IIHS Reports Crash Test Ratings for American Muscle Cars:Camaro, Challenger, Mustang

Joseph Dobrian | May 25, 2016
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released safety ratings for three iconic “pony cars”—the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang—all with an optional V-8 engine. Of these, the Mustang rates highest in terms of overall safety, but none earns the coveted IIHS “Top Safety Pick” designation.

The Institute tests vehicles for small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head-restraint protection, as well as for basic front crash prevention. In the tests, Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang earn “Good” ratings (the Institute’s highest for occupant protection) in moderate overlap front and side-impact tests. In the newest and toughest IIHS crashworthiness evaluation—the small overlap front test—the Camaro earns a “Good” rating, Mustang earns “Acceptable,” and Challenger rates “Marginal.”

The small overlap test replicates what happens when a vehicle runs off the road and hits a tree or pole or clips another vehicle that has crossed the center line. The IIHS notes that it’s an especially challenging test because it involves a vehicle's outer edges, which aren't well-protected by crush-zone structures. Crash forces go directly into the front wheel, suspension system, and firewall.

The Challenger, on this test, shows extensive intrusion into the lower occupant compartment, and measures taken from the dummy indicate a high likelihood of serious lower-leg injuries. Survival space for the driver in the Camaro is better maintained, and the risk of injuries to the dummy's legs and feet was low. The Mustang's structural performance in this test was in-between that of the Camaro and Challenger.

The Camaro and Mustang earn “Good” ratings for head restraints and seats in protecting against neck injuries in rear crashes. The Challenger's head restraints are rated “Acceptable.” The Mustang earns a “Good” rating for roof strength, and the Camaro and Challenger earn “Acceptable.” Strong roofs are especially important for sports cars, the Institute notes, since they tend to have the highest driver death rates in single-vehicle rollovers.

Ford and Dodge offer optional forward-collision warning systems on Mustang and Challenger, and both vehicles earn a “Basic” rating for front-crash prevention because their systems meet performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

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