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IIHS Ups the Ante for 2017 "Top Safety Pick+" Awards, Announces Results

IIHS Ups the Ante for 2017 "Top Safety Pick+" Awards, Announces Results

By Joseph Dobrian, December 08, 2016
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released a list of 38 new-car models that have earned the coveted “Top Safety Pick+” award for 2017, under the Institute’s tougher requirements. These models afford state-of-the-art crashworthiness with “Good” ratings in five crash-test evaluations, and have effective features that can prevent crashes such as an available automatic emergency braking system, and headlights rated at least “Acceptable” in track tests. An additional 44 models earn “Top Safety Pick” status without the “+” designation, because they don’t have adequate headlights but still offer good crash protection and automatic braking.

The Institute’s recognition program is meant to encourage manufacturers to offer state-of-the-art protection for people in crashes, as well as features that help drivers avoid crashes.

“The field of contenders is smaller this year because so few vehicles have headlights that do their job well, but it’s not as small as we expected when we decided to raise the bar for the awards,” said Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “Manufacturers are focusing on improving this basic safety equipment, and we’re confident that the winners’ list will grow as the year progresses.”

To earn a “Top Safety Pick” or “Top Safety Pick+” award, models must earn “Good” ratings in the Institute’s small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head-restraint tests, as well as an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating for front crash prevention with standard or optional autobrake. Headlights are factored in only for the top award.

Toyota Motor leads manufacturers with nine 2017 “Top Safety Pick+” awards. Honda Motor holds five such awards. Among 2017 models, only seven are available with “Good”-rated headlights:
  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Toyota Prius V
  • Volvo XC60

The IIHS launched headlight ratings this past spring, after finding that government standards allow for considerable variation in the amount of illumination that headlights provide in on-road driving. Because nighttime visibility is critical to highway safety (about half of traffic deaths occur either in the dark or at dawn or dusk), IIHS engineers measure how far light is projected from a vehicle's low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. The IIHS also measures glare from low beams for oncoming drivers. Vehicles equipped with high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams depending on the presence of other vehicles, can get extra credit.

According to IIHS evaluations, a vehicle's price has little bearing on headlight quality. More modern lighting types, including high-intensity discharge (HID) and LED lamps, and curve-adaptive systems, which swivel in the direction of steering, also are no guarantee of good performance.

Several manufacturers improved their headlights for 2017 to earn a “Top Safety Pick+” award. The Infiniti Q70 and Hyundai Tucson just miss that award because of the way these automakers bundle optional safety features. The Q70’s optional front crash-prevention system earns a “Superior” rating in IIHS tests, but the headlights packaged with the autobrake option only earn a “Marginal” rating. The headlights that come standard on other Q70s are rated “Acceptable,” but consumers can’t get these headlights with the “Superior”-rated front crash-prevention system. The Tucson’s “Acceptable”-rated headlights aren’t available on the model with a “Superior” rating for autobrake. However, manufacturers continue to refine protection and crash-avoidance features.

The 2017 “Top Safety Pick+” awards include 21 models with a standard front crash-prevention system with automatic braking capabilities. These include:
  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RLX
  • Audi A3
  • Audi A4
  • Audi Q7
  • Genesis G80
  • Genesis G90
  • Lexus ES
  • Lexus RX
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • Toyota Avalon
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Prius
  • Toyota RAV4
  • Toyota Yaris iA
  • Volkswagen Passat
  • Volvo S60
  • Volvo S90
  • Volvo V60
  • Volvo XC60
  • Volvo XC90

Automakers have voluntarily committed to making autobrake a standard feature on all models by 2022.

The IIHS inaugurated its “Top Safety Pick” awards in the 2006 model year, to help consumers easily find models with the best safety performance. The “Top Safety Pick+” accolade was introduced in the 2013 model year to recognize models that offer an advanced level of safety. The 2017 model year represents the fourth time that the IIHS has strengthened criteria for the “+” designation. The IIHS releases ratings as it evaluates new models, adjusting the list of winners throughout the year.

For a complete listing of 2017 IIHS "Top Safety Pick+" and "Top Safety Pick" winners, click here.

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