deploy according to the severity of an
accident. Front and rear side curtain air
bags protect in severe side impacts and
front seat-mounted side air bags add
chest protection. The rear-wheel-drive
LS 430 adds electronic brake-force distri-
bution. A pre-collision system increases
braking force if its radar sensors deter-
mine that a collision with the vehicle
ahead is unavoidable. If so, it retracts the
driver's and front passenger's seatbelts to
help reduce collision injury. A tire pres-
sure monitor, adaptive front lighting to
illuminate on a curve or turn, stability and
traction control are also standard.
A 4.3-liter V8 provides power through a
six-speed automatic transmission.
Base price, $54,995
Cadillac DeVille DTS
Base price: $50,100
An advanced system of air bags, and
Stabilitrak, Cadillac's stability control sys-
tem, are standard. Ultrasonic assist makes
rear parking maneuvers safer, and LED
stop-lamps and taillights outshine the tra-
ditional incandescents. Optional thermal-
imaging technology lets drivers see
beyond headlight range. OnStar, GM's
information and communication service,
tops it off with one year of free service.
For the rich and famous, an inconspicu-
ous-appearing armored edition (estimated
cost, around $130,000) protects with bul-
let-resista - 1t glass windows.
For p,6wer, the full-size DeVille DTS
em-r-,oys a sturdy 300-hp, 4.6-liter
Lexus LS 430
Base price: $55,125
The standard safety features on this full-
size luxury sedan start with knee-level air
bags and variable force front air bags that
This midsize, rear-wheel-drive sport sedan
has enough safety features to satisfy a
guardian angel. The list includes as stan-
dard, a flat tire monitor, an emergency con-
nection to BMW's Assist Response Center
and an advanced head protection system.
Add to that, dynamic stability control and
dynamic traction control for plowing
through deep snow or sand. In an accident,
10 sensors deploy air bags and safety-belt
tensioners according to severity. Active
cruise control uses radar sensors in the
front bumper to maintain a safe following
distance. Four ultrasonic sensors in front
and rear bumpers warn of parking obstacles
and Adaptive Light Control corrects head-
light aim for safer night driving.
A potent 4.4-liter V-8 is matched with a
Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan
Base price, $26,090
A second generation of the midsize Saab's
innovative Active Head Restraint system
protects against whiplash and wins awards
for the firm. The front-wheel-drive, corn-
pact-size 9-3 includes side-impact air bags
engineered into the front seats for chest
protection. Side-curtain air bags deploy
from the ceiling to protect both front and
rear occupants. They remain inflated up
to three seconds to prevent a passenger's
head from striking side windows, roof pil-
lars or exterior objects. Other standard
safety features include electronic stability
and traction controls, electronic brake
force distribution, cornering brake con-
trols and mechanical brake assist.
Power: 175 to 210-hp turbo engine
with five or six-speed manual or five-
We're about to witness a catastrophic accident, the kind
that can kill or cause severe injuries. It's happening at
Honda's $30 million Research and Development
Laboratories, not far from the bustling city of Tokyo.
Engineers here will send a Honda Pilot sport utility vehicle
and a Honda Civic speeding toward each other. They will
crash at 30 miles per hour and at a 180-degree angle.
The Pilot weighs 1.8 times more than the Civic. In real-
life car accidents, a passenger in a smaller car is four times
more likely to die than the occupant of a heavier minivan.
That's why Honda developed Advanced Compatibility
Engineering (ACE ), which the crash will demonstrate. The
system includes high tensile strength steel incorporated in a
new front-end frame structure. It lets the engine absorb
more crash energy than the passenger compartment. ACE
also prevents misalignment with other vehicle bodies.
We watch from a railing one floor above the action at the
320,000-square-foot crash test facility. Men in white cover-
alls observe from a control center on an overhead boom.
Lights flash and buzzers sound. The two vehicles streak in
from opposite sides and crash with a sonic-like boom.
When the smoke settles, we learn from the facility's
Chief Engineer, Tomijii Sugimoto, that the Civic's dummy
occupants, had they been humans, would have survived
with possibly minor cuts and bruises. The ACE system will
debut next fall on the all-new Honda Odyssey minivan and
Acura RL sedan and eventually on all Honda and Acura
Next we drive Hondas equipped with Intelligent Highway
Cruise Control, which keeps our vehicle a safe distance
from the one ahead. Get too close, and the car slows down
until we are at our specified distance from the car we're
following. If we lag behind, it speeds us up. The system also
beeps at us whenever we
stray over the lane line.
We test the pre-
crash safety technol-
ogy Honda has intro-
duced in Japan. We're
told not to use the brake and to drive the
radar-equipped vehicle into a target moving alongside a
van. As we near the target, we feel the seat belt pre-ten-
sioner grab four times while an instrument panel light and
buzzer warn of an imminent collision. Then braking begins
to slow us down to mitigate the severity of the impending
crash. As we collide with the lightweight target, it pivots
upward and over the hood. In an actual accident, damage to
passengers and car would have been mitigated.
We take Japan's 150-plus-miles-per-hour Bullet Train
back to our hotel in Tokyo. On the way, we think of the
young families who will feel confident about their children's
safety while riding in cars that say "Safety for Everyone."
— Julie Candler
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE CRASH-TESTED SAFETY OF OTHER VEHICLES, CALL THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION AT
1-888—DASH-2—DOT, OR VISIT WWW.NHTSA.GOV AND CLICK ON "BUYING A SAFER CAR."