Several midsize cars fare badly in the new IIHS side impact test, Volkswagen drops details on the new 62 kWh ID.4, the Nissan Maxima exits production. All this and more in today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
New IIHS Side Impact Test Proves Tough For Midsize Cars
Let’s face it, if I were to write a headline of Cars Get Clobbered In New IIHS Side Impact Test, the resounding response would be something along the lines of “No shit, Sherlock.” Still, a new side impact crash test sled used by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is really messing some new cars up. Here’s why the new test is so much more severe than the old one, as per an IIHS media release.
“With vehicles that sit lower to the ground, the striking barrier hits higher on the door panel,” says IIHS President David Harkey. “That potentially puts sedans and wagons at a disadvantage in this evaluation but reflects what happens in a real-world crash when these vehicles are struck by a higher-riding pickup or SUV.”
The updated side crash test uses a heavier barrier traveling at a higher speed to simulate the striking vehicle. The new barrier weighs 4,200 pounds — close to the weight of today’s midsize SUVs — and strikes the test vehicle at 37 mph, compared with a 3,300-pound barrier traveling at 31 mph in the original evaluation.
Oh yeah, an extra 900 pounds and six miles per hour will definitely do some damage. It’s no secret that new car buyers are addicted to SUVs and crossovers, and asking shoppers to not buy incredibly practical road hippos is like asking your teenage son to stop going through tissues so quickly. However, more force has to go somewhere, and IIHS testing found that many midsize cars direct it into their occupants. In a recent test of several midsize cars, the Subaru Outback did great and the Hyundai Sonata and Volkswagen Jetta did alright, but the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry didn’t fare so well. The Accord earned a rating of Marginal, while the other three earned the lowest IIHS rating of Poor.
There was moderate intrusion of the B-pillar into the occupant compartment of the Accord. Injury measures for the driver’s pelvis were somewhat elevated, and the driver’s head moved downward past the side curtain airbag to contact the windowsill during the crash.
The Altima and Malibu showed substantial intrusion into the occupant compartment, but the safety cage of the Camry held up well. Injury measures indicated a high risk of torso and pelvis injuries for the driver in the Altima, a moderate risk of torso and pelvis injuries for the driver and high risk of pelvis injuries for the rear passenger in the Camry, and a high risk of head or neck injuries for the driver in the Malibu. In all three vehicles, the heads of either the driver or rear passenger dummy or both slipped below the side curtain airbag to contact the windowsill.
While injury measures are great and all, the most fascinating thing in this report is the fact that Chevrolet still sells the Malibu. In all seriousness, disappointing performance in this new test means that some cars could get screwy. As the IIHS sled impacts a test vehicle’s B-pillar, reducing cabin intrusion will likely mean beefing up B-pillars, which could compromise ingress, egress, and shoulder-check visibility.
[Editor’s Note: IIHS’s Small Overlap Rigid Barrier test led pretty much every automaker to build countermeasures into their vehicle structures, so we know that the Ruckersville-based lab’s work results in significant changes in automotive design. So how will this new side test change things? It’s hard for me not to notice that the only vehicle that scored a “good” rating on this side impact was the tall Subaru. Will this test, brought about by the prevalence of so many big trucks and SUVs on America’s roads, incentivize automakers to increase their vehicles ride heights? Obviously, there are plenty of negative repercussions to that (fuel economy, handling), so this test alone likely isn’t enough to do that. Still, will the new test require more weight to be placed up-high, increasing smaller vehicles’ center of gravity? I’m not entirely sure, but it does seem to me that smaller vehicles are going to have to be compromised in order to withstand crashes from big ones. I’ve reached out to the IIHS to learn more about what they see as next steps from automakers. -DT]
Volkswagen Spills More Details On The Cheaper ID.4
With American production comes a whole bunch of new stuff, from trim changes to a new battery pack option. Let’s break down the new entry-level 2023 Volkswagen ID.4 with its 62 kWh battery pack. Not only has Volkswagen released pricing of $38,790 including a $1,295 freight charge, it also predicts EPA range will clock in at a reasonable 208 miles. For context, that’s $2,455 cheaper than a standard range Hyundai Ioniq 5, $3,905 cheaper than a base-model Kia EV6, and $4,545 cheaper than a Toyota bZ4X. Wow. Alright, so what do you get for $38,790? In short, a lot. There’s no decontenting to make the 62 kWh version cheaper than the 82 kWh model, only a smaller battery pack. Horsepower remains at 201, while standard equipment gets a boost over last year’s model.
