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IIHS News | May 8, 1997Subscribe

Lexus and Mercedes rate worst among luxury cars in low-speed bumper tests while domestics Lincoln and Cadillac perform best

ARLINGTON, Va. — Four of the six 1997 model luxury cars the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested at 5 mph have poor bumpers. All four are imports, and all cost big bucks to repair after walking-speed impacts.

The Lexus LS 400 was the worst performer in the group, racking up $6,195 in total repair costs. The Mercedes E420 was nearly as bad. It sustained $6,042 total damage in the four bumper tests. Two other cars had more than $3,500 damage — the Infiniti Q45 and the BMW 540i.

Two domestic cars were the best performers. The Lincoln Continental had $1,090 total damage in the four tests. The Cadillac Seville was next best with $1,747 total damage.

"Costs to repair the imported luxury cars are high not only because of parts prices but because the bumpers are poor designs," says Institute President Brian O'Neill. "Our test results illustrate what can happen when styling becomes more important than function. Automakers can make bumpers that are effective and stylish. It's not too much to expect good bumpers, no matter what a car costs. But it's particularly sad when a consumer pays a lot of money for a luxury car and gets lousy bumpers."

O'Neill notes that Toyota put effective bumpers on its 1997 Camry but failed to do the same on its luxury model Lexus. This car did poorly in three of the four tests, especially in the rear-into-pole test where it sustained $3,293 damage. In comparison, the Camry's rear bumper held up well in this test, resulting in only $590 damage. Total damage for the 1997 Camry in all tests was $1,370 — the Lexus sustained more than four times that much damage.

The Institute has been evaluating bumpers on passenger cars for more than 25 years, but this is the first time luxury sedans have been subjected to the low-speed tests. The Institute conducts the bumper tests to provide consumers with information on the comparative bumper performance of groups of new cars and to encourage automakers with poor bumpers to improve them. These 5 mph tests include front- and rear-into-flat barrier, front-into-angle-barrier, and rear-into-pole.

Damage repair costs: luxury car performance in crash tests at 5 mph
Make/model/MSRP Front
per test
Lincoln Continental
$0 $16 $768 $306 $1,090 $272
Cadillac Seville SLS
$292 $160 $536 $759 $1,747 $437
BMW 540i
$454 $351 $1,672 $1,119 $3,596 $899
Infiniti Q45
$386 $563 $1,567 $1,246 $3,762 $940
Mercedes E420
$372 $1,066 $2,106 $2,498 $6,042 $1,510
Lexus LS 400
$748 $0 $2,154 $3,293 $6,195 $1,549
Camry LE (comparison)
$143 $93 $544 $590 $1,370 $342
Note: Cars tested are 1997 models. Repair costs reflect April 1997 prices. Car prices are manufacturers' suggested retail including options and freight.

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