2011 SUVs That Earned the Title of Top Safety Pick
These IIHS winners help keep drivers and passengers safe on the road
Each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts thorough evaluations of all new vehicle models. Cars, trucks and SUVs are rated either "good," "acceptable," "marginal" or "poor" based on high-speed front and side crash tests, a rollover test, and seat and head restraint protection. After all the tests are performed, the IIHS names its Top Safety Pick winners. These vehicles must have a rating of "good" in all four tests and have available electronic stability control.
During the winter season, many car owners rely on SUVs to maneuver through snowy, slippery or wet driving conditions. These vehicles also offer more passenger seating than cars do, making them popular among families. Safety, therefore, is a top concern for SUV owners and shoppers.
Specifics of the IIHS safety tests from IIHS.org
- Frontal offset crash test. A vehicle travels at 40 mph toward a barrier containing a dummy representing an average-size (50th percentile) man as the driver. Forty percent of the total width of the vehicle strikes the barrier on the driver's side.
- Side-impact crash test. A 3,300-pound SUV-like barrier hits the driver's side of the vehicle at 31 mph. Two dummies representing a small (fifth percentile) woman and a 12-year-old child are positioned in the driver's seat and the rear seat behind the driver, respectively. Smaller dummies are chosen because women are more likely than men are to suffer serious head injuries in real-world side impacts. Also, shorter drivers have a greater chance of having their heads come into contact with the front end of the striking vehicle in a left-side crash.
- Rollover/roof strength test. A metal plate is pushed against one side of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a good rating, the roof must withstand a force of four times the vehicle's weight before reaching five inches of crush.
- Rear crash protection/head restraint test. First, the IIHS measures the two seat design parameters: time to head restraint contact and torso acceleration. Next, the maximum neck shear force and maximum neck tension are evaluated. These neck forces (classified low, moderate or high) indicate how well an occupant's head and neck would be supported in a rear impact at low to moderate speed.
The 2011 winners
Although several automakers have already introduced their 2012 models, a 2011 Top Safety Pick award is always a good sign when shopping for a vehicle that has not yet been evaluated by the IIHS. Here are a few of the 2011 Top Safety Pick winners from the SUV categories:
- Honda Element
- Hyundai Tucson
- Volkswagen Tiguan
- Chevrolet Equinox
- Ford Explorer
- Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Hyundai Santa Fe
- Subaru Tribeca
- Toyota Venza
Midsize luxury SUVs
- Audi Q5
- Lexus RX
- Lincoln MKT
- Saab 9-4X
- Volvo XC60
- Buick Enclave (built after January 2011)
- GMC Acadia (built after January 2011)
- Volkswagen Touareg
Whether you're looking for a small, midsize, large or luxury SUV, there are plenty of Top Safety Picks on the market to keep you and your family safe on the road. For more information from the IIHS, visit www.iihs.org.
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