After putting 11 such 2012 models through tests of what happens when they suffer "small overlap frontal crashes" in which a car's front corner hits something such as a tree, utility pole or other vehicle, the institute concluded that:
"The Acura TL and Volvo S60 earn good ratings, while the Infiniti G earns acceptable. The Acura TSX, BMW 3 series, Lincoln MKZ and Volkswagen CC earn marginal ratings. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus IS 250/350, Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350 earn poor."
The reason the institute designed the new test is that while modern vehicles generally perform well in tests of what happens in head-on crashes, small overlap frontal crashes continue to be a "major source" of fatalities:
"In a 2009 Institute study of vehicles with good ratings for frontal crash protection, small overlap crashes accounted for nearly a quarter of the frontal crashes involving serious or fatal injury to front seat occupants."
To protect car occupants, the institute says, the key "in any crash is a strong safety cage that resists deformation." But in most cases involving the cars that were tested, the "crush-zone structures" did not offer adequate protection from small overlap crashes.
The New York Times adds that luxury cars were chosen for the initial set of tests "because they tend to be the first models in any given year to offer advances in safety. The next round of testing will involve 15 moderately priced midsize cars."