorting through reams of crash test results.

To earn the "Top Safety Pick" award, a vehicle must have good ratings in all three Institute crash tests. It also must be equipped with ESC. For convertibles, the Institute adds a requirement that vehicles must be equipped with rollbars designed to preserve headroom if a car rolls over. Both the 9-3 and C70 are equipped with standard pop-up rollbars behind the rear head restraints that deploy if sensors detect a serious crash.

"The performances of the 9-3 and C70 are impressive," said Institute president Adrian Lund. "These cars combine what convertible buyers should look for if they're shopping with safety in mind. The Saab and Volvo not only provide good protection in high-speed front and side crashes but also have good seat and head restraint designs for protecting against whiplash in rear crashes."

"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," Lund said.

Five models earn the highest rating of good for front and side crash protection. Seven of the 10 convertibles have standard side airbags designed to protect the heads of occupants in the front seats, and eight have ESC as standard or optional equipment.

The absence of a roof makes it a challenge to design a convertible for safety. The roof helps to maintain the rigidity of the structure around the occupant compartment and keep the compartment intact in a serious crash. The main structures of convertibles have to be strengthened to compensate for the support that's lost in removing the roof. The Institute's crash test results show that many modern convertibles compensate well. For example, the 9-3 convertible achieves the same good front, side, and rear crash test ratings as the 4-door sedan version.

Big price tag doesn't ensure a safer car. While the 2 "Top Safety Pick" winners are relatively expensive, price doesn't necessarily predict good crash test ratings. Two of the least expensive models among the 10 the Institute tested are the Chrysler Sebring and Mitsubishi Eclipse, both of which recently were redesigned and earn good ratings in front and side crash tests.

"You could spend twice as much for an Audi A4 convertible, which is an older design based on the previous A4 sedan, but it's rated marginal in our side test," according to Lund. Based on the Volkswagen Eos's performance, the Institute expects a redesigned A4 to perform better when it's released. (VW and Audi are owned by the same parent company).

To reduce the risk if a convertible rolls over, it's important to have rollbars, which may be either fixed in place or deploy automatically if sensors detect the possibility of a rollover. Pop-up rollbars are standard on the 9-3, C70, Eos, 3 series, and A4 but unavailable on any of the domestic or Asian brands the Institute tested.

"It makes sense that a rollbar would help preserve some headroom, just as we hope a fixed roof would," Lund said. "But rollbars aren't the same as having a fixed roof. We don't yet know if convertibles with the bars have lower rollover death rates than convertibles without them.

Another innovation on some new convertibles is that the vinyl or cloth top is replaced by a multipiece hardtop that folds into the trunk. It's standard on the C70, Eos, 3 series, and G6. It's optional on the Chrysler Sebring. Folding hardtops aren't as rigid as fixed roofs so they wouldn't be expected to make a convertible more crashworthy than if the top were soft. Foldtops are for comfort, not safety.

"Of course, without a top all bets are off if you're not using a safety belt. Good test results don't mean convertibles are as protective as comparable hardtop cars," Lund said.

Frontal Impact Testing
The structure of the Pontiac G6's occupant compartment held up well during the frontal test, but there was a problem with the driver seat. It came loose on one of its tracks and moved forward 4 inches on the left side. The dummy's head slid around the left side of the airbag and hit the instrument panel.

"We've rarely seen a dummy's head hit the instrument panel in our frontal test," Lund said. Overall the G6 is rated acceptable for frontal protection.

"Seats shouldn't come loose in crashes, so we can't rate the G6 good," Lund adds. Measures recorded on the dummy's head, neck, and chest indicate low risk of serious injury in these areas of the body, but the poorly controlled movement of the dummy during the impact may have contributed to high forces on its right leg.

The Institute conducted two frontal tests of the Mustang. In the first test, the driver door partially opened late in the crash. Even though this didn't significantly affect the driver dummy's movement during the impact, doors shouldn't open because in some crashes this could lead to partial or complete ejection of occupants.

Ford engineers found that the window glass in the down position pushed on the door latch during the crash. Structure was added in the door to prevent the glass from contacting the latch mechanism, and then the engineers asked the Institute to test the Mustang again. In the second test with the change, the door remained closed.

The Mustang is rated acceptable instead of good overall because the structure isn't good, and the dummy's head bottomed out the airbag. The resulting head acceleration was high. The head was struck by the windshield pillar.

Side Impact Testing
The Institute's side test represents what happens when the striking vehicle is a pickup or SUV. The BMW 3 series and Audi A4 equipped with standard side airbags and the G6 with side airbags as optional equipment earn the second lowest rating for side impact protection.

"The 3 series and Pontiac G6 are especially disappointing because they're new models," Lund said. "Other auto manufacturers have figured out how to provide good side impact protection for occupants of convertibles."

The G6 is equipped with optional side airbags designed to protect the torsos but not the heads of front-seat occupants. In the side test, the driver dummy's head struck the windowsill. This caused a high head acceleration. In a real-world crash of similar severity, a serious skull fracture and brain injuries would be possible. A taller person's head also might be struck by the hood of an oncoming SUV or pickup.

The 3 series is equipped with standard side airbags designed to protect front-seat occupants' heads as well as their torsos. However, injury measures recorded on the driver dummy indicate the possibility of rib fractures and internal organ injuries in real-world crashes of similar severity.

"None of the 10 convertibles provides side airbag protection for people riding in back seats. We didn't record high injury forces on any of the dummies in the back seats, but in a crash at a different speed or configuration the heads of back-seat passengers would be at risk without side airbags," Lund said.

Rear Crash Testing
Significant differences also were apparent among the convertibles in the protection they afford in rear crashes. Only the Volvo and Saab are equipped with seat/head restraint designs that provide good protection against whiplash injury. The other eight models are rated marginal or poor for rear crash protection.

"It isn't hard or expensive to design a seat to prevent neck injury in a rear-end crash," Lund said. "Some of these manufacturers like Audi, Ford, and Volkswagen already have seat designs elsewhere in their lines of vehicles that are rated good for whiplash prevention, but these automakers haven't put the good seat/head restraints in their convertibles."

(Source: IIHS)

Copyright ©2018 - 2020 | ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine | All rights reserved.