The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has bestowed it (new and improved) Top Safety Pick+ status on BMW's 2-Series and 3-Series models and the Audi A3 for 2017.
However, there are some caveats, as the IIHS says that the award only applies to certain specifications of all three German cars. The IIHS' award is granted to a vehicle that satisfies all of its instrumented crash tests, offers as an option a high-function automatic emergency braking system, and, for 2017, includes headlights that deliver an especially clear view of the road ahead.
In a separate article, we've outlined just what it takes to win the award and how it's easy to wind up with a car that's not quite as safe as you may think.
Here's a look at how each of these three German entry-level luxury cars qualified for the Top Safety Pick+ award.
On the BMW 3-Series, the IIHS says the award only applies to the sedan (it hasn't yet tested the wagon). The IIHS says that cars need to be equipped with an extra cost lighting package that includes LED headlamps with automatic high beams and they must also be optioned up with automatic emergency braking. With the standard halogen headlights, the IIHS says the 3-Series doesn't provide excellent visibility at night.
For the last several years, the 3-Series sedan hasn't qualified as a Top Safety Pick or a Top Safety Pick+ because of its mediocre performance in the challenging small offset crash test designed to simulate impact with a utility pole or a tree. However, BMW modified the cars' front suspension and and body structure beginning with cars after November of 2016, which significantly reduced wheel intrusion into the driver's footwell area.
The IIHS says its award applies only to the 2-Series coupe, not the convertible (which it hasn't tested). No structural changes were required since last year's 2-Series held up well in crash tests.
However, the IIHS says that BMW modified the car's headlights for 2017. The standard halogen headlights are rated "Poor," which doesn't earn the Top Safety Pick+ nod. The optional HID headlights, on the other hand provide excellent light according to the IIHS.
As a result, a Top Safety Pick+ 2-Series needs to be equipped with the optional lighting package and the optional Driver Assistance Package that includes automatic emergency braking.
Like the 2-Series, the A3 was rated a Top Safety Pick+ last year—but it required modifications to its headlights to qualify for the updated 2017 award, according to the IIHS. Audi did just that, but the IIHS says that the changes only improved the standard HID headlights—and not the optional LEDs on A3s with Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
The IIHS also says that an A3 needs to be ordered with automatic emergency braking, which Audi bundles in the available Technology Package, to qualify.