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Img Source: IIHSNBC's Today show reported that many luxury cars – supposedly synonymous with safety – perform poorly in a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash test. The new IIHS test evaluates the vehicles' crash performance in a "small overlap" crash in which 25% or less of the vehicle's front structure makes contact during the collision. IIHS says this simulates a common form of crash in which a driver might cross the center line or when a vehicle hits a tree or utility pole.

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If these luxury cars a failing at such a high rate, it is likely that most cars won't do well either, according to David Champion at Consumer Reports.

Adrian Lund, president of the IIHS, explains the new test and its importance in the following video:!

Said Lund, "Nearly every new car performs well in other frontal crash tests conducted by the institute and federal government, but we still see more than 10,000 deaths in frontal crashes each year." Small overlap crashes, examined by the new test, "are a major source of these fatalities."

How did the various luxury vehicles fare? Here's what the IIHS found:

IIHS Small Overlap Crash Test Findings

Acura TL
Volvo S60

Infinity G Acceptable

Acura TSX
BMW 3-Series
Lincoln MKZ
Volkswagen CC

Audi A4
Lexus ES 350
Lexus IS 250
Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The IIHS found that while the vehicles' crush-zone structures provide more protection in a broader overlap crash, in small overlap crashes, the impact forces are born by the front wheel, suspension system, and firewall, allowing significant intrusion into the occupant survival space inside the car. IIHS attributed the Volvos' good test performance to several methods the company used to reinforce the passenger compartment safety cage, including upper rails. At the other end of the spectrum, the Volkswagen CC allowed so much intrusion that the driver's door was completely sheared off its hinges – the first time that has ever occurred in IIHS testing.

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(c) Copyright 2012 Brett A. Emison

Follow @BrettEmison on Twitter.

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