The refreshed 2011 Ford Explorer has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In a bit of irony, the Explorer shifted from a truck based body on frame design to a car-based unitized design for the new model year. The award by the IIHS disputes the popular auto myths that trucks are essentially safer than cars.
The Explorer wasn’t alone in an IIHS winner's list for 2011. The new winners include the Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Jetta, Chevrolet Cruze, Scion tC, Volkswagen GTI four-door, Volkswagen Touareg, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mercedes-Benz GLK.
The IIHS said that 66 vehicles have earned the Top Safety Pick award for 2011, including 40 cars, 25 SUVs and a minivan. Winners “do the best job of protecting people in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes based on good ratings in Institute tests,” it said. “Winners also must have optional electronic stability control.”
Hyundai Kia and Volkswagen Audi were singled out for each having nine winners for 2011. Next in line with eight awards are General Motors, Ford Lincoln and Toyota Lexus and Scion. Subaru is the only automaker with a winner in all the vehicle classes in which it competes.
The VW Touareg is the only large SUV to make it to the list for 2011. None of the small pickup trucks the IIHS evaluated qualified for the award, it noted. Large pickup trucks have not been tested yet.
The IIHS toughened up its criteria for Top Safety Pick this year, adding a requirement that all qualifiers must earn a good rating for performance in a roof strength test to assess protection in a rollover crash.