Your Car's Headlights Are Probably Terrible: IIHS

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
your car s headlights are probably terrible iihs

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has started rating headlights, and just released a report that takes a dim view on the performance of most midsize cars.

Only one vehicle out of 31 testers earned a rating of “good” from the road safety nonprofit, with the bulk of midsize vehicles earning a rating of “marginal” or “poor.”

The results are even less dazzling when you take into account optional lighting packages, which pushed the number tested to 82. Even then, it was only the LED-equipped advanced technology package on the Toyota Prius V that earned the IIHS’s acclaim.“If you’re having trouble seeing behind the wheel at night, it could very well be your headlights and not your eyes that are to blame,” said David Zuby, IIHS vice president and chief research officer, in a statement.

The headlight test, performed at the Vehicle Research Centre in Ruckersville, Virginia, recorded the illumination of nighttime road obstacles by regular low beam settings from five different approach angles. It also measured glare for oncoming vehicles.

When the results were in, researchers found the results didn’t discriminate along class lines, or nationality. The headlight performance of many luxury vehicles were outclassed by cheaper models.

The bottom of the headlight barrel are the halogen eyes on a BMW 3 Series. It was only optional equipment that allowed BMW to climb up into the “marginal” category.

“A driver with those headlights would have to be going 35 mph or slower to stop in time for an obstacle in the travel lane,” the IIHS said of the standard halogen setup.

The Mercedes-Benz C-Class and CLA earned a solid “poor rating,” as did the Cadillac ATS. Among lesser price tags, the Chevrolet Malibu scored poorly, but so did the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima and Volkswagen Passat.

The Subaru Legacy, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry made it into the “marginal” category, where they share space with the aforementioned Bimmer (plus the 2 Series), Audi A4, Acura TLX, and Lincoln MKZ.

Earning an “acceptable” rating were the Mazda6, Infiniti Q50, Nissan Maxima, Honda Accord, Lexus ES and IS, Volkswagen Jetta and CC, Subaru Outback, and Volvo S60.

Despite advances in road illumination — high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, LEDs and curve-adaptive headlights — the poor results mean technology still hasn’t caught up to real world driving scenarios.

With the IIHS now breathing down their necks over headlights, expect automakers to frantically upgrade their badly performing models before next year to avoid embarrassment.

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  • SSJeep SSJeep on Apr 01, 2016

    The worst headlights I had seen were on a Lincoln Mark VIII that I owned some time ago. They were barely better than DRLs. The best headlights I used were on my Toyota Tundra 5.7. They were halogens, but were very powerful. They illuminated the road like the eyes of God on low beam. High beam was searing and could easily illuminate 200 feet ahead. I miss those headlights.

  • Thabo Thabo on May 15, 2016

    Got a chance to see the BMW seven series laser lights in action at 250km/h on a BMW test vehicle on the way to Dresden. Very, very impressive and the way part of them moves to read passing signs is creepy. Now I'm sure all of us tootling along at 90Mph here in the US will never need such bright lights and I had no idea what the poor bastards on the other side of the road saw but these were the most impressive thing about the new seven - oh and also the way the car can move out of a parking space without anyone being inside while being controlled from your keychain remote!

  • Tassos Subaru really knows how to take fugly to ever higher levels, and sell every one of the (of course very few) it makes. As if the number of sales negates the fugliness.Don't hold your breath. I bet this will NOT be the vehicle James Bond arrives at the Casino in Monte Carlo with in his next flick. (if any)
  • ToolGuy Government overreach. Park the Ford in your air-conditioned garage on a maintenance charger and this won't be a problem.Here's some (old) general background if you are interested.@ILO, there are 3 Fords, and Ford Pro™ is the one with the bright future 🙂
  • ToolGuy No harm no foul (no one died), business is business, yada yada. Why must everyone pick on dealers?-this post dedicated to Ruggles
  • Hydrocrust Parts
  • ToolGuy The vehicle development process which gave the world the Neon was so amazing (according to the automotive press) that it prompted Rick Wagoner to hire Bob Lutz.Didn't work 🙂