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The 2021 Audi A4 is a sporty and stylish sedan that seems to accomplish the impossible. It manages to be both beautiful and functional, all while being functional and pretty safe. In fact, the 2021 Audi A4’s safety ratings from the IIHS are good in nearly every category – except one. It’s the headlights on one trim level that keep the 2021 Audi A4 from being a Top Safety Pick+

A black 2021 Audi A4 against a white background.
2021 Audi A4 | Audi

Why would Audi even want an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award?

There are a few independent organizations which rate vehicles and assess their safety. These include Consumer Reports, the NHTSA, and the IIHS. The IIHS, or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, awards two distinctions to its safest vehicles: the Top Safety Pick and the Top Safety Pick+ awards.

The IIHS scores vehicles anywhere from poor to marginal to acceptable to good in their crash tests. To be awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must get a good score in all of the IIHS’ crash tests. 

The IIHS crash tests include the driver-side small overlap front, the passenger-side small overlap front, and the moderate overlap front. Additionally, the vehicle must get a good rating in the side crash tests, roof strength, and head restraint tests. 

Not only that, but the vehicle must have an advanced or superior in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests. Headlights, which are often overlooked are so important, must be good or acceptable on all trim levels. A vehicle can get a Top Safety Pick award if it has acceptable or good headlights available on trim levels. It won’t get a Top Safety Pick+ unless they’re standard across all trim levels. 

The 2021 Audi A4 did well in crash tests

An Audi A4 being crash tested | IIHS
An Audi A4 being crash tested | IIHS

The 2021 Audi A4 got good scores in all of the crashworthiness categories, including small overlap front: driver-side. Small overlap subcategories structure and safety cage, driver injury measures, and driver restraints and dummy kinematics. The Audi A4 scored a good in each of these. 

Similarly, the small overlap front: passenger-side, moderate overlap, and side crash tests were all good.

Even the seats got good ratings. The roof on the 2021 Audi A4 has a strength-to-weight ratio of 5.34, which is better than the minimum of a 4 to get a good rating. Everything according to the IIHS’ standards is good in the Audi A4 – except for one thing. 

Almost all of the crash prevention is good – but not everything

A chart showing the 2021 Audi A4's headlights effectiveness. The 2021 Audi A4's crash test ratings are good, but it still didn't receive an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.
A chart showing the 2021 Audi A4’s headlights effectiveness | IIHS

Most of the crash prevention in the 2021 Audi A4 is good. The front crash prevention: vehicle-to-vehicle on all trim levels tested by the IIHS are rated superior. The crash prevention: vehicle-to-pedestrian tested is also superior. Even the headlights on three different variations of the 2021 Audi A4 are good. 

Yet they’re not all good, or even acceptable. Remember that in order to qualify for a Top Safety Pick+ award, a vehicle must have at least acceptable headlights standard across trim levels. The Audi A4 does not have this. The headlights on the Premium Plus trim are just acceptable. Even worse, the headlights on the premium trim are only marginal. Since headlights are so important to crash prevention, this disqualifies the Audi A4 from being able to receive a safety award. 

In order to keep people safe, it’s important that organizations like the IIHS take safety matters seriously. Even though the 2021 Audi A4’s safety ratings are good – and they’re mostly great – it isn’t enough to give it a safety award. It’s vital that vehicles meet a minimum standard for safety, and the 2021 Audi A4 doesn’t do this. 


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