When you or your family get behind the wheel of your luxury car, you want to be sure that they are safe.
Sure, there are some cars out there where an element of danger is part of the appeal. However, outside of everyone’s racecar driver fantasies, safety is not a bad thing. There is nothing luxurious about crashing, being hurt, or worse. So, when you are considering upgrading your vehicle, you will want to make sure that you are looking at one of the safest luxury cars on the market today. Of course, how to determine which vehicles those are can be trickier than expected. It’s hard to know who to trust when it comes to such analysis, and things like this don’t usually face serious journalistic rigor until after there is problem. We are here to help.
A Bit About How We Determined Which Cars Are 'Safest'
So, how can you find out which are the safest luxury cars? The answer, as expected, is to take it to the experts. There are a number of trustworthy, objective groups that rate, score, and even award cars for their safety. One such group the High Loss Data Institute led by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS. The researchers conduct vehicle tests and scores on a number of metrics. Funded Their rankings are both thoroughly-vetted and trusted around the industry. And, for our purposes, will serve as the basis for the top five safest luxury cars in each class.
Safest Luxury Cars: IIHS Qualification Criteria
The scientists and car experts at the IIHS vehicle research center perform a series of exhaustive tests to determine the safest luxury cars. Their testing site is in Ruckersville, Virginia, features a crash hall where vehicles are smashed to bits over and over again. They also have a number of test tracks, where they put their state-of-the-art crash test dummies through their paces. The purpose of the tests is to ensure that automakers don’t just chase new technology, but that it actually works. For example, thanks to funding from a number of auto insurance sponsors, the IIHS now does crash-avoidance testing all year round.
In order to be one of IIHS’s picks for safest luxury cars, a vehicle has to perform well in tests for head-on, side, and rear collisions. It also has to do well in what’s known as the small overlap crash test, which simulates a crash in which only the front corner of a car is struck. Accidents like this send kinetic energy through the car unevenly and can pose a particular danger to the passenger. The new metric IIHS focused on is frontal collision avoidance systems, in which the vehicle uses AI to take control of the car to prevent an accident. The crash tests evaluate chances of survival in case of a wreck. The crash avoidance systems hope to make the crash tests irrelevant.
Safest Luxury Cars: Frontal Collision Prevention Systems
It’s not just the safest luxury cars that have these frontal collision prevention systems. Cars of all classes are benefiting from this technology. Highly-tuned and sophisticated sensors are deployed to evaluate when the vehicle is heading dangerously close to another vehicle, a pedestrian, or some other obstacle. These systems can employ a number of methods to help avoid the crash. They all use some version of aural and visual alert of the danger. Some more advanced models offer haptic feedback, so you feel the warning as well. The system will also attempt to automatically stop the car before it strikes the object.
Some drivers, despite usually loving high-tech new features in cars, may find themselves uneasy about the idea of the car taking over for them. Generations of science fiction have taught us to distrust such things, wary of these smart machines rising up and coming after us meatbags. Of course, it’s fiction so it’s supposed to be entertaining and maybe even a cautionary tale. In reality, however, these systems are developing at an impressive rate. There is no question that as it develops, these systems will be exponentially faster and more accurate than human drivers could be. This is simply a matter of reaction time. The car’s computers can process the information more rapidly than a driver, who also has to deal with emotions like fear right before a crash.
The IIHS Isn’t Perfect, But It’s a Good Guideline.
Before we get into the list of the fifteen safest luxury cars in every class, this list should come with a caveat. While thorough and reliable, the IIHS analyses are not the final word on the matter. Some luxury car manufacturers don’t submit their vehicles to this testing, so we don’t know how they’d fare in these tests. So, these are the safest cars according to these tests. However, these tests aren’t infallible. Just because a car doesn’t appear on the IIHS list doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. It just may not have been tested. If a car performs poorly on these tests, you may want to see how it fares in other tests. But know that if it performs badly across multiple tests, it’s the car, not the tests.
Top Fifteen Safest Luxury Cars On The Road
Below you will find the top five safest luxury cars in the midsize group, the large luxury group, and the midsize luxury SUV group. The 2018 top safety picks from IIHS are separated into those with and without front crash prevention, however we’re making no such distinction. These are the overall safest luxury cars you can pick up this year.
1. Midsize Group: Alfa Romeo Giulia
The Giulia is the new signature model from Alfa Romeo. Like Jaguar or even Tesla, they want to be seen as a not just a storied, iconic name in luxury cars, but a cutting-edge company. So, it makes sense that they would make this midsize model one of the safest luxury cars they offer. The Giulia earned the highest possible ratings for all the crash tests, though the passenger-side small overlap front crash test was not done. The front crash prevention system is rated as superior, but the equipment does not come factory-installed. The lowest rating for the Giulia is a Marginal score for child seat anchors. They aren’t easy to locate.
