Tesla is continuing its winning streak in 2013, this time not on the stock market but in the crash test evaluation of its Model S. The Model S has outsold its closest luxury competitors and expert reviews have ranked the car as one of the best on the road. So what does it do for an encore? It breaks records in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash rating system ... and a roof crushing machine.
Tesla reports that the all-electric sedan received a 5 stars in every NHTSA category. Only 1 percent of all manufacturer vehicles achieve a five star rating and the NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5. However safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers. The S scored a record 5.4 VSS rating and set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants.
The test scores are based on figures obtained during front, side, rear and rollover incidents. Tesla’s high front collision score was achieved in part due to its large front crumple zone. With no massive gas/diesel engine up front, the Model S’ front hood becomes more effective in diffusing energy because the entire zone being dedicated to safeguarding occupants.
In side collision tests, the Model S managed to maintain 63.5 percent of the driver’s residual space. Tesla points out that the Volvo S60 (also 5-star rated) only reached 7.8 percent for the same test. Rear collision tests were also above average thanks to Tesla’s addition of a second bumper, which is installed when the third row children's seat option is ordered.
An exact figure for roof testing isn't available, as the testing machine failed at just over 4 g's of force. Tesla says that that based on the 4 g plus figure, the car could theoretically piggyback four Model S’ to and from its Palo Alto facilities without fear of the roof collapsing. Tesla attributes this roof strength to a reinforced B-pillar utilizing aerospace grade bolts to shore up the center.
Continuing to be stubborn, the Model S also refused to cooperate in the rollover test. A customized method had to be developed to flip the Model S, which speaks for itself. The reason for the flip aversion is due in part to Tesla’s 1,000 lb (454 kg) low mounted battery pack, in combination with the car’s hefty 4,647.3 lb (2,108 kg) curb weight.
Having just test driven the Model S this past weekend I can attest to the car’s performance and build quality, but fortunately I didn't get to put the impressive new safety ratings to the test. Watch for our Model S drive review later this week.