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The Lincoln Continental, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Toyota Avalon qualified in crash-testing for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick+ designation, which is the highest award from the group that represents the insurance industry.

The institute said those sedans were the only models out of six large cars that it tested recently to earn the top safety award. The remaining cars — the Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus — only received acceptable ratings in the IIHS small-overlap front test, which represents what happens when the front driver-side corner of a vehicle hits a tree or utility pole, or collides with another vehicle.

“This group of large cars includes some with stellar ratings, but our small-overlap front test remains a hurdle for some vehicles,” David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, said in a statement.

To qualify for the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ award, cars have to receive good ratings from IIHS in five tests that are designed to measure crash-worthiness.

They also have to have an available front crash-prevention system that earns a superior or advanced rating.

To qualify for Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must also receive good or acceptable ratings for its headlights.

IHS said the Model S, Impala and Taurus received good ratings in four of the five categories it uses to determine its top safety pick designation, but the cars only received acceptable ratings in the group’s small-overlap front crash test.

Those autos also received poor grades for their headlights, and the Taurus’ front-crash prevention was rated basic and the Model S did not list one.

IHS said Tesla received an acceptable grade in small-overlap protection, because its safety belt let the crash dummy’s torso move too far forward, and its head hit the steering wheel

The group said the cars were retested after Tesla made modifications to models that were built after January, but it said the same problem occurred in later tests.

IHS said the Chevrolet Impala had not been put through its evaluations since it was redesigned in 2014, and the group said the Impala has never been rated for small-overlap protection. The 2017 Impala model earned an acceptable rating for small-overlap protection and good ratings in the group’s other crash-worthiness tests.

IHS said the Taurus had not been tested for the recently added crash test prior to 2017 either. The group said its dummies were “well-controlled” in the crash test for the Taurus, but they indicated that drivers could sustain injuries to their lower left leg.

klaing@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

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