If you spend $50,000 or more a luxury vehicle, you might come to expect the highest safety standard on the market. The thing is, you shouldn’t — at least not when looking at 2018 models.
For the latest round of crash tests and other ratings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) made strong headlights mandatory for the Top Safety Pick+ award. That seemingly minor stroke knocked the majority of luxury cars and SUVs out of the running instantly. Many just don’t have headlight technology that meets this basic standard.
Popular models like the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW X1 were among the casualties for the model year. Looking at luxury SUVs, only three models landed the highest safety rating for 2018. Here’s how they did it.
1. Mercedes-Benz GLC
While the Volvo XC90 and BMW X5 stumbled, the Mercedes-Benz GLC aced all the IIHS crash tests and handled the other requirements as well. Collision Prevention Assist (automatic braking) comes standard. That safety tech gave the GLC a “superior” rating in crash prevention.
As far as headlights go, buyers would have to opt out of the halogen reflectors. In their place, you’ll want the LED projectors that come with the Advanced Lighting package. With that configuration, this model has everything needed for the Top Safety Pick+ designation.
2. BMW X3
While the X1 failed on headlights (“marginal”) and X2 whiffed on head restraints (“acceptable”), BMW’s compact X3 SUV aced all the crash tests and headlight requirements. Consumers need to add on the Driving Assistance package, which comes with the City Collision Mitigation system.
Looking at headlights, you need to go with the Executive package in the xDrive 30i trim. That configuration gets you LED projectors as low beams and LED reflectors as high beams. They are curve-adaptive, and high beams automatically switch on when the vehicle senses darkness.
On a negative note, the ease of use for child-seat anchors on the X3 rated “marginal.”
3. Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
With the Mercedes GLE-Class utility models, buyers get one of the highest-rated vehicles as far as safety is concerned. The IIHS runs six separate crash tests on SUVs, and the GLE aced each one. Likewise, it scored the highest it could for the ease of use in the child-seat anchors.
When it came to front-crash prevention, GLE rated “superior” when equipped with Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function. (This feature comes in the Premium 3 package.) Meanwhile, for the right headlights, buyers need to go with the LED projectors found in the Premium II/III packages.
Halogen lights found in the GLE 350 trim rated poorly, which denotes a certain amount of risk during night driving. LED projectors found in models produced in 2017 don’t cut it, either.
For the safest GLE-Class SUV, you’ll need to go with a model produced after March 2018. That model — and that model alone — was worthy of the Top Safety Pick+ awards. The rest, much like so many of this Benz’s competitors, fell short of the mark.