What That IIHS Report Really Meant….

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Have you read this new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report about the crashworthiness of “SUVs”? Apparently, not many of the reporters who’ve been covering it have. More likely, they just don’t know much about cars – or SUVs.

Because even though most of the news coverage I’ve heard touts the safety of the latest-generation SUVs, ostensibly due to government mandates such as electronic stability control as well as major redesigns by the car companies to make them less top heavy and tipsy – the first two vehicles on the IIHS list are the Audi A6 and the Mercedes Benz E-Class.

Uh, well. Ok. But these are both passenger cars. Not SUVs. Heck, they’re as far from being SUVs as it gets. Both the A6 and E-Class Benz are large luxury-sport sedans.

Ur. Uh. There’s something else. IIHS describes these two as being “4WD.”

Apparently, IIHS doesn’t know much about passenger cars either. The A6 and E-Class do offer all-wheel-drive. But AWD is not 4WD. AWD is a car-based system without a two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing. It is not designed for off-road work. Many modern passenger cars offer some type of AWD system, but real SUVs are based on trucks – not cars – and offer 4WD, with a two-speed transfer case and Low range gearing. Capice?

Which brings up another item.

Other models listed by IIHS and touted as “SUVs” just look like SUVs but are in fact cars where it counts. For example the Ford Edge – number four on the IIHS list. Its chassis and other underthings are sourced form the Ford Taurus sedan. Which is – you guessed it – a car.

The Edge is technically a crossover – a car-based wagon that offers AWD. But it is fundamentally a passenger car and not an SUV.

Ditto the Honda CR-V and the Acura MDX and the Lexus RX (the latter being an ES350 in drag; the latter of that being a Camry in drag).

And the Toyota Sienna? Number three on the IIHS list? That’s a freakin’ minivan, for crying out loud.

Someone throw me a bone here – please.

I’m not sure what the point of the IIHS report – or the media coverage of the “new safe” (cough) SUVs is supposed to be. Perhaps it’s more catchy than just saying, bigger and heavier vehicles tend to be more crashworthy than smaller, lighter ones.

Because that was true 10 years ago, at the apogee of the Ford Explorer/Firestone tire debacle.

And it’s just as true today.

The only real change that’s happened in the interim is that real-deal SUVs have become less popular while a new class of looks-like-SUVs-but-aren’t has become the new In Thing. These are crossovers, the aforesaid vehicles that look sort of like an SUV but are built on a passenger car chassis (almost always a front-wheel-drive-based passenger car chassis) that offer some form of light-duty AWD, but not truck-style 4WD with Low range gearing.

Crossovers have become popular because they have the macho-sporty SUV look people want, and also the larger, roomier interiors that originally ignited the SUV boom back in the early ’90s, when the typical passenger car was small – downsized by federal edicts such as CAFE that penalized the automakers for building the large sedans and wagons that used to be the American standard. At the time, CAFE standards were tougher on cars than “light trucks,” a government category of vehicle that included pick-ups and SUVs. This “loophole” allowed the automakers to dodge CAFE and build the bigger/heavier vehicles that many people wanted but could not get in the form of a car. The automakers built large SUVs instead.

Crossovers also handle better than truck-based SUVs. They have a lower center of gravity and suspension systems and tires designed mainly for on-road driving. The true problem with the first generation of SUVs in the ’80s and ’90s was that they had been conceived as special purpose vehicles, designed to tackle rough off-road trails. They rode high and didn’t handle as well as cars at high speed on paved roads, but the people who bought these specialty vehicles understood this – and drove accordingly. Widespread trouble cropped up only after these purpose-built specialty vehicles became mass market vehicles for suburban Moos and Duhs who didn’t realize a Bronco or Explorer or Discovery II isn’t set up to corner like a BMW or be driven at 80 MPH for hours on end in the middle of summer on under-inflated M/S-rated tires.


