Five large family passenger cars and three large luxury models earned top ratings in frontal crash tests reported Sunday by the insurance industry.
The highest ratings went to five 2005 family vehicles -- the Buick LaCrosse, Chrysler 300, Ford Five Hundred, Kia Amanti and Toyota Avalon -- and three luxury passenger cars -- the Acura RL, Cadillac STS and Lexus GS.
In the front crash test, one side of a vehicle's front end strikes a barrier at 40 mph.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said Chrysler had made strides in the frontal protection offered by the 300. In 1999, two of the 300's predecessors, the Chrysler LHS and its corporate twin 300M, received the institute's lowest rating for frontal crashes.
But in the recent tests, the 300's front compartment maintained its shape, letting the air bag and seat belt protect the dummy. When the dummy moved forward into the air bag, it returned to the seat without its head striking any structure that could have caused injury.
In a statement issued by the institute, Adrian Lund, its chief operating officer, called the 300 a "good performer across the board in the frontal test. This is the kind of performance we like to see."
The institute commended Ford Motor Co. for the steady performance of the Five Hundred, noting that previous Ford family sedans received top ratings in frontal tests.
The 2005 Acura RL was also considered an improvement, with previous versions rated acceptable because the dummy's head struck the pillar between the front and rear doors.
The 2005 RL had an improved structure that reduced the likelihood of injuries in a similar crash, the institute said.
The insurance organization also found improvement in the crashworthiness of the Cadillac STS.
The STS' immediate predecessor, the 2000 Seville, earned a good rating in the frontal test, but the 1997 Seville was rated poor because its structure crumpled during the crash test and the instrument panel pushed back toward the driver.