Crashes hurt car insurance companies’ bottom lines, so the industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducts comprehensive crash tests to help consumers buy safe cars—and encourage the industry to raise its standards. The IIHS recently put Audi’s new e-tron through its paces, and Audi boasts that the e-tron is the first fully electric car to win the organization’s highest rating: Top Safety Pick+.
The IIHS conducts several different crash tests as well as evaluating a vehicle’s headlights and crash prevention technology. The e-tron earned the highest possible mark, “good,” for every one of the dozens of sub-categories in the IIHS report.
“The dummy’s position in relation to the door frame, steering wheel, and instrument panel after the crash test indicates that the driver’s survival space was maintained very well,” the IIHS writes of one of its crash test results.
Ars Technica’s Jonathan Gitlin wrote in our e-tron review that “a very sturdy battery frame surrounds the modules and battery pack to provide crash protection.”
The e-tron’s headlights had “some glare” but were still rated as “good” by IIHS.
The IIHS last tested Tesla’s Model S in 2017. It got mostly high marks, but the vehicle didn’t do quite as well as the e-tron. Its score was only “acceptable” rather than good for one of the front crash tests IIHS conducted—the small overlap driver-side crash—in part because “the seat belt allowed far too much forward movement of the dummy to the extent that its head hit the steering wheel hard through the airbag.”
Model S performance was rated “good” in the other crash tests. IIHS also ruled that the Model S’ headlights provide inadequate illumination when a car was rounding a curve.
The 2019 Chevy Bolt racked up near-perfect results on crash tests, but the IIHS also found its headlights to be poor. The industry group faulted the Bolt for excessive headline glare and said that illumination was only fair—not good—in some scenarios.
Notably, the IIHS has yet to publish crash test results for the Model 3. So it’s possible that Tesla’s more affordable sedan could still—like the e-tron—win a Top Safety Pick+ rating.