Most people think of performance and handling when it comes to comparing one muscle car against another, but the latest round of crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows there is yet another notch on the score sheet.
This month, the IIHS tested the top three muscle cars, the 2016 Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and the Dodge Challenger. Put through their full battery of grueling crash tests, none of them surprisingly achieved the Institute’s coveted Top Safety Pick.
To qualify for Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must first achieve good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint testing. And for 2016, it must also have at minimum a basic-rated front crash prevention system.
To get the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ status, they must have advanced or superior level front crash prevention systems available with automatic emergency braking.
Especially challenging today is the new small overlap test implemented in 2012. The test simulates an accident where a vehicle hits a tree or pole, or hits another head on. The test covers 25 percent of the width.
IIHS says it’s an especially challenging test because it involves a vehicle’s outer body and suspension structures up front, often bypassing the inner frame structures – until the energy reaches the passenger cell.
Diving into the tests with the 2016 Ford Mustang that’s currently the top selling muscle car, it performed with only an acceptable rating in the small overlap test. The front wheel was pushed straight back into the lower A-pillar which caused the passenger cell to deform significantly.
The 2016 Mustang did perform with good ratings on the rest of the testing, meaning it performed better than the others outside the small overlap test. “The Mustang is just one good rating away from earning Top Safety Pick,” says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “Its small overlap rating holds it back.”
The all-new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro was the one stand out with the small overlap test, earning a Good rating. It’s structure held up much better than the Mustang in this challenge, protecting the passenger cell space.
The Camaro did fall short of a Good rating in the roof crush category and because it also does not come with any kind of crash prevention technologies is not eligible to be a Top Safety Pick.
When it came time to test the Dodge Challenger, the largest and heaviest of the trio performed the worst. The structure of the car designed nearly a decade before the small overlap test didn’t protect the passenger cell well.
Front wheel intrusion deformed the floor board so bad in fact, they could not remove the test dummy without unbolting its foot, which was stuck between buckled steel and the pedal structures.
In all, the tests show that all three automakers can improve on their halo muscle cars when it comes to safety. While most buyers concentrate on style and acceleration, their insurance rates could see improvement with better performance on the crash tests.
“Given that sports cars have high crash rates, it’s especially important that they offer the best occupant protection possible in a crash,” added Lund.
Photos: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety