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%.