It would appear that a luxury car should, by definition, be safe. They are bigger and heavier built and have the best-in-class safety features as standard fitments. There are multiple car safety rating agencies around the world and each organization applies its own tests and interpretation for arriving at the rating. While there has been convergence on the test parameters over the years, the same car can be rated differently in different evaluations. It is therefore necessary for the concerned car buyer to go into detail on the safety test results rather than rely on any single overall safety rating.
1. 2012 Cadillac SRX
The 2012 Cadillac SRX has been named the top safety pick in the luxury vehicle segment. The SUV crossover vehicle has been awarded the highest 5 star ratings by the National Highway Test Administration ( NHTSA) for both frontal impact and side impact tests conducted with test dummies of various sizes representing adult male and female occupants, and also child occupants. This rating means that the chance of serious occupant injury is less than 10 percent. The vehicle scored a lower 4-star in the rollover test, but SUVs with their higher center of gravity are always more susceptible to rollover than lower profile cars.
The Cadillac SRX safety features include front and side air bags including air bags for below knee protection, side curtain walls and an energy absorbing frame. In addition, it has ABS anti-lock braking on all four wheels and electronic traction control and the OnStar emergency response system which automatically dials emergency response teams when there is an accident causing airbags to deploy.
2. 2012 Cadillac CTS model
The 2012 Cadillac CTS Coupe shares the top safety pick rating with its stable mate, the SRX. It achieved a 5-star rating in all evaluation tests including the rollover test. The top of the line luxury car has all the safety features of the SRX as standard fitments and is additionally equipped with a rear vision camera and a blind spot warning system. In tests conducted by an independent evaluator, the car achieved full stoppage in 104 feet from a speed of 60 mph.
3. Audi A4
The 2012 Audi A4 achieved 5-star ratings from NHTSA for both side impact and rollover tests but only 4 stars for front impact. The Audi A4 also features all of the safety features now considered standard including front and side air bags, side wall curtains, anti lock braking and driver assist features. The Audi A4 is also designed to minimize injury to pedestrians and cyclists, which is a European car safety requirement and does not yet appear in US evaluations.
4. 2012 Fiat 500
The 2012 Fiat 500 received contradictory ratings from the two agencies NHTSA and IIHS ( the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). The NHTSA overall rating is only 3 star which indicates a 21-35 percent chance of serious occupant injury in a major accident. Though the car achieved the best 5 star rating in the side crash test and a 4 star rating in the rollover test, the problems were with tests to simulate injury to female occupants. For the front barrier crash test, the test for a male dummy gave 4 stars while that with a female dummy only 3 stars. For a female dummy in the rear seat, the rating was an even lower than 2 star.
The IIHS, however, rates the 2012 Fiat 500 as a top safety pick with its overall rating as good. In previous IIHS tests on models made before July 2011, the ratings were poorer but Fiat came up with a modification to the seating design that improved safety ratings. Perhaps, the NHTSA tests were made with a model which did not have the improved seating but this example shows the confusion that can be created with multiple rating agencies.
5. 2009 Subaru Forester
The Subaru 2009 achieved the highest safety ratings from both the NHTSA and the IIHS in 2009. The NHTSA awarded it a 5-star rating in all its tests. In 2009, the NHTSA tests did not include a partial frontal impact test to simulate a car being driver into a tree or a light pole on the road. In 2012 as the Subaru Forester is evaluated by a buyer, this factor needs to kept in mind. The 2009 Subaru Forester has all the occupant and vehicle safety features of the 2012 cars including air bags, head restraints, anti-lock braking,stability controls and electronic brake force distribution.
6. 2007 Mazda CX-7
The Mazda CX-7 has been a popular car in its segment since its introduction in 2007 with its good looks, comfortable interiors and overall performance. The CX-7 has the full set of occupant and vehicle safety features that other cars in this segment have. The CX-7 received 5 star ratings from NHTSA for front and side impact and 4 star for rollover safety. The IIHS however gave only a marginal rating on rollover and raised safety concerns over whiplash injury to occupants from a major rear end collision. The NHTSA tests do not specifically cover rear-end collisions. The IIHS does an engineering evaluation of the design of head restraints but does not actually test.
7. 2007 Mercedes C class
The 2007 Mercedes C class had higher 5-star ratings for rear occupant safety than the 4-star ratings for the front seat occupants. The Merc C also had the highest 5 -star rating for side impact. For rollover it achieved 4-star rating. The Mercedes C, of course, has every imaginable safety device and in European testing achieved the highest safety ratings in all tests. From a feature comparison, the Mercedes C should ran among the best in the luxury car segment. This is another example of contrary ratings that can confuse the car buyer.