ARLINGTON, Va. — A new test program by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the performance of front crash prevention systems to help consumers decide which features to consider and encourage automakers to speed adoption of the technology. The rating system is based on research by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) indicating that forward collision warning and automatic braking systems are helping drivers avoid front-to-rear crashes.
The Institute rates models with optional or standard front crash prevention systems as superior, advanced or basic depending on whether they offer autonomous braking, or autobrake, and, if so, how effective it is in tests at 12 and 25 mph. Vehicles rated superior have autobrake and can avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds in both tests. For an advanced rating a vehicle must have autobrake and avoid a crash or reduce speeds by at least 5 mph in 1 of 2 tests.
To earn a basic rating, a vehicle must have a forward collision warning system that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration performance criteria. For a NHTSA endorsement, a system must issue a warning before a specified time in 5 of 7 test trials under three scenarios. The agency identifies vehicles with compliant systems as part of its online ratings.
Moderately priced and luxury midsize cars and SUVs are the first to be evaluated in the new IIHS test program. These include 74 vehicles, all 2013-14 models. Seven earn the highest rating of superior when equipped with optional autobrake and forward collision warning systems. They are the Cadillac ATS sedan and SRX SUV, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, Subaru Legacy sedan and Outback wagon, Volvo S60 sedan and XC60 SUV.
Six models earn an advanced rating when equipped with autobrake and forward collision warning. These include 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 earn an advanced rating when they aren't equipped with an option called Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection. The S60 and XC60 are 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 earn a basic rating. Three models available with forward collision warning earn higher ratings when equipped with autobrake. They are the 2014 Acura MDX and the Cadillac ATS and SRX. Thirty-six models either don't offer a front crash prevention system, or they have a system that doesn'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," says David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer.
The front crash prevention ratings complement the Institute's long-standing crash test program telling consumers how well passenger vehicles protect people in a range of crash configurations. In its crashworthiness program, the Institute rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor based on performance in moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint evaluations.
For crash avoidance technologies, the Institute developed a three-tier rating system of superior, advanced and basic to reflect that even a basic forward collision warning system can provide significant benefits.