IIHS has released their list of top safety picks for 2017 models. Here are their selections in the categories of small, mid-size, SUV, minivan, and large pickup.
After years in which automakers had to add high-tech features to get top ratings in its survey, the insurance industry’s safety arm is focusing on what many drivers will consider one of the lower-tech aspects of their cars — headlights.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said Thursday that it had stiffened the criteria for its highest safety honors, the Top Safety Pick Plus label, toughening standards for headlight performance.
As a consequence, only 38 models from the 2017 model year have achieved the top score, down from 79 of 2016 models, IIHS reports. The group tracks about 200 models.
“We’ve raised the bar,” IIHS President Adrian Lund said in an interview. “Automakers have not focused enough attention on whether or not headlamps are aimed such that they light up the road for the driver ahead of them.”
Interestingly, some luxury vehicles come with fancy headlights that shift with the curvature of the road in an effort to provide better illumination, but they don’t always work better than the plain old-fashioned kind, Lund said. Many headlights are failing to provide adequate nighttime visibility or causing too much glare.
“Some lights with the newer technology are not doing as good of a job as older headlights,” Lund said.
For 2017, Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus led all manufacturers with nine models earning the Top Safety Pick Plus designation. It includes Corolla, Prius and Camry cars, the RAV4 crossover and the Lexus NX and RX sport-utility vehicles.
Honda and its luxury brand Acura were second among manufacturers with five vehicles on the list, including the Pilot SUV.
Of the six largest manufacturers, only Ford was shut out from having models with the highest designation.
IIHS conducts several types of crash tests and evaluates vehicles’ integration of various safety technologies such as automatic braking. It often updates its standards to include new features, such as several years ago when it required improved roof strength to prevent injuries in rollover crashes.
One surprise was that the only pickup truck to earn the highest honor was the new Honda Ridgeline. Pickups from General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan all failed to make the list.
“The short story is that pickups are lagging behind in terms of meeting the safety advances that are out there,” Lund said. “We would like to see state-of-the-art-crash protection on pickups.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean pickup trucks that missed the list are more dangerous than smaller vehicles. They still win on sheer heft. Lund said vehicles are rated within their own category and that, in general, “mass and size are still protective.”
2017 model-year IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designees
Chevrolet Volt, Hyundai Elantra (sedan only, built after March 2016), Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Prius (built after August 2016)
Honda Accord 4-door, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Nissan Maxima, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius v, Volkswagen Jetta
Mid-size luxury cars
Audi A4, Lexus ES 350, Volvo S60, Volvo V60
Large luxury cars
Genesis G80, Genesis G90, Lexus RC
Mazda CX-3, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester (built after October 2016), Toyota RAV4
Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe (built after March 2016)
Mid-size luxury SUVs
Acura MDX, Acura RDX, Audi Q5, Buick Envision, Lexus NX, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, Volvo XC60
Chrysler Pacifica (built after August 2016)
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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