Stopping power: IIHS rates 20 new models for front crash prevention

August 26, 2015

While the prospect of fleets of driverless cars grabs headlines, vehicles that can brake without driver intervention if a crash is imminent are here and are making a measurable difference on U.S. roads. To help consumers zero in on automatic braking systems with the most stopping power, the Institute started rating passenger vehicles for front crash prevention in 2013.

A dozen new models earn the highest rating of superior in the latest round of IIHS ratings.

This is the third year the Institute has released ratings for front crash prevention systems (see "IIHS issues first crash avoidance ratings under new test program," Sept. 27, 2013). The Institute rates vehicles as basic, advanced or superior for front crash prevention depending on whether they offer autobrake and, if so, how effective it is in tests at 12 and 25 mph.

"Most motorists won't be riding in driverless cars anytime soon," says David Zuby, the Institute's executive vice president and chief research officer. "In the shorter term, automatic braking is an accessible technology that's within reach for many drivers. We've seen an uptick in the number of luxury and mainstream models with available autobrake. That's a welcome sign for highway safety and helps pave the way for the eventual deployment of fully autonomous vehicles."

Percentage of vehicles earning a superior, advanced or basic rating, 2013

Percentage of vehicles earning a superior, advanced or basic rating, 2015

Twelve new models earn a superior rating, and eight earn an advanced rating. Earning superior are the 2016 Acura ILX, MDX, RDX and RLX; 2016 BMW X3; 2015 Chrysler 300 and its twin, the 2015 Dodge Charger; 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, CLA and E-Class; and the 2016 Mazda 6 and CX-5. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf, Golf SportWagen, Jetta and 2015 Volkswagen Touareg are rated advanced for front crash prevention. The X3 earns an advanced rating when equipped with BMW's camera-only system called City Braking Function and is rated superior when equipped with a camera- and radar-based system. The C-Class, CLA and E-Class earn an advanced rating when equipped with standard Collision Prevention Assist Plus only. When equipped with Distronic Plus or Pre-Safe Brake, they earn a superior rating.

Forward collision warning systems that meet performance criteria set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and autobrake systems that provide only minimal speed reduction in IIHS tests earn a basic rating.

Vehicles that combine the warning with moderate speed reductions earn an advanced rating. It also is possible to qualify for an advanced rating with an autobrake system that doesn't first warn the driver before taking action. Models that provide major speed reductions in IIHS tests earn a superior rating.

The proportion of models with front crash prevention is growing...

...as well as the proportion with autobrake

Autobrake availability is on the rise, HLDI data show. Among 2015 models, 212 of 784 offer autobrake, more than twice as many as in the 2012 model year.

The rating system is based on HLDI research indicating that forward collision warning and automatic braking systems help drivers avoid front-to-rear crashes.

Front crash prevention systems use various types of sensors, such as cameras, radar or laser, to detect when the vehicle is getting too close to one in front of it. Most systems issue a warning and precharge the brakes to maximize their effect if the driver responds by braking. Many systems automatically brake the vehicle if the driver doesn't respond. In some cases, automatic braking is activated without a warning.

Although luxury vehicles are more likely to have optional front crash prevention systems, the technology is catching on with more mainstream nameplates. Seven of the 19 superior- or advanced-rated models in this new round are moderately priced: Chrysler 300; Dodge Charger; Mazda 6 and CX-5; and Volkswagen Golf, Golf SportWagen and Jetta.

Forward collision warning is available on half of the 784 2015 models in HLDI's vehicle features database. Twenty-seven percent of 2015 models offer a front crash prevention system with autobrake, more than twice as many as in the 2012 model year.

The Institute requires an advanced or better rating for front crash prevention as one of the criteria needed for a 2015 Top Safety Pick+ award.

Front crash prevention ratings

Superior
Models earning a total of 5 to 6 points, based on performance in autobrake tests and credit for forward collision warning
Superior Acura MDX / RLX
2016; Collision Mitigation Braking System
Superior BMW X3
2016; Collision Warning with Braking Function
Superior Mazda CX-5
2016; Smart City Brake Support and Smart Brake Support
Superior Mercedes-Benz C-Class / E-Class rating previously released
2015; Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Pre-Safe Brake
Superior Mercedes-Benz CLA
2015; Collision Prevention Assist Plus and Distronic Plus
Superior Acura ILX /RDX
2016; Collision Mitigation Braking System
Superior Chrysler 300
2015; Full Speed Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation
Superior Dodge Charger
2015; Full Speed Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation
Superior Mazda 6
2016; Smart City Brake Support and Smart Brake Support
Advanced
Models earning a total of 2 to 4 points, based on performance in autobrake tests and credit for forward collision warning
Superior Mercedes-Benz C-Class / CLA / E-Class
2015; Collision Prevention Assist Plus
Superior BMW X3
2016; Collision Warning with City Braking Function
Superior Volkswagen Golf (2016) / Golf SportWagen (2016) / Touareg (2015)
Front Assist with Autonomous Braking
Superior Volkswagen Jetta
2016; Front Assist with Autonomous Braking

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