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Best safety performance

Good braking and handling can help you avoid an accident

Last updated: February 2014

A vehicle with good braking and emergency handling can help you avoid an accident. Typically smaller, sportier vehicles perform well in these tests and larger trucks are slower to maneuver.

Consumer Reports crucial emergency driving tests include an avoidance maneuver and a series of at-the-limit cornering assessments around a handling course-a snaking track loop. The avoidance maneuver is a "path-following test" in which the driver pilots the car down a lane marked off by traffic cones with a quick left-right-left sequence. That simulates swerving to avoid an obstacle in the road, then returning to the original lane to avoid oncoming traffic. The car threads through the course, without throttle or brakes, at ever-higher speeds until it can't get through without hitting any cones. When testing on-limit handling, drivers push the car to and beyond its limits of cornering capabilities to simulate entering a corner too quickly. Test engineers evaluate how controllable, secure, and forgiving-or not-the car is.

Our automotive engineers also perform a series of brake tests from 60 mph to zero on wet and dry pavement to measure performance. The test car is rigged with a pavement-scanning optical device that records precise stopping times and distances. To evaluate antilock brakes, we use a wet roadway where the pavement under the left wheels is much slicker than the pavement under the right wheels. We also judge brake-pedal modulation.

Here are the highs and lows in our dry braking test (from 60 mph) and avoidance maneuver, the higher its speed, the better.

   

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