The Safest Cars of 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

BMW 5-Series
Segment: Large Luxury Sedan
MSRP: $45,050
Chevrolet Cruze
Segment: Small Sedan
MSRP: $16,275
 Lincoln MKS
Segment: Large Luxury Sedan
MSRP: $41,500
Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Segment: Mid-size Luxury Sedan
MSRP: $33,990
Subaru Legacy
Segment: Mid-size Sedan
MSRP: $19,995

The Tesla Model S is a four-door electric sedan set for sale in 2012. It'll go 300 zero-emission miles on one charge and get to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, all for $57,000 -- a bargain-basement price compared with the $95,900 Fisker Karma or the $109,000 Tesla Roadster. But Tesla Vice President and Chief Engineer Peter Rawlinson knows he'll have to convince Americans that the car is safe before he has any chance of persuading them to actually buy it.

That's why the Model S' bare aluminum body -- and its steel bumpers -- were on clear display at the North American International Auto Show last week."We are baring our soul by showing this," Rawlinson said. "The body shell is the lightest in its class, but we believe it's also the safest."

The Model S won't be ready to undergo official crash tests for a while. But Rawlinson knows that making a safe vehicle and establishing that perception in consumers' minds is crucial for any automaker bringing a car to market today. Shoppers aren't stupid: More than 12,000 people died in frontal crashes of passenger vehicles in 2009 in the United States, the last year with complete data. More than 6,000 died in side impacts and more than 8,000 in rollover crashes.

In a study released this month, Consumer Reports found that 65 percent of consumers rate safety among their top three priorities when considering a car, the highest of any purchase consideration factor. (Quality came in as the second-highest factor, with 57 percent of respondents saying they cared about it most.) Those safety-conscious drivers would do well to consider the BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS or Subaru Legacy -- we rate them as three of the safest cars on the road today.

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