— Sports car crash tests have been conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), at least on three of the most popular "muscle cars" in the U.S.
Consumers typically don't buy one of these cars to drive under the speed limit, something IIHS says makes crash testing an important part of buying a car. The Institute doesn't crash-test sports cars often because the cars make up a small share of the consumer market. However, sports cars suffer the highest losses and most expensive repairs for damages caused by crashes.
IIHS tested the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang to determine if any of the cars qualify for the coveted "Top Safety Pick" award. That award requires a car to earn good ratings in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests and have a basic-rated front crash prevention system.
Although none of the sports cars earned a Top Safety Pick award, the 2016 Ford Mustang almost made the cut. The only test that kept the Mustang from earning the award was the small overlap crash test, a demanding test that has ruined many a vehicle.
In the test, 25 percent of the width of the front-end is sent into a rigid barrier at 40 mph, an area of cars that isn't protected very well by the crush-zone structures.
IIHS has four crash-test ratings that can be earned: good, acceptable, marginal and poor.
2016 Ford Mustang Crash-Test Ratings
The Mustang earned an "acceptable" rating in the small overlap test and "good" ratings for head restraints and for seats to protect against neck injuries. Additionally, the Mustang earned "good" ratings for roof strength, occupant protection in a moderate overlap front and side impact tests.
The one test that gave the Mustang problems was the small overlap test where the roof buckled and there was a lot of intrusion into the driver's space. That intrusion came from the door hinge pillar and instrument panel, however, measurements taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of injuries, even to the legs and feet.
The Mustang earned an "acceptable" rating in the small overlap test.
2016 Chevrolet Camaro Crash-Test Ratings
The small overlap crash test was a challenge to the Ford Mustang, but the Chevy Camaro did well in the test, earning "good" ratings in that test and the side impact test.
The Camaro also earned good ratings in the moderate overlap crash test and an "acceptable" ratings for head restraints and roof strength. However, the car wasn't equipped with front crash prevention technology that is included in the Mustang and Challenger.
2016 Dodge Challenger Crash-Test Ratings
IIHS says the 2016 Dodge Challenger had some issues during some of the crash tests, causing the Institute at one point to say the "Challenger wasn't up to the challenge" concerning the small overlap crash test.
The Challenger earned a "marginal" rating in the small overlap test due to extensive intrusion into the lower occupant compartment. That got the car a "poor" rating for structure and leg/foot protection.
Add to that the condition of the crash-test dummy. Measurements indicate a person sitting in the driver's seat would have likely suffered serious injuries to the lower legs. It was so severe IIHS technicians had to unbolt the dummy's foot from its leg to free it from the car.
The Challenger did a better job in the moderate overlap and side impact tests, earning good ratings in those tests, but only "acceptable" ratings for head restraints and roof strength.
Roof strength tests are important because the stronger the roof the less likely it is to crush in a crash, decreasing the chances of an occupant hitting the roof or being thrown from the car.
IIHS will continue to test vehicles considered "sports cars" based on research that shows higher horsepower means faster driving and faster speeds increase the risk of crashing and the severity of injuries. IIHS also says research shows rising speed limits have resulted in higher fatality rates.
CarComplaints.com has complaints about the sports cars involved in the crash tests: