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Audi's latest A6 is now an even safer bet

The 2016 Audi A6 performs exceptionally well in a safety test replicating a front-corner crash with another car or an object like a tree or a utility pole, a nonprofit research group said on Tuesday.

The large luxury car netted a "Top Safety Pick Plus" award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS, as a result of modifications Audi made to improve what's called small overlap protection. Top Safety Pick Plus is the IIHS' highest ranking, one notch above Top Safety Pick. Many of the A6's rivals have already been awarded the top rating.

7 of the most reliable cars you can buy
7 of the most reliable cars you can buy

The small overlap test, introduced in 2012, showed the A6 driver's space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of four inches at the footrest, the institute found.

The dummy's movement was controlled, with its head hitting the front airbag and staying there until rebound, with the side airbag deploying with enough coverage to protect the dummy's head from hitting side structure and outside objects. "Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity," the IIHS said in a release.

In track tests of the A6's optional front crash prevention system, an automatic brake reduced the car's speed by an average of 10 miles an hour in the institute's lower-speed test. In a higher-speed test, the speed was cut by 1 mile an hour, not enough to earn credit. But the system did get credit in the IIHS ratings for a warnings component that meets the government's criteria for forward collision warning.

The A6 already had good ratings in the institute's other crash-worthiness tests and an advanced rating for its optional front crash prevention system, while the good small overlap rating applies to A6s made after January, the IIHS said.

Vehicles that earn a good or acceptable rating for small overlap protection and good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations qualify for "Top Safety Pick," while "Top Safety Pick Plus" vehicles must also have an available front crash prevention system that earns an advanced or superior rating, the institute said.

The A6 joins several other models in its class of large luxury cars in nabbing the IIHS' very highest safety ranking, including the Acura RLX, Hyundai Genesis, Infiniti Q70, Lexus RC, Mercedes E class, and Volvo S80. All those are 2015 model years, while the A6 is a 2016

In February, the institute found the 2015 Nissan Sentra, along with a redesign of the Kia Sorento for the 2016 model year, had both improved their small overlap front ratings from poor to good, qualifying for the "Top Safety Pick" awards.

Conversely, the institute in November cited a group of minivans -- the Nissan Quest, the Chrysler Town & Country and its twin, the Dodge Grand Caravan -- for showing some of the worst possible outcomes in small overlap front crashes, with all earning poor ratings. The exception: the 2015 Toyota Sienna, which earned an acceptable rating and joined the Honda Odyssey in the ranks of "Top Safety Pick Plus" winners, the IIHS said.

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