With seven standard-fit airbags, belt tensioners and belt force limiters on all seats, as well as crash-responsive head restraints for the driver and front passenger, the new E-Class Cabriolet offers the most comprehensive array of safety features in this vehicle category.
The range of airbags, which can deploy in thousandths of a second in an accident, comprises front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, a kneebag for the driver and, for the first time in a Mercedes-Benz Cabriolet, headbags.
Whereas windowbags are used in cars with a conventional, fixed roof, mostly housed in the roof frame, the Mercedes-Benz safety specialists naturally had to employ a different airbag as well as choose a different installation position in the case of the E-Class Cabriolet. Here headbags are integrated into the door panelling in the beltline area. Covering a wide area – around 0.7 x 0.5 metres with a volume of 17 litres when deployed – the airbags provide extremely effective protection for occupants large and small in the event of a crash. The side protection system – comprising headbag and thoraxbag – optimises the level of protection afforded to individual parts of the body. Rear sidebags are available as an option.
Exemplary safety combined with maximum comfort is the best way to describe the restraint systems in the E-Class Cabriolet. When front passengers get into the car and close the doors, the seat belts are extended towards them by means of belt feeders – a Mercedes-Benz hallmark – making the belts extremely easy to put on. Once the rear passengers have taken their seats and belted up, the rear head restraints are raised from their recessed rest position to the driving position automatically. If only the front seats of the Cabriolet are occupied, there is always excellent rear visibility, while any rear passengers on board benefit from the protective effect of the head restraints in the event of a crash, providing they are wearing their seat belts.
What’s more, the geometry of the front seat belts has been optimised. The belt straps no longer run horizontally but, instead, are turned 35 degrees towards the occupants’ shoulders. The advantage of this modification is that the wind pressure on the outside of the belt strap prevents annoying belt flapping when driving with the roof down. This dreaded “shoulder-knocking” effect has been reduced substantially at speeds of up to 120 km/h.
Robust roll-over bars triggered by pyrotechnic means
Further safety features for the open-top two-door model include the A-pillars reinforced by two additional tubes, the plug-in B-pillars and roll-over protection. The latter consists of two robust bars, each with a diameter of 35 mm, which are housed in the rear head restraints in modules behind the rear seat backrests. If the sensors housed in the airbag control unit detect imminent danger to the occupants, pre-tensioned pressure springs are activated by pyrotechnic means, i.e. extremely quickly.
Consequently, both roll-over bars in the rear head restraints are extended. They reach their highest point and are locked automatically within a fraction of a second. In combination with the robust A-pillars, each of which is reinforced with two high-strength steel tubes, the steel bars provide highly effective roll-over protection.
To be on the safe side: over three dozen different crash tests
Safety pioneer Mercedes-Benz has been conducting routine crash tests on complete vehicles since the late 1950s. Béla Barényi established systematic safety testing. The first crash tests were spectacular, with cable winches or steam rockets being used to propel the cars. Today the cars are accelerated by a hydraulic catapult.
The number of different crash tests has risen dramatically over the years because, in keeping with its holistic “Real Life Safety” approach, Mercedes-Benz does not only perform crash tests using those crash configurations that are specified for rating tests and world-wide approval. It also conducts crash tests based on the in-house accident research department’s findings, whose requirements sometimes go way beyond those of the statutory requirements. New Mercedes passenger cars therefore have to pass a total of over three dozen different crash tests. Currently, some 500 crash tests per year take place at the Mercedes safety centre in Sindelfingen, plus more than 50,000 computer-simulated tests.
One of the most demanding in-house crash tests is the roof-drop test, which Mercedes-Benz uses to check the body’s roll-over protection. The new E-Class Cabriolet also had to pass the roof-drop test with extreme load on the roof frame. Here the body is dropped onto its roof at a slight angle from a height of 50 centimetres. Consequently, the vehicle lands with its full weight on one of the two A-pillars, which is only allowed to deform slightly if the vehicle is to pass the test.
Source: Daimler AG