Midyear changes boost Lexus IS ratings, earning it top award

October 13, 2017

The 2017 Lexus IS, a midsize luxury car, qualifies for the highest award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after changes were made to improve protection in small overlap front crashes and in rear crashes.

To earn the 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must have good ratings in all five IIHS crashworthiness tests — small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints — an advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention and an acceptable or good headlight rating.

IS models built after July 2017 meet those criteria.

At the beginning of the 2017 model year, the car's front-end structure was reinforced and the driver door, lower door-hinge pillar and door sill were modified to improve small overlap protection. Those changes were not enough to guarantee a good rating in the small overlap test, which replicates what happens when only the front driver-side corner of a vehicle collides with another vehicle or hits a fixed object such as a tree or utility pole. In the test of an early 2017 model, intrusion reached 7 inches at the footrest, and measures taken from the dummy showed that injuries to the left lower leg would be likely in a real-world crash of the same severity.

Additional changes were made, primarily to the materials used in the front-end structure and around the footwell. As a result, the structure held up better, with maximum intrusion limited to less than 5 inches at the footrest and a reduced likelihood of lower leg injuries. The overall small overlap rating improved from acceptable to good for vehicles built after June.

The vehicle's front seatback was also changed in order to improve protection against whiplash in rear crashes, as measured by the Institute's test of head restraint and seat combinations. The head restraint rating applies to IS models built after July.

In addition to across-the-board good crashworthiness ratings, the IS comes with standard front crash prevention. In IIHS track tests at 12 mph and 25 mph, the car avoided collisions. It also has a forward collision warning component that meets National Highway Traffic Safety Administration criteria.

The base LED headlights on the IS earn an acceptable rating for visibility provided to the driver. In track tests, they did not produce excessive glare to oncoming drivers. The IS is equipped with high-beam assist, which automatically switches between high beams and low beams, depending on the presence of other drivers.

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