2. Midsize Group: Audi A3 and Audi A4
These two midsize models are the safest luxury cars Audi produces in this class. The A3 and A4 are solidly-built cars. Both vehicles participated in all of the crash tests, earning the highest rating possible in each one.
The front crash prevention systems in both cars earned a superior rating, though the A3’s standard “Pre Sense City” scored one point lower in the high-speed autobrake category, but it’s still a good rating.
The real concern, however, is the headlights. Of the six different styles of headlights, only three earned Acceptable ratings. The A3’s Premium and Premium Plus models earned a Poor rating, where all but the Prestige Trim model on the A4 earned a Marginal score. If you are springing for options and care about safety, don’t skimp on the headlights.
3. Midsize Group: Volvo S60 and V60
The Volvo V60 and S60 are essentially the same vehicle, except the V60 is a hatchback. The ratings for these two vehicles show that, as they both earned the exact same report card. These two cars also earned top marks during the crash tests, save for the passenger-side small overlap test which wasn’t completed. The front crash prevention system is optional, but worth it as it earned a superior rating. The headlights are the only problem area for these vehicles as well. At best, the highest-end headlight styles are acceptable. For the V60 the Base and Premier trim options earned a Poor rating. On the S60, it was the Inscription trim style that earned the Poor rating.
4. Midsize Group: BMW 2 Series & BMW 3 Series
BMW’s entries in this list of the safest luxury cars in the midsize group are the 2 Series coupe and the 3 series sedan. Ironically, the 2 Series stands out as it earned the highest rating for the child seat anchors, a category these cars typically don’t excel in. The 3 Series, what you might expect to be more of a family vehicle, earned an Acceptable rating.
The crash tests all scored the highest rating, The front crash prevention system earned an Advanced rating, scoring only four points in the evaluation. This is still a decent score, but you wouldn’t want it to go any lower. Finally, the only poor ratings come from the headlights again. The A3’s cheaper headlight option earned a Marginal rating while their top-tier earned an Acceptable one. For the 3 Series, only the models that come with the add-on lighting package earned an Acceptable rating. The other two styles are rated at Poor.
5. Midsize Group: Lexus ES 350 and Lexus IS
The final entries in the midsize list of safest luxury cars are the ES 350 and IS from Lexus. Like all of the other models, every crash test rating is the highest it could be. They also both have top ratings in child seat anchors and are the only cars on this part of the list to do so, other than the BMW 2 Series.
Where the ES 350 and the IS really stand out is the front crash prevention system. It earned what amounts to a perfect score, and this system comes standard on both of these vehicles. The only place where options come into play are the headlights. The ES 350’s Bi-LED headlamps package earned a Marginal score, while the rest of the options earned an Acceptable rating.
6. Midsize Luxury SUV Group: 2018 Acura MDX
The 2018 Acura MDX is one of the safest luxury cars in the midsize SUV category. This vehicle, which comfortably seats four and features a hatchback trunk, rated highly on all of the crash tests, save for the passenger-side small front overlap test. That was not conducted. The front crash prevention system rates as superior and earned full points. The only low points on the MDX’s scorecard is that its headlights and, of course, the child seat anchors earned an Acceptable rather than a Good rating. If you’re a luxury car manufacturer, that’s a problem you don’t mind having.
7. Midsize Luxury SUV Group: 2019 Acura RDX
There is not much difference between the 2019 Acrua RDX and the MDX from 2018. However, since it is both a different model and a different production year, it earns its own spot. This is not the first car on our list to score perfect marks in all of the crash tests, including the passenger-side small overlap test. However, the 2019 RDX is the first score top marks in all of the categories. The optional front collision mitigation system earned full marks for a Superior rating. It also earned top marks for all of its headlights styles, save for the Advance Trim style which earned an Acceptable rating. The child seat anchors rating was “Good Plus” because it features extra latches for car seats. By IIHS standards, there aren’t any safer cars on this list.
8. Midsize Luxury SUV Group: 2018 BMW X3
The BMW X3 is a vehicle that is as solidly built as it looks, earning top marks on all the crash and collision tests. The optional front crash prevention system also earned full points for a Superior rating. And when you pay for the extras on these cars, it can mean that you are paying for extra safety. The headlight styles on these cars mostly earn a Marginal rating, save for the Executive package which skips past Acceptable to Good. The child safety seat latches also proved to be the downfall for the X3. They performed well on the test, but they are “too deep” in the seat and difficult to maneuver around.
9. Midsize Luxury SUV Group: 2018 Buick Envision
The Buick Envision is one of the IIHS top safety picks, but it doesn’t fare as well on the tests as the preceding vehicles. All of the crash tests earned the highest marks, though the passenger-side small overlap test wasn’t done. However, that about does it for the top marks the Envision earned. The optional front crash prevention system is rated Advanced, scoring highest on the low-speed auto-brake. The high-speed autobrake did not prevent a collision but did slow the vehicle down by almost 10 miles-per-hour. Also, only the Premium II trim style of headlights earned an Acceptable rating. All the other styles earned the Poor rating. The difference seems to be that the Premium II is a HID projector while the other styles are a halogen projector.
