Putting Vehicles to the Test

Six 2017 Volkswagen models were named a 2017 Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Top Safety Pick when equipped with Front Assist.* Find out what the rigorous crash tests entail.

*2017 IIHS “Top Safety Pick” based on good ratings in the moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests plus no less than an advanced rating for front crash prevention. For details visit www.iihs.org.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety’s (IIHS) main goal is to lower the number of crashes and crash-related injuries. It’s important to note that IIHS isn’t associated with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and doesn’t receive federal funding for their tests. Instead IIHS receives its funding from auto insurance companies that represent about 85% of all insured vehicles in the country.

So what exactly does IIHS test? IIHS evaluates a vehicle’s crashworthiness (how well passengers are protected by a vehicle), crash avoidance (technology that prevents or minimizes crash severity), and headlight performance to award vehicles either a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ award. New tests and requirements are added occasionally, which encourages manufacturers to continually improve vehicle design and safety in new areas.

Crashworthiness Testing

Five tests are used to evaluate a vehicle’s crashworthiness: frontal impact moderate overlap, frontal impact small overlap, side impact, roof strength, and head restraints.

Frontal and side crash tests measure a vehicle’s structural performance, likelihood of injuries to occupants, and movement of crash test dummies. Ratings for crashworthiness are categorized as good, acceptable, marginal, and poor.

The frontal crash tests are performed with a vehicle traveling 40 mph toward a barrier. In the moderate overlap test, 40% of the vehicle’s width hits a 2-foot-tall barrier made of aluminum. In the small overlap test, 25% of the vehicle’s width hits a rigid 5-foot-tall barrier. In the side impact test, a 3,300-pound “carlike” barrier strikes the vehicle at 31 mph. Dummies vary in size to represent different body types, from an average-size male to a small female (child dummies are not used in the crash tests). The dummies also contain sensors that allow testers to estimate the probability of injury an occupant may experience in a similar real-world accident.

Crash Avoidance Testing

Crash avoidance tests how vehicles with autobrake systems perform moving at 12 mph and 25 mph toward an inflatable stationary target. This measures whether the vehicle can avoid a crash or reduce vehicle speeds in order to minimize the severity of a crash as the vehicle drives toward an inflatable stationary target. A high-precision GPS system collects data on deceleration and time to collision while a camera inside the vehicle records any warnings displayed. Ratings for crash avoidance are categorized as superior, advanced, and basic.

Headlight Performance Testing

New in 2017 ratings, headlight performance is measured by how far a vehicle’s low beams and high beams reach on both straight and curved paths and whether glare affects oncoming traffic. Engineers rate headlights based on a “hypothetical ideal headlight system” and take away points for low illumination. Extra points are given for high-beam assist. The headlight system must be rated as “acceptable” or “good” to earn a Top Safety Pick+ award.

What It Takes to Get an Award

To be awarded a Top Safety Pick, a vehicle must receive a “good” rating on all crashworthiness tests and also offer an autonomous emergency braking system with an “advanced” or “superior” rating in the crash avoidance test.

To earn a Top Safety Pick+, a vehicle must meet all of the requirements for Top Safety Pick and also offer headlights that earn at least an “acceptable” rating for visibility and lack of excessive glare.

Six 2017 Volkswagen models earned 2017 Top Safety Pick ratings:

The 2017 Jetta was named a 2017 IIHS Top Safety Pick when equipped with Front Assist.1

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf 4-door, Golf Alltrack, Golf GTI 4-door, and Golf SportWagen were each named a 2017 IIHS Top Safety pick when equipped with Front Assist.2

The 2017 Passat, featuring standard Front Assist, was also named a Top Safety Pick.3

Volkswagen’s Forward Collision Warning and the Autonomous Emergency Braking system (Front Assist) uses one or more radar sensors combined with a camera to help monitor the distance of traffic ahead of the vehicle. Within physical system limits, Forward Collision Warning helps alert the driver of critical front-end collision situations, both acoustically and visually by a clear warning symbol in the instrument cluster above 19 mph. If necessary, braking is initiated to slow the vehicle in the system speed range. If the driver fails to apply the brakes, the system autonomously applies them; if the pedal is engaged but the driver brakes too lightly, the pressure is increased by the system (targeted braking). 4