WASHINGTON - The BMW X5 performed better in a high-speed offset crash test than any other sport-utility tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the institute says.
Three other mid-sized sport-utilities achieved mediocre or poor grades.
In fact, institute tests led to two safety recalls of Isuzu Troopers because of fuel leaks after crashes.
In addition, the institute, a research organization for auto insurers, gave mediocre or poor reviews to the bumpers on all four of the newly tested sport-utilities after they went through a series of 5-mph crashes.
The high-speed tests were the ones that produced the most noteworthy results.
Of the X5, institute President Brian O'Neill said, 'Measured intrusion into the (occupant) compartment was less than in any other vehicle we have tested.'
He said readings taken from crash dummy instruments indicate a low likelihood of injury.
But because the institute does not believe in comparing vehicles from different categories, it is calling the X5 the best sport-utility, not the best vehicle of any type.
The institute runs cars and trucks into the corner of a deformable barrier at 40 mph, a severe test designed to simulate a near head-on collision at highway speeds. It then rates them as good, acceptable, marginal or poor.
In the latest round, the institute called the X5 'good,' the Mitsubishi Montero and Nissan Xterra 'acceptable' and the Trooper 'marginal.'
In a test of a 2000 Trooper, the institute found that an excessive amount of a fuel substitute leaked.
Isuzu Motors Ltd. recalled 13,000 of the vehicles to install protective shields on fuel lines and had the shields added to 2001 models.
The institute then tested a 2001 Trooper and found the fuel system leaked again.
Isuzu then decided to recall again the first 13,000 and about 5,000 of the 2001 vehicles and to install a revised fuel line. No fuel leaked in a third institute test.
The second recall notices were scheduled to be sent to owners between Monday, Nov. 27, and Tuesday, Dec. 5.
'We have conducted well over 100 frontal offset crash tests, and this is the first time we've seen a major fuel system leak,' O'Neill said.
But he praised Isuzu for moving quickly to correct the problems.
There is no evidence that fires have occurred in real-world conditions, institute and company officials said.
Meanwhile, after the 5-mph tests, the institute scored the X5 bumpers as 'acceptable' and the bumpers on the other three as 'poor.'
O'Neill sharply criticized manufacturers for advertising 'rugged' sport-utilities but equipping them with fragile bumpers.