IIHS Puts Muscle Cars Through the Ringer to Determine Crash Performance

While the Mustang and Camaro performed pretty well, the Dodge Challenger could use some changes to improve its safety

IIHS Puts Muscle Cars Through the Ringer to Determine Crash Performance
Image: IIHS
May 25, 2016

Few people give safety ratings a thought when buying a high-powered muscle car. Family sedans are for safety, right? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these types of sports cars have high crash rates so safety should be a high priority.

While the Institute doesn't regularly crash test sports cars, it looked at the 2016 models of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang and found that some safety improvements could be made.

None of the cars tested were eligible for a Top Safety Pick, but two out of the three did come close.

To qualify, vehicles must earn "good" ratings in all five IIHS crash tests and have a "basic"-rated front crash prevention system. For the highest award, Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must have an "advanced" or "superior" rating for its front crash prevention system.

The 2016 Ford Mustang came the closest to the Top Safety Pick award, falling short in only one category. The sports car earned an "acceptable" rating in the small overlap test, which was added to the IIHS crash test lineup in 2012. The test replicates when the front corner of a vehicle collides with a stationary object, like a light pole.

"The Mustang is just one "good" rating away from earning Top Safety Pick," IIHS president Adrian Lund said in a release. "Its small overlap rating holds it back."

The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro, on the other hand, earned a "good" rating in front overlap test, but got an "acceptable" roof strength rating.

"Strong roofs are especially important for sports cars, which have among the highest driver death rates in single-vehicle rollovers," writes IIHS.

The Camaro also lacks a crash prevention system of any kind.

The 2016 Dodge Challenger fared the worst in the tests, scoring only a "marginal" rating in the small overlap test, and "acceptable" ratings for both roof strength and head restraints.

During the Challenger's small overlap test, the front wheel was forced into the car, trapping the dummy's foot. IIHS technicians had to unbolt the dummy's foot from the leg in order to remove it. Lund said that entrapment like this is rare and has only happened five other times during this test.

According to IIHS, as a group, sports cars have the highest losses among passenger vehicles for crash damage repair.