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A vehicle's roof is proving to be an essential aspect o... A vehicle's roof is proving to be an essential aspect of becoming a top safety pick. Here, a 2011 Ford Explorer is having its roof strength tested (IIHS).
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has issued its Top Safety Picks for 2011, with 66 vehicles making the grade. This year's evaluations show that when it comes to vehicle safety features, a strong roof, one that offers exceptional protection in the event of a rollover accident, is more important than ever.

The Top Safety Pick designation is given to those vehicles that do the best job of protecting drivers and passengers in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on "good" ratings in IIHS tests – the organization's highest rating. IIHS's rating grades are "good," "acceptable," "marginal" and "poor." However, last year, the IIHS toughened its standards, adding the requirement that all qualifiers must earn a "good" rating in IIHS roof-strength tests that measure how much protection is offered in a rollover crash. That stricter standard sharply narrowed the initial field of 2010 models. But many carmakers have improved the roofs of their vehicles in the last year.

"We added the roof-strength requirement after our research confirmed the importance of roof strength when it comes to the seriousness of injuries to persons involved in rollover crashes," said Russ Rader, IIHS vice president of communications. "Federal studies on fatality and injury data showed that vehicles with stronger roofs resulted in the occupants having a much lower rate of serious injuries."

Hyundai/Kia and Volkswagen/Audi led the pack -- each have nine models in the '11 model-year winner's circle. Tied for second, with eight winners each, are General Motors, Ford/Lincoln, and Toyota/Lexus/Scion. Subaru is the only manufacturer that had a winner in all the vehicle classes in which it competed, with five models earning Top Safety Pick designations.

In IIHS's roof strength test, a metal plate is pushed against one side of a roof at a displacement rate of 0.2 inch per second. To earn a "good" rating for rollover protection, the roof must withstand a force of four times the vehicle's weight before reaching five inches of crush. This is the vehicle's "strength-to-weight" ratio.

That IIHS standard for a "good" rating for rollover crash protection is twice as tough as the current federal standard. The IIHS estimates that the roofs it deems strong enough for a "good" rating will reduce the risk of serious and fatal injury in single-vehicle rollovers by about 50 percent, compared to roofs that meet the minimum federal requirement.

At the beginning of the 2010 model year, after IIHS toughened its requirement, only 27 vehicles qualified for the award, but carmakers re-worked existing designs and introduced new models with stronger roofs. This increased the number of qualifiers to 58 by September of 2010. Now, for 2011, another 10 vehicles join the winners' list, while two discontinued models dropped off.

This means that consumers shopping for a safer new vehicle have "plenty of choices to consider in most dealer showrooms," said Adrian Lund, IIHS president. "In fact, every major automaker has at least one winning model this year."

Carmakers are only legally required to include the vehicle's National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration's safety rating on its sticker, but more of them are also including the IIHS rating, added Rader. "And carmakers also like to say in their advertising that the vehicle was an IIHS Top Safety Pick."

One first-time winner is the Ford Explorer, which boasts a new design that includes the stronger roof-protection rating. Until this model year, the Explorer had never earned a Top Safety Pick rating. Ford also upgraded the roof of two of its midsize SUVs, the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT, and did the same with the midsize Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans. The latter both missed out on the initial round of 2010 winners because they did not have the required roof strength at the time.

The Ford Fiesta rounds out Ford's winners and is the only minicar to earn a Top Safety Pick rating for the '11 model year.

With the Chevrolet Cruze, GM offers another choice for consumers who are looking to buy a safe but fuel-efficient small car. GM designed the Cruze, which has 10 standard airbags (including ones for the knees), in such a way that it would outperform the federal government's minimum roof strength requirements.

The other Detroit carmaker, Chrysler, added torso airbags to the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee to bolster side crash protection and earn a "good" side-crash rating. The previous design relied on head-curtain airbags to cushion occupants in side crashes and was only rated "marginal" for side protection.