The thing to know about the IIHS report is not that “new SUVs” are safer. It’s that bigger/heavier vehicles are almost always safer than small, lighter ones.

And thank the Motor Gods, the average new vehicle – whatever you want to call it – is now a lot bigger (and thus safer)  than the average new vehicle  of 20 years ago.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. The IIHS always requires reading down into the nitty gritty that the media never reports. They are so well… biased for the insurance industry and playing to the boobus(clovers). It’s like reading a UN report on climate change where the abstract, summary, and conclusion say one thing while the data, analysis, and background knowledge say another. Modern so called science and engineering reports that are used politically seem almost designed to mislead people and the way you describe that IIHS report is of no surprise.

    The IIHS crashing a 2009 chevy into a 1959 ( http://www.iihs.org/50th/default.html )was one of the more absurd things they’ve done in recent years. Besides wrecking a ’59 chevy for no good reason I am not sure what we are supposed to conclude from this other than technology has advanced in 50 years, or that the sky is blue. Even the test by redesigning the ’59 with all the modern advancements and its size would have carried the day apples-to-apples. An extra couple of feet of crumple zone can only turn out for the better if nothing else.

    • If you want all heavy cars out there like they were in 59 then you will be sitting because there is not enough oil to be pushing an extra thousand pounds around every day for millions of vehicles.


      Nothing but the troof and facts too!

      • You mean like the Prius hybrid? It weighs 3,042 lbs. or about 700 lbs. more than an ’81 Aries K sedan. The Aries also was rated 41 MPG highway.

        That’s with a carburetor and non-overdrive transmission.

        Update that 2,300 pound non-hybrid with modern EFI and a CVT or dual-clutch automatic and it would probably get 50 -plus highway and 40 city or even better.

        Without the hybrid “green” BS – or price tag.

        The ’81 Aries K had a sticker price of $5,880. In today’s dollahs, that’s $14,616 or about $8,000 less than the 2011 Prius.

        At $4 per gallon, $8k buys 2,000 gallons of gas. Assume 40 MPG and that’s enough to drive for 80,000 miles before you’d reach “break even” with the Prius.

        Hybrids are about image, Clover – not saving fuel. Or saving money.

          • And here’s some more fodder for Clover to chew on:

            * A Cobb County GA deputy has been sentenced to life in prison (at least 25 yrs before he’s eligible for parole actually) for kidnapping & raping a woman at gunpoint.

            * A Tuskegee University AL police officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to enticing & raping a 15-year-old. http://is.gd/idWIjh

            * A former Crescent City FL police officer admitted that he was a life-long pedophile and that he believes he molested anywhere from 200-300 young girls throughout his life during his sentencing hearing attended by at least four of his victims. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison on just 2 counts of molestation. While it’s not clear if the charges he was sentenced for involve activity that occurred while he was a police officer, his confession appears to indicate that some of his victims were molested while he was an officer.

            * A Seguin TX cop was sentenced to 7 years in prison in a plea deal that reduced a sexual indecency with a minor charge to an injury to a child charge that also won’t require registration as a sex offender. (similar to another case earlier this month) which another Seguin officer received probation for evidence tampering in a deal dropping solicitation of a minor charges)

            * Gainsville FL settles suit for $30k to woman claiming false arrest by cop now convicted of coercing sex from women http://ow.ly/1sptbg

            * Troy NY cop charged, fired & now subject of lawsuit claiming he groped a woman while working security at store http://is.gd/GYElCw

            * Memphis TN police officer charged w/sexual exploitation of minor for sending nude pics of self to 15yr-old girl http://is.gd/XlVRQA

            * The police chief of Kaw City OK has been arrested on allegations that he molested a 13yr-old girl over a period of 3-4 years

            * A San Bernardino County CA deputy has been sentenced to 20 years on 15 of 24 counts involving 10 women that he sexually battered and coerced into having sex or exposing themselves for photos under threat of arrest

