The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts three iconic muscle cars to the test.
America’s trio of muscle cars — Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger — are prized for their styling and performance. However, when it comes to crash testing and safety ratings, all three have missed the top mark as established by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Recently, the Challenger, Mustang and Camaro were put through a full battery of IIHS crash tests. The threesome was evaluated in five crash test categories: small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints & seats. Good is the top score in each category, followed by Acceptable, Marginal and Poor. Generally, models earning higher scores may carry lower auto insurance premiums for the insured.
Top Safety Pick Criteria
Vehicles earning the IIHS’ Top Safety Pick award must secure Good ratings across the board and come equipped with a basic-rated front crash prevention system, such as forward collision warning. However, not one of the three models achieved the top scores routinely reached by many midsize sedans and a few large sedans like the Toyota Avalon.
For instance, the midsize Chevrolet Malibu Limited, Chrysler 200 and Honda Accord have each achieved high ratings. On the other hand, full-size sedans such as the Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala, have not yet received a Top Safety Pick award.
V8-Powered Models Tested
The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro outperformed the 2016 Ford Mustang and the 2016 Dodge Challenger in IIHS testing. Since V8-powered models are significant sellers in the class, all three models were outfitted with an optional V8.
For test comparison purposes all three muscle cars are considered by insurers as sports cars, which are vehicles that have high crash rates and the highest losses among passenger vehicles for crash damage repairs under collision coverage, according to industry data.
The IIHS tests most new vehicles at a facility in Virginia. The institute buys the vehicles they test from dealers in the same manner consumers make their purchases. IIHS assumes the cost, unless the manufacturer makes a special request for testing. In that case the manufacturer reimburses the IIHS, but with no influence on the ratings.
Crash Testing and Safety Ratings
Test models are outfitted with crash test dummies and travel at speeds of up to 40 mph before hitting various barriers. Following each crash, the vehicle’s structure/safety cage is examined to assess its performance. Then, the dummies are examined for “injury” as recorded by sensors located in the head, neck, chest, legs and feet.
Even if injuries are low, the vehicle’s restraints are evaluated to determine dummy movement. Together, these observations allow evaluators to assign a score, which determines each vehicle’s ratings. That information is then shared with manufacturers, analysts and consumers.
All three models earned top scores in in moderate overlap front and side tests. The Ford Mustang was rated Good in roof strength, the other two models received Acceptable scores. In the head restraints & seats category, only the Dodge Challenger missed the top score as its Acceptable rating trailed the Mustang and Camaro.
Small Overlap Front Challenge
The IIHS’ newest test — small overlap front — was introduced in 2012 and is the most challenging one of all. Small overlap replicates what takes place when a vehicle runs off the road and hits a stationary object such as a tree or a pole, or clips another vehicle that has crossed the center line.
Most vulnerable in this test are the vehicle’s outer edges, which typically aren’t especially well-safeguarded. In real-life crashes, the driver is particularly vulnerable as crash forces go directly to the front wheel, suspension system and firewall, and push into the cabin.
The Dodge Challenger received the lowest score in the group, with a Marginal rating. The Challenger’s front wheel was forced into the cabin, entrapping the dummy. Evaluators discovered the dummy’s left foot was trapped and the ankle deformed.
The Mustang was assigned an Acceptable score despite the roof buckling and the driver’s survival space “compromised by considerable intrusion of the door hinge pillar and instrument panel.” Even so, the measurements taken from the dummy indicated a low risk of injuries, including for the legs and feet.
The 2016 Camaro scored highest in the small overlap front test with a Good rating, reflecting changes made to the latest model. The current Mustang was introduced in 2015 and is the second oldest model, while the Dodge Challenger, introduced in 2008, is now in its ninth model year and was designed before the latest test was introduced.
When it comes to front crash prevention, the Camaro doesn’t offer a forward collision warning system, unlike the Challenger and Mustang. The Dodge and the Ford both earned a Basic rating for front crash prevention.
Muscle Car Safety Considerations
As with any new model, consumers should familiarize themselves with safety ratings from the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of the two, the IIHS is more comprehensive and may have a greater impact on your auto insurance costs, which impacts the overall cost of vehicle ownership.