Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E-Class & Toyota Avalon Pace Large Car Crash Safety Testing

The IIHS tests six large sedans. Three earn the institute’s highest safety grade.

2017 Lincoln Continental
Lincoln’s flagship Continental achieved the IIHS’ highest
safety rating in its first year back on the market.

The larger the vehicle the safer it is, right? Certainly, mass plays a significant role in making vehicles safer, an inescapable truth that safety cages, side-impact airbags, and rollover mitigation cannot overcome alone. Your safety, however, is also in your hands with defensive and distraction-free driving among the important factors for reducing crashes in the first place.

Six large sedans were recently tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an organization funded by insurance companies and related associations. Like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the IIHS routinely tests new vehicles for crashworthiness. However, IIHS testing is much more expansive, as it includes categories such as head restraints and headlight efficacy.

IIHS Top Safety Pick+ Winners

Three sedans notched the institute’s Top Safety Pick+ award, its highest honor. The Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Toyota Avalon finished on top. The Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Impala, and Ford Taurus missed the mark as each received only “acceptable” scores in small overlap front tests.

The IIHS assigns grades of Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor in five crashworthiness categories: small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints & seats. The same grading exists in the crash avoidance & mitigation category covering front crash prevention and headlights, each with optional equipment. A grade is also assigned to child seat anchors (LATCH) ease of use.

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

Toyota Avalon
The Toyota Avalon joins two other large sedans in garnering a Top Safety Pick+ award.

The IIHS noted that the Lincoln Continental outfitted with an optional front crash prevention system earns a superior rating. Specifically, the 2017 Continental avoided a collision on IIHS’ test track in Virginia when traveling at speeds of 12 mph and 25 mph. The institute noted that the Continental’s forward collision warning system meets the NHTSA’s criteria.

The Continental also achieved top ratings for its optional LED projector headlights, available on the Reserve grade. The institute measures headlamp effectiveness on both straightaways and curves. On the other hand, Continentals outfitted with the standard high-intensity discharge (HID) lights earned a poor rating.

Like the Continental, the 2017 E-Class is all new. This model offers a standard front crash prevention system and an optional one — both achieved top grades in IIHS testing. Toyota’s Avalon rounded out the trio of top-performing models, achieving the award following modifications to its headlights in cars built after March 2017.

The Next Three: Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Impala & Ford Taurus

Finishing behind the trio of top safety recipient winners were the Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Impala, and the Ford Taurus.

Like the Avalon, the Tesla Model S underwent mid-model year safety upgrades, in this case to the driver’s safety belt. Unfortunately, the change wasn’t sufficient as the test dummy’s torso moved too far forward as before, allowing the dummy’s head to strike the steering wheel.

The Chevrolet Impala performed well in crash testing, but all available headlight options earned a poor rating. The Impala scored high with its front crash prevention system, however. As for the Taurus, this model also rated poor for its available headlights. Although the forward collision warning system meets the NHTSA’s criteria, it lacks automatic braking.

2015 Dodge Charger
Not all large sedans were tested, including this Dodge Charger.

Your Next Car

Auto Trends recommends car shoppers take safety ratings into consideration when shopping for a vehicle. Indeed, when evaluating any model, we rely on both IIHS and NHTSA scoring to round out our personal findings.

Of the six models tested by the IIHS, just three have passed through the Auto Trends press fleet rotation: the Lincoln Continental, Toyota Avalon, and the Chevrolet Impala.


See AlsoPoor Minivan Crash Test Results for Three Models

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine. All rights reserved.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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