            * 2 Naperville IL cops sued alleging they painfully cuffed & groped woman until she let them search home w/o warrant http://is.gd/f4oFXS

            * Wood County OH deputy under investigation over allegations of inappropriate relationship w/middle school student http://is.gd/oD4uNZ

            * A US Border Patrol officer was arrested on allegations that he raped at least 2 women in different southern California cities. http://is.gd/jLfTqI

            * A Lane County OR sheriff’s sergeant has resigned after an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations involving teen explorers. http://is.gd/1E94Px

            * A Nashville GA police officer was sentenced to 5 years in prison for soliciting sodomy from a 17-year-old boy and for violation of his oath. http://is.gd/Lv4T3G

            * 2 Chicago IL cops suspended while investigated over allegations that they sexually assaulted woman while on duty http://is.gd/fZW5mE

            * DeKalb Co GA cop indicted for child molestation, rape, & battery for allegedly having sex w/15yr-old & hitting her http://is.gd/SDqkHz

            * Nashville TN police officer fired after investigation into allegations he had sex w/women he arrested in police car http://is.gd/ZsNssN

            * San Diego CA cop now faces 18 felony charges involving 5 alleged victims coerced into sex under threat of arrest http://is.gd/gNC6uS

            * Port Arthur TX cop reassigned from working at school while subject of investigation into relationship w/student http://is.gd/yZCfgH

            * Edinburg TX cop suspended & indicted on allegations of timesheet fraud & sex w/jailed woman and for using a subpoena to find a woman for sex. http://is.gd/LGfz4R

            * A Niles MI police officer that we reported being arrested last week on unspecified charges was apparently accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy who was in custody at a juvenile detention facility while the officer was on duty.

            * A Toronto ON police officer was arrested on sexual assault and child exploitation charges involving a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old boy.

            * A Jersey City NJ police officer was arrested on child abuse charges on allegations that he tried to coerce a 16-year-old runaway for sex in exchange for a night in a hotel room. The girl got scared while she was in his car and called a friend who then called the police.

            * An Aurora CO police officer was arrested on multiple felony charges on allegations he sexually exploited a 15yr-old runaway. http://is.gd/nIZUoo

            * Philadelphia PA cop sentenced to 17.5-35yrs for sexually assaulting girl since age 12, retired 1 day before arrest http://is.gd/6TuxQY

            * Russellville AL police officer arrested for custodial sexual abuse involving at least 4 female detainees http://is.gd/zLmCGp

            * New York NY cop facing trial for luring a 5th grader had coerced teen prostitute into sex in 2008 but kept his job http://is.gd/SAB2oY

            * Frederick Co MD deputy assigned to school charged w/child sex abuse on allegations he had sexual contact w/14yr-old http://is.gd/viZbbF

            * Huron SD police officer sentenced to 30days jail in plea deal for sending explicit texts & videos to 15yr-old girl http://is.gd/FR6BeR

            * Petersburg VA sheriff’s deputy arrested on multiple charges for attempting to have sex with what he thought was an 11-year-old in a sting operation http://is.gd/6QTMbR

            * Baltimore MD police officer charged w/sexual abuse of a minor & assault involving minor living at his home http://is.gd/G0zD9E

            * US Immigration officer arrested on sexual battery of a child under 12 charges involving ex-girlfriend’s daughter http://is.gd/NVtKFq

            * Kearny Co KS deputy pleads to 10 of 13 sexual exploitation charges over photos of underage girl he had sex with http://is.gd/Jwls5I

            * A Saline County IL deputy already facing sexual assault & misconduct charges is now facing 7 additional charges involving sexual misconduct with a girl under 16 years of age.

