2010 Toyota Highlander earns the Top Safety Pick from IIHS

Article by Christian Andrei, on August 25, 2010

Two more of Toyota's vehicles -- the 2010 Highlander and Venza -- have earned the Top Safety Pick from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). To qualify for this award, the vehicle needs to receive the highest rating of 'good' in the IIHS' front, side, rollover (a test added in 2010) and rear impact tests.

The cars would also need to have electronic stability control. To do well in the newly added rollover test, the vehicles must prove that their roof can support the equivalent of four times its weight. The Highlander withstood a force equal to 4.74 times its vehicle weight. The Venza roof endured 4.70 times its vehicle weight.

The Highlander SE 4x2 is priced from $32,480 in the US. The car is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and a five-speed automatic transmission.

The SE features leather-trim seats, heated front seats, Tri-Zone automatic front and rear air conditioning, power tilt/slide moonroof, AM/FM audio system with a six-disc CD changer, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, Homelink universal transceiver, heated outside mirrors, Daytime Running Lights, and a tow package.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, through its president Adrian Lund, said that it is in the process of conducting tests for the midsize SUVs. The tests however will be done in stages in consideration of the group’s size.

According to Lund, initial results revealed that automakers are indeed making headway when it comes to rollover protection. Lund however adds that the Institute is saddened by the fact that the Crosstour and other new designs failed to perform as expected. Getting top performance rating for the roof test is vital since almost 10,000 people die from rollover crashes each year.

This is a situation wherein the car rolls and the roof gets deformed as soon as it hits the ground, possibly crushing the people inside. Thus to reduce the likelihood of getting crushed, a vehicle must have a stronger roof. This could also reduce the risk of injury for anyone that comes into contact with the roof while in a rollover.

Another benefit to having a stronger roof is that the people inside, especially those who are not wearing seatbelts, will have less chance of being ejected from the windshield, windows, or even through the doors. The reason is that when the roof starts to deform, it can often break or result in the opening of the doors, windows, or windshields.

Thus, when the roof does not collapse, the people inside will be protected even if the car has rolled. Obviously, to protect the people inside from injury, making sure that the vehicle does not roll over is better than merely having a strong roof.

One way to reduce the likelihood of a rollover is for vehicles to have electronic stability control. It also helps to have side curtain airbags so that when the car does roll, the people inside are protected. As always, the use of a safety belt is very important.

In conducting the roof strength test, what the Institute does is to push a metal plate at constant speed to one corner of the roof. When the roof is able to hold up to a force that measures about 4 times the weight of the car before experiencing 5 inches of crush, then it gets a good rating.

In order to obtain an acceptable rating, the roof must have at least a 3.25 strength-to-weight ratio. A 2.5 ratio will merit a marginal rating while below that is automatically rated as poor. The Institute revealed that there were vehicles that managed to withstand a force of almost 5 times of what they weigh.

These are the Highlander, Grand Cherokee, Venza, and Liberty. The Crosstour meanwhile only managed to get a ratio of 2.8 while both the Pilot and Endeavor managed a 3.0 rating. The federal standard currently stands at 1.5 although it should be noted that a 4 ratio means that the risk to a serious injury or even fatal one is reduced by as much as 50%.

Press Release


New test results show that some automakers are doing a good job of designing vehicle roofs that perform much better than current federal rollover standards require. The roofs on other vehicles need improvement. In the first Insurance Institute for Highway Safety roof strength tests of midsize SUVs, 6 earn the top rating of good for rollover protection, 1 is acceptable, and 5 others earn the second lowest rating of marginal.

Midsize SUVs earning good ratings are the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox (twin GMC Terrain) built after March 2010, Jeep Liberty (twin Dodge Nitro), Toyota Highlander and Venza, plus the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Kia Sorento, both 2011 models. The 2010 Ford Edge is rated acceptable. The worst performers, which earn marginal ratings, are the Honda Accord Crosstour,
Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-7, Mitsubishi Endeavor, and Nissan Murano, all 2010 models.

In addition to earning good ratings for rollover protection, the Equinox, Grand Cherokee, Highlander, Sorento, and Venza also earn the Institute's TOP SAFETY PICK award. To achieve this, a vehicle has to earn good ratings for occupant protection in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes. It also has to have electronic stability control.

The rollover rating system is based on Institute research showing that occupants in vehicles that roll benefit from stronger roofs. Vehicles rated good must have roofs that are more than twice as strong as the minimum required under the current federal safety standard. The ratings, products of the Institute's roof strength testing program, add to consumer information tests that rate vehicles' front, side, and rear crashworthiness. The rollover test is designed to help consumers pick vehicles that will protect them the best in one of the most serious kinds of crashes.

"Midsize SUVs are a big group so we're testing them in stages," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "First results show that automakers are making progress in rollover protection, but it's disappointing that a new design like the Crosstour didn't perform better."

Top performance in the roof test is important because nearly 10,000 people a year are killed in rollover crashes. When vehicles roll, their roofs hit the ground, deform, and crush. Stronger roofs crush less, reducing injury risk from contact with the roof itself. Stronger roofs also can prevent people, especially those who aren't using safety belts, from being ejected through windows, windshields, or doors that have broken or opened because the roof deformed. Roofs that don't collapse help keep people inside vehicles when they roll.

The best occupant protection is to keep vehicles from rolling in the first place. Electronic stability control is significantly reducing rollovers, especially fatal single-vehicle ones. When vehicles roll, side curtain airbags help protect people. Safety belt use is essential.

In the Institute's roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against 1 corner of a roof at a constant speed. To earn a good rating, a roof must withstand a force of 4 times the vehicle's weight before reaching 5 inches of crush. For an acceptable rating, the minimum strength-to-weight ratio that's required is 3.25. A marginal rating value is 2.5, and anything lower than that is poor. The Grand Cherokee, Highlander, Liberty, and Venza, for example, withstood forces of nearly 5 times their weights. This compares with 2.8 times weight for the Crosstour and about 3 times weight for the Endeavor and Pilot. A strengthto- weight ratio of 4 reflects an estimated 50 percent reduction in serious or fatal injury risk in single-vehicle rollover crashes, compared with the current federal standard of 1.5.

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