Most cars get five stars in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s frontal crash protection test and four stars for side impact protection. But the Model S aced them all: front, side, pole, and rollover. And Tesla adds in its announcement that during a previous roof crush test used during validation, the machine failed while applying more than 4 G’s of pressure — the same as stacking four of the electric sedans on top of the car without the roof breaking.
When NHTSA added up all the scores, it totaled a combined 5.4 stars — the highest ever recorded for a production vehicle.
The reason for the insanely high marks isn’t just the stiff structure, but the electric drivetrain. With no engine up front taking up valuable crumple zone space, Tesla’s engineers were able to maximize the amount of sacrificial space, and with the battery mounted oh-so-low in the floor, that increases rigidity around the occupants. The rear crash test — particularly important given the rear-facing child jump seats — was another high score, with no “permanently disabling injury to the third row occupants" thanks in part to what Tesla calls a “double bumper" to absorb additional impact.
And before you ask, the lithium-ion battery handled it all with aplomb, with no leakage or fire.