7 vehicles earn top marks in new crash avoidance test

New IIHS ratings tell consumers which front crash prevention systems are worth the money

Published: September 27, 2013 12:01 AM

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has added a new program to rate the performance of active crash avoidance systems. The new evaluations will play a key role in the Institute’s influence, as the organization seeks to encourage consumers to choose these emerging safety features and likewise push automakers to add the technology to more vehicles. Research from the Institute’s Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) has found that forward collision warning and automatic braking systems are helping drivers avoid these common accidents.

The Institute is now rating models equipped with optional or standard crash protection features as Basic, Advanced, or Superior based on their performance in the new tests. Tests determine the vehicle’s ability to avoid a crash or reduce speeds at 12 and 25 mph.

The Basic rating is awarded to vehicles that have a forward collision warning system that meets the requirements set forth by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). These systems do not necessarily include any braking capability but must issue a warning within a specified time in the NHTSA tests. To achieve the Advanced rating, vehicles must be able to brake automatically and avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in at least one of the two tests. Vehicles rated Superior have automatic braking and can avoid a crash or significantly reduce speeds in both tests.

For this inaugural test group, IIHS evaluated 74 luxury midsized cars and SUVs from the 2013 and 2014 model years. Seven earn the Superior rating, including the Cadillac ATS and SRX, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Subaru Legacy and Outback wagon, and Volvo S60 and XC60. The Institute found that Subaru’s EyeSight system performed the best and avoided hitting the test target at both speeds. The Cadillacs avoided the target at 12 mph and reduced the speed in the 25 mph test by 15 mph in the ATS and 19 mph in the SRX.

Six additional models earn the Advanced rating: The 2014 Acura MDX, Audi A4 and Q5, 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Lexus ES, and 2014 Mazda6. The Volvo S60 and XC60 drop down to the Advanced rating when they have just City Safety, and not optional Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection.

Twenty-five other models tested by IIHS earn the Basic rating and include: Acura ZDX, BMW 3 Series and X3, Chevrolet Equinox and Malibu, 2014 Dodge Durango, Ford Edge, Explorer, Flex and Fusion, GMC Terrain, Honda Accord and Crosstour, Infiniti EX, FX, JX, Q50, QX50, QX60, QX70, Jeep Cherokee, Lincoln MKT, MKX, and MKZ, and Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class and M-Class. The Acura MDX, and Cadillac ATS and SRX scores drop down from Superior to Basic when they are equipped with forward collision warning systems only and not higher rated systems that incorporate an automatic brake feature.  The Durango, Cherokee, Infiniti, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz models listed above earn basic ratings because IIHS has not yet tested their systems that include automatic brake.

“Front crash prevention systems can add a thousand dollars or more to the cost of a new car. Our new ratings let consumers know which systems offer the most promise for the extra expense,” David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer, said.

This new test will also change the qualifications for a vehicle to earn the Institute’s Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick+ award. For the 2014 model year, vehicles need to earn a score of Good in four of five IIHS crash tests and Good or Acceptable in the fifth test to qualify for the Top Safety Pick. The tests include moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, rollover, and rear crash tests. For the Top Safety Pick+ award, vehicles only with a Basic, Advanced, or Superior rating in front crash prevention are eligible. IIHS will announce the 2014 winners of both of these awards in December.

Combined with the recently added small overlap test, IIHS is pushing the industry to build safer cars, and we think consumers will truly benefit.

Be sure to check crash test ratings, and dynamic safety test results, before buying your next car. (This information is readily available on our car model pages.)

Learn more about car safety in our Crash Test 101 report, and view previous IIHS crash test videos.

Liza Barth

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