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Auto blogWed, 14 Aug 2013 16:00:00 EST
Crash-testing new vehicles to evaluate their ability to keep humans safe in accidents is nothing new, but thus far there has been little in the way of crash testing for dogs. Subaru, a company that portrays itself as pet friendly, hopes to raise awareness on the issue of pet safety by funding initial crash testing by the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety, Automotive News reports.
Real dogs were not used in the crash tests; three dummy dogs representing a 25-pound terrier, a 45-pound border collie and a 75-pound golden retriever were used. There are a variety of devices for sale that are supposed to restrain dogs from entering the front-seat area and distracting the driver - tethers, cages, nets and crates - but their effectiveness in a crash is unknown.
In Subaru's crash test, performed at a Virginia laboratory that tests child seats on a device that speeds down a track and stops abruptly, the results show that devices such as dog tethers are prone to break in a crash, sending the dog rocketing into whatever is in front of it. Rather alarmingly, the organization reports a 100-percent failure rate. In other words, "None of the harnesses were deemed safe enough to protect both the dog and the humans in the event of an accident." Yikes.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has revealed its annual list of Top Safety Picks, an award that highlights automobiles it says offer "superior crash protection." A new and still more significant award, the Top Safety Pick+ honor, is given to those vehicles that earn good ratings for occupant protection in four out of five areas of measure. And while some 117 vehicles were given the TSP seal of approval for 2013, just 13 passed muster for TSP+.
To be fair, IIHS only evaluated 29 vehicles with its new testing procedures for TSP+ (we'd expect that the number of qualified cars will rise substantially for 2014). Luxury and Near Luxury midsize cars were the first groups evaluated, followed by midsizers in the Moderately Priced Cars category - unsurprisingly, it's only midsize cars that you'll find among the class this year.
Only two luxury sedans made the list of 13 for 2013: the Acura TL and Volvo S60. The other 11 cars on the list included entries from domestic, Japanese and German car makers: Dodge Avenger, Chrysler 200, Ford Fusion, Honda Accord (sedan and coupe), Kia Optima (but not its close kin, the Hyundai Sonata, strangely), Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy and Outback, Suzuki Kizashi and the Volkswagen Passat all made the grade.
"As far as street-legal rally cars go, there's still nothing better than a WRX." I wrote that line following my first drive of the 2015 Subaru WRX late last year - one of the better motoring experiences I had in 2013. Sure, a particularly involving drive route helped, but I don't want to sell the new Subaru short: it's a seriously good car - easily one of the sharpest, best-driving little turbos available today.
When I drove the even hotter 2015 WRX STI in January, it was a similar love-fest. The STI is infused with all of the WRX's greatness, but it's sharper, meaner, and on good roads (and race tracks), the winged wonder is really outstanding. But because of its higher price tag, less forgiving suspension tuning, and only marginal performance increases, I'm convinced that the STI isn't the best WRX for the money. And much as I love it, I just don't think I'd ever buy the STI over its more sedate sister (though I totally understand why others might).
So when it came time to add a new long-term car to the Autoblog fleet, many votes were cast in favor of the WRX. There was a lot of debate about whether or not to get the standard version, or the mightier STI. But at the end of the day, my argument that the basic WRX is the better daily driver - nee, one of the best all-around, all-weather performers money can buy - carried the day.