The Lincoln Continental, Mercedes-Benz E class and Toyota Avalon earned top honors among six large cars tested for crashworthiness by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The three cars qualified for IIHS' Top Safety Pick+, the group's highest award, by scoring "good" ratings in five crash tests. To qualify for the top rating, the cars must also score "good" or "acceptable" in the group's headlight test. The Avalon scored "acceptable" for headlights, while the Continental and E class earned "good" headlight ratings.
The cars were subjected to tests for small overlap front crashes, moderate overlap front crashes, side impact crashes, roof strength and protection from head restraints.
"This group of large cars includes some with stellar ratings, but our small overlap front test remains a hurdle for some vehicles," David Zuby, IIHS' executive vice president and chief research officer, said in a statement.
Small overlap crashes account for about 25 percent of the serious driver injuries and deaths that occur in frontal impacts, IIHS says.
The Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus missed the top safety rating after scoring "acceptable" on the small overlap front crash test and "poor" on the headlight test.
In the small overlap front crash test, 25 percent of a vehicle's front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall barrier at 40 mph.
The main problem with the Model S, IIHS said, was that the safety belt let the crash test dummy's torso move too far forward, allowing the dummy's head to strike the steering wheel hard through the airbag.
Tesla modified the belt in vehicles built after January, but IIHS said subsequent tests didn't resolve the problem.
IIHS said the Impala held up "reasonably well," although the dummy's head hit the front airbag and then slid off to the left side, leaving the head partially unprotected.
During the same test for the Taurus, IIHS found that the dummy's left lower leg was prone to injury.