Every few years, we get reports on the cars and trucks that proved deadliest for drivers on U.S. roads. Running down the list can be a gruesome exercise, but it is valuable information for consumers on the market for a used car with a solid safety record.
The good news is we also get IIHS data on which cars had a perfect record when it came to driver deaths. In past reports, vehicles like Toyota Sienna, Mercedes E-Class sedan, and Ford Edge had no one die at the wheel over a four-year stretch — quite a feat given the numbers of traffic fatalities on American roads every year.
When you hunt for the safest vehicles in a segment, this information might tip your decision to (or from) another model in the running. According to numbers released in 2017, more cars and SUVs had perfect records protecting drivers’ lives than ever before. Here are the 10 vehicles with spotless safety records between 2012 and 2015.
1. Lexus CT 200h
When Lexus built a compact hybrid based on the Toyota Prius, fuel economy was still a primary concern for consumers. Preferences have shifted considerably since 2011, but CT 200h got several things right. For starters, it has been, like Prius, one of the most reliable cars around. Its safety reputation remains solid as well. Between 2012 and 2015, there were no reported driver deaths in this car. IIHS testers nailed it when they named CT 200h a Top Safety Pick for several years during that period.
2. BMW 535i
BMW sedans had decent showings over the years when it came to driver deaths, but the automaker never had a perfect record until the sixth generation 5 Series (2010-16) turned up in these results. Over that period, crash test data showed zero drivers involved in deadly crashes. Both the 535i two-wheel and four-wheel drive sedans made the list, putting the two luxury models in elite company.
3. Jeep Cherokee
You won’t find a single Jeep among Top Safety Pick winners between 2014 and 2017, but in 2013 the SUV brand had several vehicles on the list. One was the new-for-2014 Jeep Cherokee. Out in the real world, Cherokee validated its crash test ratings by keeping all drivers alive across the four-year period. For those considering a Jeep Compass from the same era, that model ranked among the most dangerous in the small SUV class with 39 deaths per million registrations.
4. Mazda CX-9
A glance at Mazda CX-9 crash ratings between 2011 and 2014 might give used SUV buyers pause. IIHS testers rated this model poor in the front overlap test and marginal in both roof strength and head restraints. However, the driver death data showed CX-9 was doing something right. Across the four-year period in question, there was not a single death on the road for folks behind the wheel.
5. Toyota Tacoma
In the pickup class, data showed short bed models as the most dangerous for drivers. Ram 2500, Nissan Titan, and Nissan Frontier crew cab models with short beds all posted the highest rate of driver deaths in the segment. On the other hand, Tacoma double cab models with a long bed posted a perfect record when it came to saving the driver’s life. It was the only model with fewer than 13 deaths per million registrations.
6. Mercedes M-Class
Starting with the 2016 model year, Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUVs became the GLE-Class, and these models are perennial Top Safety Pick+ winners. Overall, the luxury SUV segment is one of the safest on the market, but models like the 2014 M-Class with four-wheel drive were exceptional. No drivers died at the wheel of this vehicle over the four-year study released by the IIHS in 2017.
7. Audi A6
Consumers expect elite safety performance from large luxury cars, and the segment delivered in the IIHS study. Compared to the average 30 deaths per million registrations, only the two-wheel drive BMW 528i (20 deaths per million cars) claimed over half that number. Mercedes E-Class sedans were close to perfect, but the all-wheel drive Audi A6 joined Bimmer’s 535 model as the only cars in the segment with zero deaths on record.
8. Lexus RX350
When Lexus RX got a redesign for 2010, testing agencies recognized the improvements across the board. The SUV’s upgraded drive system and body integrity landed it top reliability scores from Consumer Reports, and safety ratings got better as well. IIHS testers noted the improvement with a new Top Safety Pick designation, and several years later it proved worthy of the status. Not a single death was recorded at the wheel of RX350 between 2012 and 2015.
9. Volkswagen Tiguan
With small SUV sales exploding in recent years, people came to scrutinize the safety and practicality of these models more than ever before. During the four-year period ending in 2015, only the Volkswagen Tiguan had a perfect record protecting drivers. Kia Sportage and Toyota RAV4 (13 driver deaths per million) were very strong on this front, but neither came close to the driver death rate of Tiguan with two-wheel drive for model years 2011-14.
10. Audi Q7
IIHS only included three models in the large luxury SUV class, and all were exceptional in protecting drivers on the road. Porsche Cayenne (nine driver deaths per million) and Lexus GX (eight driver deaths per million) were certainly safe bets for the period in question, but Audi Q7 was on another level. The all-wheel drive Q7 had no driver deaths for model years 2011-14. Curiously, it never landed a Top Safety pick designation across that time frame despite posting solid crash test scores.