Of Benzes and Bags: Mercedes Rolls Out Pelvic Airbags

Pelvicairbag At last week’s Detroit auto show, we reported that Mercedes-Benz’s 2010 E-Class would have 11 standard airbags. Among them will be what Mercedes calls “pelvic airbags,” not to be confused with the car’s seat-mounted side airbags or side curtain airbags. That’s three separate devices protecting your noggin, chest and hips should the cell-phone addict at 9 o’clock miss his red light.

Both the pelvic airbags and the conventional seat-mounted side airbags are mounted inside the front seats — one deploys at chest level, the other at hip level. Mercedes spokesman Rob Moran said the new device is designed to protect the pelvis and reduce impact forces on the abdomen. They’re in the 2010 E-Class and 2009 C-Class, but will likely migrate to other Benz models, Moran said.

We can’t think of any other car — even among the high-roller crowd — with such devices, and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman Russ Rader said he couldn’t think of any, either. But Rader said pelvic airbags may not be necessary if conventional side airbags can provide enough coverage. The Ford F-150, for example, has key inflation points from a larger airbag that extends all the way down the seat to offer similar protection.

“It’s more common to see a side airbag that is essentially one unit but is designed to protect both the chest and the pelvis,” Rader said. “You can [provide adequate protection] two ways: with two airbags or one large airbag.”

Quantifying the effectiveness of extra airbags is often tricky; a car’s structural integrity, the extent of airbag coverage and a number of other factors figure into its overall crashworthiness. Case in point: The previous-generation Subaru Forester nailed its crash tests with four airbags, while the Hyundai Azera fared so-so despite having eight.

In conjunction with the other factors, Mercedes’ protective panoply appears to be doing its job: IIHS named the C-Class a Top Safety Pick when the 2009 model, which added pelvic airbags, aced the agency’s front-, side- and rear-impact tests. Alas, Rader has no hard data on how much the pelvic airbags contributed: Mercedes asked IIHS to withhold testing on the C-Class until the pelvic airbags had been installed, he said, so the redesigned 2008 model — which only had curtain airbags and seat-mounted side airbags — went untested.

By Kelsey Mays | January 27, 2009 | Comments (16)

Comments 

Derrick G

The Azera vs. Forester comparison is just odd. Two of the Azera's additional air bags are in the rear and both vehicles got all Goods in the rear. That's not that hard; most of the impact in this test is closer to the driver dummy than the rear seat one. If the impact were more towards the back in a real collision, the Azera may well have a significant advantage. Also, in the test the dummy is firmly belted in place while in the real world it's quite possible someone may be leaning forward, in which case the Azera's additional curtain air bags would provide far better protection. Subaru seems to agree as the new version of the Forester has curtain air bags.

Red

This is not a surprising development, since Mercedes did more to promote passenger safety than any other brand, pioneering features like motor mounts that direct the engine down away from the passengers in a frontal collision, crush zones, safety door latch mechanisms, etc. It's what sets Benz apart - sometimes you get what you pay for.

You also get their world-class reliability for that price, too (sarcasm).

starlightmica

The 2008 Honda Accord introduced a combination side + pelvis airbag. Press release (bottom of page):

http://corporate.honda.com/press/article.aspx?id=4110

Bob

Red, do you mind citing an impartial and authoritative source for your sweeping generalization about Mercedes-Benz's safety record? All I see are merely "Acceptable" IIHS side-impact scores for the 2008 C- and E-class cars. If you are in a side-impact collision, you're safer in a Honda Fit than you are in an E-class. (Yes, IIHS *side* impact scores *are* comparable across all vehicles.)

Bob

P.S. Lest I come off as a Mercedes-Benz basher from my previous post: I want to publicly commend them for working to improve the crash test scores of their cars. I think (hope) they are on the upswing now as the disastrous Chrysler merger disappears further and further into history. Maybe one day they will once again be "Engineered Like No Other Car in the World."

Red

Bob, we don't consider you a MB Basher, just uneducated. MB formed its safety division 65 years ago. They introduced the granddaddy of all safety innovations, safety cage construction in 1951. They introduced side impact protection before anyone else, marketed air bags first, invented Anti-lock braking and electronic stability control,seat belt tensioners, the first steering column designed to protect the driver, and brake assist, along with the aforementioned motor mounts that direct the engine down in a crash and safety door latches. Get with it man, MB rules on safety!

Red

One more thing: A MB E-class is a much safer car than a Honda Fit.

Bob

Red, neither of your posts answered my original question: please cite an impartial and authoritative source for your sweeping generalization about Mercedes-Benz's safety record (the one in your first post).

Also, your comment about the E-class being safer than the Fit is factually wrong regarding side impacts: the IIHS results prove it.

Reciting Mercedes-Benz's history of safety devices doesn't improve today's E-class's crash test scores (or the 2008 C-class's).

Red

Go back and read your original question, which is about Mercedes Benz "safety record." I've answered that question with facts - because it's well documented history I don't have to quote sources or do your research. You took issue with my original statement, which referred to MB's excellent record of safety innovation. Apparently you don't have the attention span to remember what your original question was.

Bob

Red, it's unfortunate that you've chosen to take an ad hominem approach to respond to my posts; calling me "uneducated" in an erlier post while being unable to support your own contentions is unimpressive to say the least. Saying you've answered my question "with facts" without citing a source only damages your credibility. If you want to respond, keep it civil and indicate from which documents you're getting your information.

Bob

Typo in the above post: "erlier" should be "earlier."

The C-Class received a wheels-up redesign for the 2008 model year. For 2009, Mercedes hasn't seen the need to change much. The new midsize sedan from Stuttgart comes close to the performance benchmark of its class, the BMW 3-Series, in performance, and offers cabin electronics and comfort that rival Lexus and Acura at this price point.

donny

please realize in your e-class vs fit argument...a 5 star hatchback will fare far worse in most collisions than a 4 star sedan. plus sedans handle better, are heavier, and absorb more impact. the star ratings are relative and can only be used to compare similar vehicles (weight, size, shape)

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