Volkswagen's redesigned Touareg is the only large SUV to earn a Top Safety Pick designation for 2011. The Institute doesn't normally evaluate SUVs as big as the Touareg, but Volkswagen requested crash tests to demonstrate the new Touareg's crashworthiness. "Big, heavy vehicles like that already start with a high level of safety, because of their size and bulk," said Rader, "So, we typically don't use our resources to test those, but VW asked for a special test for this redesigned version."

None of the small pickups the Institute has evaluated qualified for this year's award, and large 2011-model-year pickup trucks have not yet been tested.

Top Safety Picks 2011 from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
LARGE CARS
Buick LaCrosse
Buick Regal
BMW 5-Series (except 4-wheel drive and V8)
Cadillac CTS Sedan
Ford Taurus
Hyundai Genesis
Infiniti M37 and M56
Lincoln MKS
Mercedes E Class
Toyota Avalon
Volvo S80

SMALL CARS
Chevrolet Cruze
Honda Civic (4-door (except Si) with optional ESC)
Kia Forte (Sedan)
Kia Soul
Mitsubishi Lancer (Except 4-wheel drive)
Nissan Cube
Scion tC
Scion xB
Subaru Impreza (Except WRX)
VW Golf (4-door)
VW GTI (4-door)

MIDSIZE CARS
Audi A3
Audi A4
Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200
Dodge Avenger
Ford Fusion
Hyundai Sonata
Mercedes C Class
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Volkswagen Jetta (Sedan)
Volkswagen Jetta (SportWagen)
Volvo C30
LARGE SUV
Volkswagen Touareg
MINICAR
Ford Fiesta (Built after July 2010)

MIDSIZE SUVs
Audi Q5
Cadillac SRX
Chevrolet Equinox
Dodge Journey
Ford Explorer
Ford Flex
GMC Terrain
Hyundai Santa Fe
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Kia Sorento (Built after March 2010)
Lexus RX
Lincoln MKT
Mercedes-Benz GLK
Subaru Tribeca
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Venza
Volvo XC60 Volvo XC90

MINIVAN
Toyota Sienna



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 103 Comments
      Koz
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have an inexpensive way to save lives. I can eliminate death and injury on the highways in a few days. It is simple get all the bad drivers off the roads, then no problem. I just drove 3500 miles down and back to Florida with around Florida driving and did not see any accidents till I got back to the New England area. Then saw three in a matter of 4 hours. The worse driver are right here in Mass. and Conn.
      ninexrep
      • 4 Years Ago
      Why don't insurance companies require helmets for people riding in cars. Look at all the lives you could save. Most fatalities in auto wrecks are from head injuries. Then the insurance companies could still charge you an arm and a leg but won't have to pay out anything. Tremendous idea.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Don't you review Madza's
      raydbonz
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow - with few exceptions I guess 'safe' means 'ugly'. LOL
      jeff
      • 4 Years Ago
      why not put goveners in all cars?? IF they did they wouldn't sell them. The peoples on the road today have to have the speeded. I on the road all day if it not one it other speeding to get no were I see them at the next redlight. Then on open highway they think they own the road. They don't care.
      Denise
      • 4 Years Ago
      Volkswagon T is NOT a large SUV.
      • 4 Years Ago
      what happened to the honda accord? its not even in the mix.....and i have 2 of them...i also have an odessy...go figure
      Taina
      • 4 Years Ago
      What is the cost per life saved?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Overthehill, please stop talking. FOREVER
      kmbelectric
      • 4 Years Ago
      The only problem with many of these improvments is cost and reliability. Every time you add one more thing you add cost, reliability issues, and price people out of the market. No one does a cost benfit analysis to see if the lives saved are worth the cost. It may sound callous but there has to a point where you say no.
      • 4 Years Ago
      additional safety feature needs to address headlights that blind oncoming cars. the car causing this will likely not be involved in the accident it causes, but is guilty non the less
      • 4 Years Ago
      What about Mazda? Was it not tested?
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