— Car crash testing is a necessary component to find out which cars are safest in certain crash situations. Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performs government crash test ratings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is typically known for more stringent testing methods.
IIHS is funded by insurance companies, and if any company wants safer vehicles on the roads it's insurance companies.
One of toughest tests performed by IIHS is called the small overlap crash test which replicates what happens to a car when 25 percent of the front-end on the driver's side hits a solid barrier at 40 mph. That type of impact can cause massive damage to a car along with its occupants.
Watching a car crushed in a crash test might invoke images of tiny subcompact cars that look as if they would fall apart if touched by a feather. Those images would not be completely wrong as seen a few months ago when only one small car out of 12 rated "good" in the small overlap test.
However, the latest IIHS small overlap test showed large luxury cars can fall apart as easily as small cars. Especially the nice big expensive Lincoln MKS.
Lincoln MKS (Rating: Poor)
IIHS tested the model year 2014 Lincoln MKS but said the "poor" rating in the small overlap test applied to all 2009-2015 MKS cars.
IIHS uses a rating system of good, acceptable, marginal and poor, so the Lincoln MKS rated as low as the ratings system allows. IIHS blames the poor rating on the structure pushing 12 inches into the occupant area and the steering column moving 5 inches inward and 6 inches to the right.
That move to the right caused the head of the sophisticated crash test dummy to hit and slide off the left side of the air bag. The dummy's head struck the instrument panel and injury measurements showed left hip, knee and lower leg injuries.
BMW 5 Series (Rating: Marginal)
In some ways the 2011-2015 BMW 5 series didn't do much better than the Lincoln MKS. The 5 series had the same 12 inches of structure intrusion into the occupant compartment but the BMW had less invasion into the upper interior. Further, the dummy didn't move around too much and the air bags worked as advertised.
The dummy did take some damage to the left leg that would probably cause harm to a driver in a real-world crash.
Infiniti Q70 (Rating: Good)
The Infiniti Q70 was the only large luxury car to achieve a "good" rating. IIHS says the dummy showed results that indicated a low risk of serious injuries in a real-world crash. Additionally, the dummy hit the air bag as it was supposed to and the driver's space didn't have the structural intrusion of the other cars.
IIHS was supposed to test the Audi A6, Cadillac CTS and Lexus GS, but the automakers didn't believe their cars would perform well in the small overlap crash test. IIHS plans to test those cars next year after upgrades are made to give the vehicles better ratings in the overlap test.
Watch the video to see exactly what happened to the Lincoln MKS when it earned its "poor" rating.