The 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class luxury SUV has earned a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, the highest possible score, in series of safety tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Improvements to the accuracy and intensity of the optional LED headlights, which factor into the IIHS' safety rating structure, helped the 2018 GLE-Class earn top marks.
Why are headlights important to a vehicle's safety rating? Because even a car that scores the highest rating of good in the IIHS' six rigorous crash tests becomes unsafe if the driver can't see potential problems on the road at night. So, besides crashworthiness, IIHS also considers safety features, headlight effectiveness and ease of installing child safety seats.
According to IIHS, beginning in March 2018 Mercedes made improvements to the optional LED headlights available on the 2018 GLE-Class. These now have a rating of good versus the acceptable rating given to previous model years. It's worth noting, however, the GLE's standard halogen beams receive a poor rating from the IIHS for their performance — so getting a GLE-Class with the Top Safety Pick Plus rating is dependent on ticking the right options.
In terms of the six crash tests performed by the IIHS, the GLE-Class scored good across all of them. These tests include driver- and passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front and side, along with tests for roof strength and the effectiveness of the vehicle's head restraints.
The small overlap front crash test is especially difficult, since it places extreme forces on only a small portion of the vehicle's front end. Rather than disperse all the crash energy throughout the car or SUV's structure, the impact forces are focused on a much smaller point. The test simulates an accident where a vehicle hits an object, such as a lamppost, with only 25 percent of its front width, at a speed of 40 mph.
IIHS reported the structure of the GLE-Class performed "reasonably well" in the passenger-side test, though it still garnered the highest possible score. The crash test dummy (modeled on a 50th-percentile male driver, roughly 5 feet 10 inches in height and weighing about 170 pounds) remained "well-controlled" by the seat belt and airbags, and had a "low risk" of injury.
For comparison's sake, direct competitors to the GLE-Class, such as the 2018 Lexus RX350 and 2018 Acura MDX, received a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS. Both SUVs failed to earn the higher Plus ranking due to an acceptable score for their headlights.
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