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Seven Vehicles Earn ‘Superior’ Rating in New IIHS Front Crash Test

October 02, 2013

Under a new test program by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), seven vehicle models equipped with optional autobrake and forward collision warning systems drew the highest rating of “superior” for their front crash prevention equipment. These models include the Cadillac ATS sedan and SRX SUV, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, Subaru Legacy sedan and Outback wagon, and Volvo S60 sedan and XC60 SUV.

Moderately priced and luxury midsize cars and SUVs were the first to be evaluated in the new IIHS test program. IIHS based its rating system on research by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) indicating that forward collision warning and automatic braking systems help drivers avoid front-to-rear crashes.

The institute rated models with optional or standard front crash prevention systems as either “superior,” “advanced” or “basic,” depending on whether they offered autonomous braking, or autobrake, and, if so, how effective it was in tests at 12 and 25 mph. Vehicles rated “superior” had autobrake and could avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds in both tests. Vehicles rated as “advanced” had to have autobrake and avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in one of two tests. To qualify for a “basic” rating, a vehicle had to have a forward collision warning system that met National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performance criteria.

For a NHTSA endorsement, a system must issue a warning before a specified time in five of seven test trials under three scenarios. The agency identifies vehicles with compliant systems as part of its online ratings.

Six models earned an “advanced” rating when equipped with autobrake and forward collision warning. These included the 2014 Acura MDX SUV, Audi A4 sedan and Q5 SUV, 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, Lexus ES sedan and the 2014 Mazda 6 sedan.

In addition, the Volvo S60 and XC60 earned an advanced rating when they weren’t equipped with an option called Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection. The S60 and XC60 were the only models in the new test program with standard autobrake. Called City Safety, the system brakes to avoid a front-to-rear crash in certain low-speed conditions without warning the driver before it takes action.

Twenty-five other vehicles earned a “basic” rating. Three models available with forward collision warning earned higher ratings when equipped with autobrake. They were the 2014 Acura MDX and the Cadillac ATS and SRX. Thirty-six models either didn’t offer a front crash prevention system, or they had a system that didn’t meet NHTSA or IIHS criteria.

"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," said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.

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