10. Midsize Luxury SUV Group: 2018 Lexus NX and RX
The two entries from Lexus on this list of the safest luxury cars are exemplary choices for safety. The NX has a slightly larger profile than the NDX, but both are solid machines. When it comes to crash rating, save for the passenger-side small overlap test, they excel with top marks.
The front collision prevention systems in both vehicles are rated superior, earning a full score. Even better, this system is not optional on either vehicle as it is on many others. Finally, the NX enjoys the only top rating on all headlight styles offered thus far on the list. The RX did score a little lower with headlights. Their top-tier packages earned Acceptable ratings while all the others earned Marginal ratings. And the child seat anchors are also top-rated. All-in-all the NX and RX are great choices in this class.
11. Large Luxury Group: 2018 Acura RLX
Acura makes its return to the list with this entry in the large luxury class. While not scoring as high marks as their luxury SUVs, they should be proud of this as well. The Acura RLX is an excellent representative of what car buyers can expect from the safest luxury cars in its class. It’s a big car, but not too big. It has flash and style, but most importantly it can keep you safe. The small overlap, passenger-side test was not conducted. However, the RLX scored top marks in all of the other crash tests. The front collision mitigation system is standard, and it earned a Superior rating with full points. The headlights and child seat anchors are rated as Acceptable but may be deep in the seat.
12. Large Luxury Group: 2018 BMW 5 series
The BMW 5 Series, it should come as no surprise, meets the high standards set by the company’s other vehicles on the list. This vehicle is the sleek, yet substantial “Beemer” we think of when we think of BMW. All of the crash tests were conducted on this vehicle, and the 5 Series earned top marks in all of them. The crash prevention system is an option one, and it avoided collisions at both high and low speeds. This earns it a Superior rating with a perfect score on the six-point IIHS checklist. The child seat anchors are easy to access and work with but earn an Acceptable rating for being difficult to maneuver around.
13. Large Luxury Group: 2018 Genesis G80 and G90
The Genesis brand has only been officially separated from parent company Hyundai since 2015, but they are firmly establishing themselves in this market. While one may quibble about the details, there is no denying that the G80 and G90 are both very sturdy vehicles. All crash tests were completed on both cars, and they earned top marks in each category. The front collision system earned full points and a Superior rating, and in these cars it comes standard. The G80 has a headlight trim style that is rated as Acceptable, while the G90’s is rated Good. In both cars the child seat latches are too deep in the seat in some places. They can also be difficult to maneuver around. Still, they can do the job.
14. Large Luxury Group: 2018 Lexus RC
The Lexus RC is a big coupe that looks great on the road next to traditional American sports cars or their more exotic foreign cousins. However, this car also is one of the safest luxury cars on this list. The front crash prevention system comes standard, and it earned a Superior rating and full points. Even the pesky child seat anchors are rated as high as possible. A select set of headlight trim options earned only a Marginal rating, but the Turbo trim, 300 Trim, and 350 Trim headlight styles earned a Good rating. This is one of the safest luxury cars, but you don’t lose the thrill that comes with a luxury sports car.
15. Large Luxury Group: 2018 Lincoln Continental
There are few names as storied in American car history as the Lincoln Continental. Yet, despite it having decades of history behind it, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be innovative. The Lincoln Continental is a solid car, passing all crash tests with perfect marks. The optional front crash prevention system is top of the line as well. The child seat anchors are tough to maneuver around, but still won an Acceptable rating. There are four headlight styles, two which use an LED projector and two which use an HIID projector. You will want to spring for the LED headlights, given they earned the highest rating. Meanwhile the HIID projector earned the lowest rating, so avoid those altogether.
These fifteen cars are a great assortment of vehicles for the luxury car owner most concerned about safety.
Deciding which car to purchase is a big decision, so naturally if any of these models appeal to you, do more research. You can head over to the IIHS site to not just dig into the details but watch videos of the tests as they happen. Hopefully, this list has given you enough information to focus your search for a vehicle. Every car in this list earned perfect marks on the crash tests conducted. They all have Superior or Advanced front crash prevention systems. When it comes to headlights, always choose from the LED projector options available.
Part of owning a car is that it’s fun to drive, has interesting features, and keeps us comfortable. This is why you want a luxury car in the first place. But, no matter how comfortable it gets, you’re still in a metal box hurtling down a road at incredible speeds. Safety should always be a concern. But, thanks to the safest luxury cars out there, you can take comfort in knowing that you and your passengers will be as protected as possible.
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