Each year, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety puts out its Top Safety Picks for cars, minivans, and SUVs. To make it into the safety shortlist, vehicles must earn "Good" ratings in all three of the IIHS test areas: high-speed front impacts; high-speed side impacts; and head-restraint protection for rear impacts. All cars that make the shortlist are also required to be fitted with electronic stability control, because of its accident-prevention capabilities.
As part of CNET Car Tech's safety month, we round up the cars that made the cut, many of which we have reviewed over the course of the past 12 months. The 2008 Mercury Sable (pictured) is the only car on the list that is yet to be released.
The Acura MDX is one of two midsize SUVs from the Japanese automaker to make the top safety grade, according to the IIHS. The MDX has some advanced technology to go with its structural rigidity, including a backup camera and Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD).
Like its larger stable mate, the RDX features Acura's Super Handling All-Wheel Drive as standard. In addition to its six standard airbags, the RDX features a body structure specifically designed to handle impacts with larger, heavier SUVs and trucks.
Ford brags that safety is not optional on the Edge, and the list of standard safety equipment is lengthy. It starts with full airbag coverage: the driver and front passenger are protected with front and side airbags, while side-curtain airbags cover the whole cabin. ABS is also standard, as is Ford's AdvanceTrac stability control, which uses sensors to determine if the car is about to roll over or spin out, applying brakes and reducing engine power to compensate.
Volvo's reputation for safety is well-established. The XC90 carries on the tradition with all-wheel drive, electronic brake-force distribution, traction control, and stability control. Volvo also makes available a couple of innovative systems: adaptive headlights and a blind-spot monitor.
As well as its top ratings in the IIHS testing, the Tribeca also scored a maximum five stars for both front and all-round side-impact ratings, and four stars for rollover safety in NHTSA testing. Other active safety technology on the Tribeca comprises a backup camera complete with reverse-guidance lines, as well as a park distance control (PDC) sensor.
Ford's Taurus and Mercury's Sable are best in their class for safety. In addition to the IIHS recognition, both cars also got the highest scores (five stars) in front- and side-crash tests by the NHTSA. Both models come with energy-absorbing crush zones, six airbags, a two-row safety canopy with rollover sensor, and side-impact protection beams built into the sides of the vehicle.
The 2007 Legacy also recieved five-star NHTSA ratings for both front- and side-impact crash ratings. The car comes with dual front airbags with passenger-seat occupancy detection and seat-mounted front side-impact airbags, as well as four-wheel ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, and daytime running lights.
Honda's revamped CR-V crossover features Honda's ACE body structure, which is designed to enhance the car's crumple zone to disperse energy away from the passenger area through more load-bearing channels. All CR-Vs also come with six airbags--including side-curtain airbags--and antilock brakes as standard.
Lincoln's MKX SUV earns its place on the safety shortlist thanks to its steel ladder-frame construction and its standard Safety Canopy, which includes a rollover detection system. All 2007 MKXs also come with six airbags as standard, including seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the driver and front passenger.
Mercedes M-Class SUV features a unibody structure, which gives it improved rigidity with less weight than its previous body-on-frame design. All M-Class models are fitted with driver and passenger dual-stage front airbags and side-impact airbags for all outboard passengers.
The Honda Pilot's front and rear crush zones, high-tensile side-impact door beams, and steel unibody construction ensure that it gets the highest safety ratings from NHTSA and the IIHS. The Pilot also features three-row side-curtain airbags and front- and side-impact airbags for the driver and front passenger.
The A4 is one of two cars from Audi that makes it into the IIHS's Top Safety Picks, thanks to its comprehensive airbag coverage: it has dual-stage front airbags along with side airbags for the driver and passenger. Side-curtain airbags protect front and rear occupants.
The bigger Audi A6 earns its distinction through its use of deformable steel alloys in its body design. Two-stage passenger-sensing advanced airbags and seat-mounted front side airbags come as standard on the A6, while rear side airbags are optional.
The Forester comes with more than 15 active and passive safety features, including an energy-absorbing collapsible steering column, a high-strength steel frame, and front and rear crumple zones. The Forester also features front seat-mounted side-impact airbags.
The Saab 9-3 features a "Pendulum B-pillar side impact structure," which makes use of high-tensile steel in the floor and roof panel of the car's central pillar to improve rigidity in case of a side-on collision. Airbag coverage in the Saab 9-3 includes standard side-curtain airbags and multistage frontal airbags for front-seat occupants.
The Kia Sedona's six standard airbags, including full-length side-curtain airbags help it claim the distinction of being the first minivan to get both a five-star crash-test rating and a "Good" rating from the IIHS. It also features front and rear crumple zones and an energy-absorbing steering column.
The Hyundai Entourage is the second minivan to make the Top Safety Picks: it also boasts six as-standard airbags spread across three rows, as well as ABS, traction control, and stability control, also standard.