2019 Audi E-Tron is the first electric car to earn top IIHS safety rating

The 2019 Audi E-Tron electric SUV has earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) — the organization’s highest safety rating. The E-Tron is the first electric car to earn that distinction, although the IIHS hasn’t tested the Audi’s two main rivals yet.

To earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating, a vehicle must get top “good” scores in all crash tests, an “advanced” or “superior” rating for front-crash prevention, and a “good” rating for headlights, according to the IIHS. The E-Tron received the highest “good” rating in all six IIHS crash tests, and the top “superior” rating for its front-crash prevention tech. The standard headlights — LED with automatic high beams — earned the top “good” rating.

A Top Safety Pick+ rating is a feather in Audi’s cap, but there isn’t really anything for shoppers to compare it to. The IIHS hasn’t tested E-Tron’s two main rivals — the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X. While all cars sold in the United States must meet certain safety standards, IIHS ratings give buyers a way to directly compare the crashworthiness and safety features of different vehicles. The Model X earned a five-star overall rating in federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests, but the E-Tron and I-Pace haven’t undergone the same tests.

The E-Tron’s Top Safety Pick+ rating is at least relevant to buyers comparing the electric SUV to internal-combustion models. It’s a similar situation to the hydrogen fuel-cell Hyundai Nexo, which was also recently tested by the IIHS. The Nexo — which also earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating — was the first fuel-cell vehicle tested by the IIHS. That means there is no direct way to compare the Nexo to the other two fuel-cell cars currently on sale — the Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai — but shoppers considering making the switch to a zero-emission vehicle can do a side-by-side comparison with gasoline models.

But while hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles remain a niche market, luxury electric cars like the Audi E-Tron are expected to proliferate. Responding both to Tesla and anticipated stricter emissions standards, traditional luxury automakers are planning high-end electric models. The Mercedes-Benz EQC SUV should hit showrooms soon, followed by the Porsche Taycan sedan. Cadillac is working on an electric SUV as well.

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