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The 2021 BMW X5 is beloved by Consumer Reports, but didn’t receive an Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Top Pick award. The 2022 Acura MDX received a Top Safety Pick+ award. Their crash test ratings are similar, so what gives? Which is really safer, the BMW X5 or the Acura MDX?

A red 2022 Acura MDX races down a wooded road.
2022 Acura MDX | Acura

How does an SUV get a Top Safety Pick award?

To be awarded an IIHS Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must score a good rating in all IIHS crash test ratings. These 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 score in all of the side crash tests, roof strength, and head restraint tests. To get a Top Safety Pick+ award, the vehicle must excel in all of these tests.

The vehicle also has to get an advanced or superior in both the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian tests. Available headlights must be good or acceptable. Oftentimes one trim level has good headlight ratings while another trim level does not, so you should check the test results of the trim level you’re considering purchasing. To receive a Top Safety Pick+ award, the headlights on all trim levels must be good or acceptable, not just some trim levels.

How are the X5 and MDX crash tests?

All of the 2021 BMW X5’s and the 2022 Acura MDX’s small overlap front: driver side crash test ratings were good. Ratings vary based on trim levels with any vehicle, so double check any vehicle you purchase. 

All of the small overlap front: passenger side tests in both luxury SUVs were also good. These include the overall evaluation, structure and safety cage, passenger injury measures, passenger restraints and dummy kinematics, driver injury measures, and driver restraints and dummy kinematics. 

The 2021 moderate overlap front test ratings were also all good in both the 2021 BMW X5 and 2022 Acura MDX. The side crash test ratings in both SUVs are also all good. 

If you like to compare numbers, you’ll be interested in knowing that the roof curb weight of the 2021 BMW X5 is 4,825 and the peak force is 25,368. The strength-to-weight ratio is 5.26. The IIHS determines the strength-to-weight ratio by crushing the vehicle five inches. This is important in the event of a rollover; you don’t want the roof to give in easily. The X5’s rating is better than the minimum required for a good rating, which is 4. 

The 2022 Acura MDX also got good ratings, with a curb weight of 4,453 and a peak force of 22,519. The strength-to-weight ratio in the MDX is 5.06.

Head restraints and seat ratings are all good in the 2021 BMW X5 and the 2022 Acura MDX. This includes the overall evaluation as well as the dynamic rating and seat/head restraint geometry. These are important because neck injuries and whiplash are common car accident injuries. 

So what’s the difference between the 2021 BMW X5 and 2022 Acura MDX then?

The ratings between both the X5 and MDX are so similar, how could one be a Top Safety Pick+, while the other doesn’t even get an award? It comes down to the headlights. 

Unfortunately, the headlight ratings for some X5 trim levels were poor. On the other hand, all of the MDX headlights were rated good. This  means that the 2022 Acura MDX took home an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, while the 2021 BMW X5 got nothing. 

If there’s one thing to be learned from this, it’s that headlights are incredibly important. They make the 2022 Acura MDX safer than the 2021 BMW X5. You need them to see the road at night, and they have to be functional around turns and curves. Even though both the 2021 BMW X5 and 2022 Acura MDX both got great crash test results, only the MDX is a Top Safety Pick+


Why Isn’t the 2021 BMW X5 a Top Safety Pick?