Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What's the safest muscle car: the Chevrolet Camaro, the Dodge Challenger, or the Ford Mustang?

American muscle cars are all about performance, power, and speed--not necessarily in that order--so when you think about it, the safety of its occupants should be paramount as well. That's probably why the United States' Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently put three of the most popular muscle car models through a series of crash tests to determine which one is the safest.

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According to the organization, though it doesn't routinely conduct crash tests on sports cars since these only make up a small portion of the car-buying market, consumers often inquire as to how safe they are. As it is, insurance companies put a premium on collision coverage for sports car, which is how American muscle cars are classified as, since these incur the highest losses among passenger vehicles for crash damage repairs.

"Given that sports cars have high crash rates, it's especially important that they offer the best occupant protection possible in a crash," said IIHS president Adrian Lund.

For the crash tests, IIHS selected the Chevrolet Camaro, the Dodge Challenger, and the Ford Mustang. And while all three models generally performed well, none was able to secure the organization's Top Safety Pick award. To qualify, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations, and have a basic-rated front crash prevention system. As for IIHS's highest award, the Top Safety Pick+, vehicles must earn good ratings in the five crashworthiness tests and an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

Based on the tests, the Ford Mustang missed out on earning the Top Safety Pick award only because it scored an "Acceptable" rating for its small overlap test ratings as its roof buckled and the A-pillar and instrument panel intruded into the driver's survival space under impact. Had it received a "Good" rating, it would have been eligible for the award, and had it been equipped with a more advanced forward collision warning system, it would be eligible for the Top Safety Pick+ award.

The Chevrolet Camaro, on the other hand, only earned an "Acceptable" rating for its roof strength and doesn't even come with an optional forward collision warning system.

Of the three muscle cars, the Dodge Challenger is the one that needs to be improved on. Although it's offered with an optional forward collision warning system, it only earned "Acceptable" ratings for its roof strength and head restraint tests while its small overlap front test was scored as "Marginal."

"Extensive intrusion into the lower occupant compartment limited the driver's survival space and resulted in a poor rating for structure and for leg/foot protection," IIHS noted in its statement. "Measures taken from the dummy indicate a high likelihood of serious lower leg injuries."

"During the crash, the Challenger's front wheel was forced rearward into the occupant compartment, and the footwell intrusion trapped the dummy's left foot and deformed its ankle," explained Lund. "Our technicians had to unbolt the dummy's foot from its leg in order to free it. Entrapment is pretty rare. That's only happened five other times in a small overlap test."

Such a shame, really, considering that, of the three, the exterior design of the Dodge Challenger was the one I liked the most.

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