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Re: How safe is an E46?? (long) (archive)

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Posted by Jim Robertson on February 15, 1999 at 08:37:49:

In Reply to: How safe is an E46?? posted by BMVW on February 15, 1999 at 06:55:50:

: So... if any of you know anything about how well they do, please let me know. Or, even any info. on the previous generation cars' results. The new ones are different, yes, and supposedly more structurally sound... but I can at least base my opinions on E36 info. Thanks!

The BMW 5-series scored highest of any car ever tested in an offset frontal crash at 40 mph conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety back in 1997. Since then, however, its overall score has been usurped by (are you ready?) the Toyota Sienna minivan.

Of course, nothing says that these results are translatable directly to the E46 3-series, which has yet to be tested by the Insurance Institute (or by the DOT, as far as I know). Still, as the detailed results show, occupant compartment intrusion was remarkably little in the 5-series tests.

One more thing: you talk about it being better to be surrounded by steel than by plastic. Probably the safest cars (in terms of occupant protection) come from a few shops in Sheffield, England, and are made for the CART IndyCar series (yes, they're safer than the F1 tubs). They are made of kevlar and carbon fiber, and people quite regularly walk away from incidents that begin at speeds north of 200 mph. Much of that results from the firmness of driver restraint (take a few hot laps wearing a 5-point harness, then get back in your street car with lap and shoulder belt and you'll feel naked).

Additionally, the race tubs are designed to absorb energy as they disintegrate, leaving behind a small "safety cage" containing the driver. Steel isn't necessarily the best material for such construction.

(donning Columbo hat) Oh, and just one MORE thing. Those of us thinking we're adding to the performance of our Bimmers with aftermarket strut tower braces should at least consider the fact that, as far as crash-survival is concerned, increasing the rigidity of the engine compartment and altering the motor's tragectory in a frontal impact (which these braces certainly do) is probably NOT a good thing, and I don't think you'll see the manufacturers of these aftermarket accessories dropping a few hundred thousand on crash tests!


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