Study: More than half of midsize SUV headlights tested rate marginal or poor

Posted at 4:55 AM, Jun 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-13 06:11:31-04

New safety tests show most headlights on SUVs need do a better job of lighting roads while limiting bothersome glare.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested the headlights on 19 midsize and 18 luxury SUVs and found many need to be improved.

"We continue to see headlights that compromise safety because they only provide a short view down the road at night," says IIHS Senior Research Engineer Matt Brumbelow.

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The IIHS tests measure how far light is projected from the SUV's low beams and high beams travels straight and on curves. The glare from oncoming SUVs is also measured to make sure they are not excessive.

The IIHS says nighttime visibility is critical to highway safety as nearly half of traffic deaths occur between dusk and dawn. Properly aimed low beams should be able to light up the road ahead without temporarily blinding drivers of oncoming vehicles.

IIHS engineers found one of the worst SUVs for visibility is the Kia Sorento. Its low beams only illuminate 148 feet in front of the vehicle. Compare that to the Volvo XC60's low beams which shine 315 feet.

At night, the extra distance could give a XC60 driver a lot more time to swerve after seeing a person trying to cross a street or deer standing in the middle of the road.

The IIHS says the Ford Edge's headlights also performed poorly by providing inadequate visibility and unacceptable glare.

But, the Edge is not alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says complaints from glare from oncoming headlights are common. The IIHS found more than half of the 79 headlight variants it tested produced too much glare.

"Managing glare can be more challenging for taller vehicles like SUVs and pickups," Brumbelow says. "Better aim at the factory can minimize glare."

Here is how the IIHS ranked the headlight system for the SUV tested (all are 2017 models unless noted):


Luxury SUVs Nonluxury SUVs
Volvo XC60 Hyundai Santa Fe
Acura MDX Honda Pilot
Acura RDX Jeep Cherokee
BMW X5 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Buick Envision Toyota Highlander
Infiniti QX70  
Lexus RX 2018 Chevrolet Equinox
Mercedes-Benz GLE Dodge Durango
  Ford Flex
2018 Audi Q5 Nissan Murano
BMW X3 Nissan Pathfinder
Cadillac XT5  
Infiniti QX50 POOR
Lincoln MKT Dodge Journey
Volvo XC90 Ford Edge
  Ford Explorer
POOR GMC Terrain
Infiniti QX60 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Lincoln MKC Jeep Wrangler
Lincoln MKX  

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