            * 2 New York NY cops already facing trial for raping woman in apt multiple times now face 11 more charges in that case http://is.gd/bYjXfs

            * San Diego CA cop charged w/10 felonies on allegations he elicited sex from & sexually battered over 3 women on duty http://is.gd/bB2Nr5

            * Russellville AL sued by several former female jail detainees involving cop under investigation for sexual battery http://is.gd/I6JZfk

            * Frisco City AL police chief arrested on rape & ethics charges on allegations he drove a woman who came to the department to report the theft of her computer and forcibly raped her. http://is.gd/AFKgGC

            * Ottawa ON cop charged w/sexual assault over video showing him forcibly stripping female detainee in holding cell http://is.gd/peWYyv

            * Seaside CA police officer faces additional charges, 17 in total, after 2nd woman claims he sexually assaulted her http://is.gd/NmiUBn

            * Boston MA loses $200k lawsuit to former prostitute who claimed she was forced to perform sex acts on police officer http://is.gd/pNXXfL

            * El Paso TX cop indicted for improper relationship w/15yr-old student while working as school resource officer http://is.gd/fASo4W

            * San Diego CA cop arrested for on duty sexual battery now faces similar allegations by college student & another woman http://is.gd/mvF69u

            * A Los Angeles CA police officer was convicted for sexually assaulting an 18-year-old girl he arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and for soliciting sex from a transient he arrested on a battery charge.

            * A Southgate MI police officer has resigned while under investigation on an unspecified sexual assault allegation. Though officials refuse to even disclose that much at this point.

            * A San Diego CA police officer was arrested on sexual battery, false imprisonment, and assault under color of authority charges for allegedly molesting a woman he arrested on a DUI charge after a Mardi Gras celebration.

            * A Laurel MD police officer was convicted on a sexual abuse charge for hiding a spy camera in his girlfriend’s 15-year-old daughter’s room to record her undressing and for masturbating in her room on camera while holding articles of her clothing. He’s also facing federal child porn charges over that activity as well.

            * A Harrington DE police officer was arrested on multiple charges over allegations that he was dealing in child pornography.

            * A San Bernardino County CA deputy was convicted on 15 of 24 counts for soliciting sex from and sexually abusing women while he was on duty.

            * A Yakima WA police officer has resigned after a year-long investigation into allegations that he groped a woman while giving her a ride home after he had arrested her boyfriend on a drunk driving charge.

            * A Lafayette Parish LA deputy was arrested on a malfeasance charge for having sex with an inmate at jail.

            * A Fort Worth TX police officer who was already arrested on sexual assault charge is now being accused of sexually assaulting at least four other women while he was on duty.

            * A Dallas TX police officer was suspended while under investigation on allegations that he ordered a woman to strip after she had called police to report a theft.

            * The now former police chief of Lilburn GA who was fired over unspecified misconduct was apparently the subject of sexual harassment allegations made by a subordinate officer according to records that were just recently released.

            * A Seaside CA police officer has been arrested on 2 assault and 6 sexual battery charges involving incidents that allegedly occurred while he was on duty.

            * A Downriver MI police officer is the subject of an investigation into unspecified sexual assault allegations.

            * A New Melle MO police officer has been sentenced to probation for sexually harassing a school teacher via text messages and an alleged illegal traffic stop. Previous reports about the case also included allegations he threatened her inside a school classroom with a taser but subsequent articles didn’t mention it.

            * A Vermont State trooper resigned while he was under investigation on allegations that he sexually assaulted a teen girl and took explicit photos and videos of her. No charges have been filed in the case and police are having difficulty finding anything other than legal photos of the girl but say his cell phone was damaged in a way that appears as though it was a matter of evidence tampering.

            * A San Diego CA police officer has resigned while under investigation on allegations made public last month that he raped a college student with the help of a female college employee.

            * The New Melle MO police department is being sued by a female teacher who was subjected to sexual harassment by a police officer that the suit claims was hired despite his criminal history which included similar allegations involving a minor.

      • Clover, at least check facts before posting.

        1959 Bel Air – 3622 lbs.
        2009 Malibu – 3415 lbs.

        Look at that rust cloud that comes out of it in the video. It probably lost a fair amount of weight to rust in 50 years.


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