There’s a new vehicle safety test aiming to rate your vehicle based on how well it can avoid a crash.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced a new testing program that tries to measure something past safety ratings ignored: frontal crash prevention systems. In total, 74 midsize cars and SUVs from the 2013 and 2014 model year have been tested.
“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,” says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.
In each test, and engineer drives the vehicle at an inflatable object meant to simulate a stationary vehicle. Points are awarded based on warning the driver, automatic braking and vehicle speed reduction during a test at 12 mph and 25 mph.
That’s true in theory, but the IIHS’ “Top Safety Pick” rating will probably keep most of the information from this test out of sight for consumers.
Last year, the institute announced its small overlap test. It turned out that most vehicles are woefully unequipped to keep you safe in that kind of a crash. Dozens of vehicles have run the new gauntlet and only a handful including the Subaru Forester and Mitsubishi Outlander. A few still managed to score “acceptable” ratings, but most returned the worst possible “poor” score.
Rather than revising its current rating system, the IIHS layered a new “Top Safety Pick Plus” rating on top of its current system, allowing a litany of vehicles to keep their “Top Safety Pick” stickers while failing the latest test. It’s starting to create problems because new tests risk convoluting meaning behind the ratings.
For 2014, the IIHS is adding its frontal crash prevention ratings to the “Top Safety Pick Plus” criteria, but barely. A vehicle can qualify for top safety marks regardless of how it scores on the test, as long as it registers in some way. Now there are two tests a vehicle can fail without relinquishing its “Top Safety Pick” name.
In total, there were seven vehicles that earned the highest “superior” rating. The Subaru Legacy and Outback scored the highest rating of all, while the Cadillac SRX and ATS along with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo S60 and XC60 made up the rest of the top rated ranks.
There are two other rating tiers: “advanced” and “basic.” Eight vehicles fell under the “advanced category and 28 managed to gather a “basic” rating. Despite the naming nightmare, the tests exposed systems with inadequate performance. For example, the Infiniti JX (called the QX60 for 2014) offers an autobrake feature that should have helped it earn and “advanced” rating. But “minimal braking” at 12 and 25 mph kept it from scoring higher.
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