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Tesla Model S breaks testing machine, is now the safest car ever crash-tested by NHTSA

nhtsa clarifies tesla model s crash test results
Tesla Model S crash test aftermath. The car scored the highest of any vehicle tested by the NHTSA Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Tesla Model S has impressed me at virtually every turn. Despite its good looks and impressive performance, I was not expecting the Model S to be one of the safest cars on the road. I figured it’d do well, sure, but I never expected it to become the safest car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), scoring a 5 out of 5 in every single test.

This is significant. During crash testing, only one percent of all cars achieve a 5-star rating. Even if a car scores substantially higher than its competitors, as the Model S did, the NHTSA does not award a score higher than 5 stars. When the NHTSA reveals its final scoring to the automaker, however, a score higher than 5 is actually possible. The Model S scored a 5.4 – out of 5.

I think the Tesla press release said it best: “Of all vehicles tested, including every major make and model approved for sale in the United States, the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants.”

In front-end collisions, the Model S out-shined its competition thanks to its large impact zone. Unlike internal combustion-powered cars, the front end of the Model S is a secondary trunk, as its motor is mounted in the rear. This allows for far more crash force absorption and distribution.

In the side pole intrusion test, the Model S was the only car to receive a “good” rating. In this test, compared to the highly rated Volvo S60, the Model S “preserved 63.5 percent of driver residual space versus 7.8 percent for the Volvo.”

The Model S also did exceptionally well in rear collisions, as Tesla installs a double bumper.

Most impressive of all, I think, was the rollover test. The NHTSA could not get the Model S to roll over. The testing team had to devise a way just to get the vehicle to roll over. When it did, the Model S scored 50 percent better than the next highest scored vehicles. Then, when the NHTSA tried to test the roof crush protection, the Model S broke the machine. The roof crushing machine gave out at 4 Gs.

Tesla was also quick to note that none of its lithium-ion battery packs has ever caught fire – ever.

So there you have it. In the past, if you wanted to keep your family safe above all, you’d buy a Volvo or an Acura. Now, it looks like the Model S takes the safety cake.

Nick Jaynes
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Nick Jaynes is the Automotive Editor for Digital Trends. He developed a passion for writing about cars working his way…
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