ARLINGTON, Va. — Volvo has changed the design of the airbags in its S80s for the 2001 model year, and the changes mean the new model earns the highest crashworthiness rating — "best pick" — from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The 2000 model S80 was rated good, but it wasn't a "best pick" because the Institute had some concerns about the airbag design.
The Institute's crashworthiness ratings are based primarily on performance in frontal offset crash tests into a deformable barrier at 40 mph. Cars are rated good, acceptable, marginal, or poor. Vehicles that perform very well are designated "best picks."
When the Institute tested midsize luxury cars last spring, the 2000 model S80 earned a good overall evaluation based on its performance in the offset test. "But the airbags inflated in a separate 5 mph bumper test. Plus there was concern about the temperature of the airbag gas near the hands of the driver dummy in the 40 mph test," Institute president Brian O'Neill explains. "These are why the 2000 model didn't earn a 'best pick' designation. But now Volvo has modified its airbag design to address these concerns, and the S80 for the 2001 model year earns a 'best pick' rating."
Other midsize luxury models the Institute has evaluated include the BMW 3 series which, like the new Volvo, earns a good overall evaluation and "best pick" designation. The Cadillac Catera is rated good, while the Saab 9-5 and Audi A6 are rated acceptable. "Overall this is a good group of vehicles," O'Neill points out. "It's encouraging that none of the cars in this group that we tested is rated marginal or poor. They all earn good or acceptable ratings."