IIHS: SUV, crossover headlights generally perform poorly

June 13, 2017

The IIHS says you should think again if you assume that a larger crossover or SUV is the safest thing on the road.

Today, the insurance industry-funded testing agency released results of a headlight effectiveness test for nearly 40 mid-size SUVs and crossovers ranging from reasonable price points to nearly, $100,000. Of those, only two earned top marks—the agency's "Good" rating—while more than half rated a subpar "Marginal" or "Poor" in the group's testing.

MORE: Here's what it takes to be an IIHS Top Safety Pick+

The only award winners? The 2017 Volvo XC60 and the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe. Even then, the IIHS says that only the extra-cost HID headlights available on the XC60 and the Santa Fe qualified for the award. Standard halogen projector lights on both the Volvo and the Hyundai didn't perform well enough to merit a "Good" score.

The IIHS has recently started measuring headlight effectiveness, something it says it will soon incorporate into the requirements to earn its coveted Top Safety Pick+ award. Although the XC60 and Santa Fe performed best when fitted with optional HID headlights, the IIHS says that the actual type of light—HID, LED, or halogen—doesn't necessarily make lights more effective. Most vehicles still come standard with halogen headlights, but many cars offer LEDs or HIDs as an extra-cost option.

Instead, the IIHS says that projector-type lights, rather than reflectors that rely on a mirrored surface, are a better indicator of how well a headlight will perform. Still, most of the "Poor" rated vehicles are available with LED or HID projector lights.

DON'T MISS: Our roundup of all the 2017 Top Safety Pick+ recipients

Here's a look at the IIHS' latest findings based on their four-point scale. The vehicles below are listed using the score of their most effective headlight, which may be an extra-cost option. They're all 2017 models, unless indicated otherwise.


  • Volvo XC60
  • Hyundai Santa Fe


  • Acura MDX
  • Acura RDX
  • BMW X5
  • Buick Envision
  • Honda Pilot
  • Infiniti QX70
  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Lexus NX
  • Lexus RX
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class
  • Toyota Highlander


  • Audi Q5 (2018)
  • BMW X3
  • Cadillac XT5
  • Chevrolet Equinox (2018)
  • Dodge Durango
  • Ford Flex
  • GMC Acadia
  • Infiniti QX50
  • Lincoln MKT
  • Nissan Murano
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Volvo XC90


  • Dodge Journey
  • Ford Edge
  • Ford Explorer
  • GMC Terrain
  • Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
  • Infiniti SX60
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Kia Sorento
  • Lincoln MKC
  • Lincoln MKX
  • Toyota 4Runner
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