The 12-inch touchscreen that used to be an upgrade is now standard on the base trim, while all models get a stitched dashboard, leatherette seat bolsters, and a new steering wheel. Other standard equipment includes a perfectly alright seven-speaker audio system, heated front seats, and all the active safety items you could shake a stick at. While Volkswagen’s latest infotainment system is a bit cantankerous, we’re talking about an absolute ton of standard equipment here.
If there is a downside, it’s that the ID.4 loses its wonderful center console and armrest situation in favor of an Americanized (read: cheaper) solution. Instead of individual front armrests attached to the seats, the ID.4 now gets an armrest in the console lid. Come on, Volkswagen. That’s not very 1996 Lincoln Town Car of you. Still, at least the ID.4 should drive nicely. The early model I drove was roughly as quick as a Mark 3 Golf VR6, rode fabulously, and had a really nice chassis balance when pushed. Expect the cheaper 62 kWh ID.4 to enter production in the fourth quarter of this year, right on time for the holiday season.
AAA Exec Says Nobody Wants Autonomous Cars
Want to know a simple rule of business? If you develop an idea, you have to know if people actually want what you’re cooking up, otherwise you’ll end up being the next Spotify Car Thing. As automakers pour billions of dollars into autonomous cars, both American Automobile Association engineering director Greg Brannon and the vast majority of the public remain unconvinced. Automotive News reports that Brannon recently said at a seminar that “There’s just no business case for full autonomy for individual ownership.” A harsh assessment, sure, but a fair one. Let’s see what else Brannon said.
Brannon told the audience that his blunt view was not merely his own. A survey of AAA’s 62 million members found that 77 percent of respondents said they wanted safer vehicles, but only 18 percent wanted a self-driving capability.
“Even for Level 2 autonomy, there’s no standard of safety for how it’s supposed to work,” he said of the early-stage partial driving automation called advanced driver-assistance systems. In those systems, a vehicle can control both steering and acceleration and deceleration.
“Just because you can pass a very low bar of a standardized test for a particular system does not mean that it’s effective,” he said.
I’m glad someone’s calling bullshit on this whole privately-owned autonomous vehicle pipe dream. While autonomous vehicles may make sense in certain situations like fleet use where human drivers are capped on hours, privately-owned autonomous vehicles don’t solve traffic or any other real infrastructure issues. Plus, imagine the investments that could be made in advanced materials and chassis tuning if manufacturers weren’t spending all this money on autonomous cars.
Nissan Maxima To Exit Production
The writing was on the wall. Car And Driver reports that after 42 years atop Nissan’s range, the full-size Nissan Maxima sedan is getting sent to the shadow realm in the middle of 2023. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised that Nissan’s full-size sedan is being put out to pasture as it’s a six-year-old product and nobody’s buying full-size sedans these days. The Maxima’s only remaining competitors are the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and upcoming Toyota Crown. The first two are revised versions of cars that dropped during the Dubya administration, while the Toyota Crown will serve a loyal customer base as everyone who owns an Avalon will live to be one hundred and eleventy. The Maxima, though? Decades of “four-door sports car” marketing can’t save a car that’s smaller and more expensive than a midsize Altima. However, if you bumped In Search Of… regularly, you’d know that No-one Ever Really Dies. Check out what Car And Driver has to say.
Another Maxima may still be in the cards, however, as Nissan’s official statement says that the company is “prioritizing electric vehicles” and advises us to “stay tuned for future Nissan Maxima news.”
Is it just me, or does this read like the most flagrant teaser possible? I’ll admit, I don’t exactly know what this statement means, but I can take a guess. Nissan’s statement appears to insinuate that the Maxima will return as an EV, and Car And Driver reports that it won’t be a crossover.
Back in February, Nissan announced on a webcast that two new electric vehicles were coming to its Canton, Miss. plant in 2025, then released a bit of a teaser. If you skip to time stamp 24:50 in this video, you’ll see something with a very sedan-like silhouette. A full-size electric sedan from a retail brand sounds like it would be a terrible business decision. I love it.
Whelp, time to drop the lid on today’s edition of The Morning Dump. Happy Friday, everyone! We made it to the end of the work week. To celebrate, let’s play a game. Mercedes has her massive fleet, Jason’s cornering the market on non-functional transportation, David probably has tetanus, and I have the constant odds-and-ends of relying on a 16-year-old BMW as my only car. Matt, however, needs a suffer car of some sort. So, what should Matt get?
Lead photo credit: IIHS