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Subaru tops new auto-braking tests

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety has tested 74 new cars on how well they can autonomously brake in a collision.

By Clifford Atiyeh Sep 27, 2013 5:48AM

For the first time, you'll actually be able to know just how good a car's electronic safety systems are in a real-life test.

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, a nonprofit testing group funded by insurance companies, has released performance results of auto-braking systems in 74 new cars from the 2013 and 2014 model years. These active safety systems, touted in advertisements and car reviews for their ability to brake the car autonomously to prevent a potential collision, have previously not been independently reviewed in a single test.

The new IIHS test scored cars based on how much speed they reduced in a series of simulated rear-end crashes with a dummy car, at both 12 mph and 25 mph. Depending on the speed reduction, cars were rated as "Superior," "Advanced" or "Basic." Of all cars, the Subaru Legacy and Outback outperformed every car, including much more expensive luxury cars like the Cadillac ATS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, for their stopping power using the company's new EyeSight system, which mounts two cameras on the windshield to judge vehicle distances and trigger alerts. The Subaru models were the only cars tested that fully stopped the car from 25 mph. The ATS and C-Class, respectively, were still traveling at 10 mph and 8 mph and therefore would have hit the vehicle in front.

Volvo, which pioneered the feature on its 2009 XC60, is the only automaker to offer it as standard across its entire lineup. The company's S60 and XC60 performed at a Superior rating, but due to the system's 19-mph speed limit in which it can fully stop the car, the Volvo models did not ace the 25-mph test. The same cars, when not equipped with optional pedestrian detection, did not perform as well and earned a lower Advanced rating, the institute said.

The 2013 Lexus ES, Audi A4, Audi Q5 and the 2014 Acura MDX also earned Advanced ratings. The 2014 Mazda6, while not a luxury car, performed nearly as well as the top scorers in this category.

The IIHS listed Basic models as those that only offered flashing or audible warnings to the driver -- also known as forward collision alerts -- but were not equipped with auto-braking. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Durango and the BMW 3-Series were just some of the cars that alerted the driver in at least five of seven tests under three different scenarios, according to the IIHS.

Aside from the new Mazda6 and the Subaru Legacy and Outback, no other non-luxury car offers auto-braking as an option. It's available on some Ford, Volkswagen and Honda models in Europe, but not here.

It's also important to note that the IIHS, especially at 25 mph, is testing at a higher speed than most automakers have deemed necessary to stop the car completely. While systems are gradually offering higher speed thresholds, active safety systems are designed to avoid false positives, or situations which fool the car's sensors into thinking a collision is imminent. The IIHS did not mention these errors during its testing, but during our everyday driving evaluations of new cars, it's not uncommon for an alert to pop up when nothing is actually happening.

The European New Car Assessment Program will begin testing auto-braking and other active safety systems starting next year, and will include the results as part of a vehicle's overall rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not have any plan in place to test these systems, but it does note which cars have at least some of the suite of active safety systems like blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

Among these features, the IIHS said it would start testing adaptive headlights in its next round of evaluations.

[Source: IIHS]
Sep 27, 2013 8:43AM
Don't listen to Impeach, 71 is his IQ.  Subaru makes fine affordable AWD cars, still made in Japan.  I've had one for 3.5 years and haven't had a bit of trouble.  Consumer Reports thinks so too.
Sep 27, 2013 8:58AM

I have owned 4 Outbacks and they are solid and reliable performers. They are however, not all built in Japan. Outbacks are built in West Lafayette, Indiana and have been for quite some time.

Sep 27, 2013 8:50AM
Sep 27, 2013 9:17AM

I have owned 3 Subaru's and have put over 200K on each one without any problems.


Sep 27, 2013 9:20AM

Our 2011 Subaru Outback is a wonderful car. Made in the USA too. My son has had 4 Subarus and absolutely loves them, and will continue buying them in the future, as will I. Consumer Reports has consistently rated Subaru as a "recommended" buy. Finally, the Big Three automakers are focusing on quality and giving Subaru and the other foreign manufacturers a lot of competition. Great news for the consumer! The comments by politically obsessed idiots are worthless, except for their daily therapy exercises.

Sep 27, 2013 9:37AM
Sep 27, 2013 9:47AM
Impeach, Subaru's are constantly rated very high.  This is my first one and I love it!!  Not a problem one!!   And, the folks at the Subaru dealership are awesome!
Sep 27, 2013 10:09AM
While I presently do not own a Subaru, I wish I did.  I have had many and they are great cars.  Yes, they are made in the US also. But they are just plain good vehicles all around. They are not hard to maintain and simple oil and lube keeps them going for a very long time.
Sep 27, 2013 9:10AM
Impeach, you are an A** to the top degree.
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