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There are so many midsize luxury SUVs on the market, how is someone supposed to choose between them? With the Lexus RX, BMW X5, Acura MDX and Audi Q7, among others, there are plenty of options. Let’s look at two: the BMW and the Audi. Which is safer, the 2021 BMW X5 or 2021 Audi Q7?

The rear of a white 2021 BMW X5.
2021 BMW X5 | BMW

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tested them both

A blue 2021 Audi Q7.
2021 Audi Q7 | Audi

They both did well in these tests. Like really, really well. And yet still, neither of them was well-rounded enough to take home a Top Safety Pick award or the even more prestigious Top Safety Pick+. How could that be?

The IIHS is an independent organization which tests a variety of vehicles every year. They publish the results of their crash tests, which allows the general public to get a general sense of how well the vehicle they’re considering purchasing would hold up in an accident. 

Which is safer, the BMW X5 or Audi Q7?

The side profile of a blue 2021 BMW X5.
2021 BMW X5 | BMW

The IIHS does driver side and passenger side small overlap testing, and moderate overlap testing. These tests measure how well a vehicle does when part of the front hits a barrier. Both the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 did well in these tests.

Side crash test ratings for both the 2021 BMW X5 and 2021 Audi Q7 were also both good. These include subcategories like the structure and safety cage, which also get a good rating. 

If you’re the kind of person who really likes to know just how strong your roof is (and who isn’t), the BMW X5 roof’s curb weight is 4,825 pounds and the Audi Q7’s is 4,946 pounds. The strength-to-weight ratio for the X5 is 5.26 and the Q7 is 5.0. These are both better than the IIHS minimum required for a good rating, which is 4. 

Head restraints and seat ratings are all good in the 2021 BMW X5 and the 2021 Audi Q7. 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. 

Safety features help in event of an accident

A black 2021 Audi Q7 racing down a highway.
2021 Audi Q7 | Audi

Of course, the safest thing of all is to not get into an accident in the first place. You’ll never have to know how safe your vehicle is if you never get into an accident. Having good safety systems is definitely helpful to avoiding a crash, and car manufacturers know it. More and more safety features are becoming standard in cars, or at least optional. 

The 2021 Audi Q7 comes standard with all of the safety features that Consumer Reports recommends car shoppers look for in new cars. The BMW X5 comes with most of them (it’s lacking highway automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist). And yet crash avoidance is the category in which the X5 and the Q7 both fall short. 

The advanced safety systems tested by Consumer Reports in the X5 and the Q7 all got a superior rating. Yet the headlights in each were pretty bad. 

The 2021 BMW X5 headlight ratings range from poor to good. The 2021 Audi Q7 headlights are even worse; they’re all rated poor. This keeps either SUV from getting an IIHS Top Safety Pick, despite all of their other excellent crash tests. And although you can generally choose a trim level with at least adequate headlights, that’s not even possible in the Q7. If you buy the Audi Q7, you’re not getting good headlights. 

If you have your heart set on one of these SUVs, shop carefully. Which is safer, the 2021 BMW X5 or 2021 Audi Q7? The BMW X5 headlights give it an edge, so long as you get the right headlights. Pay attention to the headlights that come with your X5, and consider whether everything you love about the Q7 is worth the potential dangers of having poor headlights – especially at night.


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