The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is once again expanding its ratings programs for new cars and trucks. This time, the focus is on crashes that occur when you’re backing up. According to the IIHS, the right combination of a rearview camera, rear parking sensors and automatic reverse braking can be impressively effective. One study reported that they cut the number of backup crashes reported to police by 78 percent. Separate research shows that these features can lower the number of insurance claims filed after a backup crash.
Of course, different technology leads to different results. That’s something else IIHS research shows. The organization kicked off its new testing by looking at six vehicles that came with automatic reverse braking for the 2017 model year. Sometimes known as reverse autobrake, the technology relies on sensors to detect an object behind the vehicle. Next, it can automatically apply the brakes in some cases to try to avoid an impact.
The IIHS testing involved how the systems react to hazards such as poles and other vehicles. To earn a “Superior” rating, a car had to “avoid a crash or substantially reduce speeds in many” of the test runs. Vehicles received “advanced” ratings if they succeeded in “some” of the runs.
But because the IIHS estimates just 5 percent of all passenger vehicles will offer automatic reverse braking for 2018, the group will award a “basic” rating, too. This will be for vehicles that only have rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alert or both. For a similar reason, the IIHS won’t count the new ratings as part of its official Top Safety Pick award. At least not yet.
As for the first group of vehicles that underwent the new tests, they include the following.
2017 Cadillac XT5
The 2017 Cadillac XT5 earns a Superior rating for rear crash-prevention technology. For that, rear autobrake is part of the Driver Assistance package along with automatic reverse braking, forward emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assistance and an automatic system for tightening the safety belts.
Another Cadillac technology for watching your back is a rearview camera mirror.
It can display a live video feed from a rear-facing camera mounted outside the vehicle. With the camera on the outside, you won’t see the rear seats, rear-seat passengers or roof pillars blocking your view in the mirror.
The 2018 Cadillac XT5 carries over unchanged for the current model year. Yet there has been a change in its overall IIHS safety rating. A Top Safety Pick for 2017, the XT5 doesn’t meet the new headlight-performance guidelines to qualify for 2018.
2017 Subaru Outback
The second vehicle with a Superior rating in the IIHS rear crash-prevention test is the 2017 Subaru Outback. That grade applies to the uplevel Limited and Touring trims when equipped with Subaru’s Reverse Automatic Braking feature. The Outback then checks in with the full Top Safety Pick+ recognition for 2017 and 2018. And 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
In terms of 2018 updates for the Outback, there are plenty. Subaru starts with fresh design details both inside and out, and these include adaptive LED headlights. The Outback enjoys more infotainment technology as well. For example, the 2018 Outback now offers Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. The Outback also continues to provide Subaru hallmarks such as standard all-wheel drive and boxer-style engines.
2017 BMW 5 Series Sedan
The four other vehicles tested by the IIHS received Advanced grades for rear crash prevention. They included the 2017 BMW 5 Series sedan, which offers a Parking Assistant Plus package with reverse autobrake. The setup further bundles a surround-view camera, a bird’s-eye-view camera and automatic parking assistance. As for Top Safety Pick awards, the 5 Series has earned the full “+” recognition for both 2017 and 2018.
The 2018 model year also sees the lineup add two new trim levels. The M550i xDrive is the fastest 5 Series ever, thanks to a 456-horsepower turbocharged V8. That engine can propel the midsize premium sport sedan from 0-60 in fewer than 4 seconds. The 530e iPerformance model features a high-tech plug-in hybrid powertrain.
2017 Infiniti QX60
A premium three-row SUV, the 2017 Infiniti QX60 took home an Advanced rating with its own Driver Assistance package. Beyond automatic reverse braking, this package brings together technology such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, parking sensors and a system that can help manage braking and engine torque while cornering. Infiniti isn’t resting on its technology laurels, either.
The QX60 welcomes two handy new tech resources for 2018. A rear-seat reminder system can alert you to check the back rows before leaving the vehicle. Also, to deal with cargo, a new hands-free tailgate debuts.
But like the Cadillac XT5, the QX60 does lose its Top Safety Pick rating for 2018, due to the more strict IIHS criteria.
2017 Jeep Cherokee
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee is an interesting case. Despite not being a Top Safety Pick, it received an Advanced rating for rear crash-prevention technology. The Cherokee is also available with a wide range of other safety measures. These include forward automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assistance and lane-departure warning. The Jeep even passes the new IIHS headlight test. The issue here is the Cherokee’s performance during the small-overlap front-impact test.
Upgrades for the 2018 Cherokee add more standard content for different trims. However, bigger news is on its way for the 2019 model. Actually scheduled to go on sale early in 2018, the redesigned Cherokee will showcase a new design, a new turbocharged engine and next-generation infotainment and safety technology.
2017 Toyota Prius
You usually think of high EPA ratings when you think of the Toyota Prius, which makes sense. The standard fuel-economy grades for the 2018 model come in at 54/50 mpg city/highway. Yet the car also delivers when it comes to safety ratings. Indeed, the Prius has captured Top Safety Pick+ awards for five straight years.
The latest IIHS testing builds on that success with an Advanced grade for rear crash prevention in the 2017 Toyota Prius. Now, that requires ordering an option package with reverse autobrake. But automatic forward emergency braking is standard. So is technology such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, lane-keeping assistance and automatic high beams. The 2018 Toyota Prius carries over with all those benefits and more.