The German EV has received the highest award in American IIHS crash testing, becoming the first electric vehicle to do so.
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Audi’s first electric vehicle might not have beaten the Tesla Model X in terms of range but so far it has it beat when it comes to safety. The e-tron quattro is the first EV to receive the coveted Top Safety Pick+ award from the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

There’s still time for Tesla to receive the same title as the IIHS still has yet to test the Model X. The Jaguar I-Pace also hasn’t been assessed yet. Tesla Model 3 testing is underway, though the IIHS scored the Model S in 2017 and found it didn’t meet the threshold for either the Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick awards.

Top Safety Pick+ is the highest honour awarded to vehicles the IIHS has crash-tested. Though the title suggests one winner, multiple cars in a segment can receive the award.

The e-tron sits in the IIHS’ large SUV category. The only other award-winner in the segment is Audi’s own Q8, though it eluded the desirable plus sign due to the performance of its headlights. The LED projector headlights in high-spec trims received only an 'Acceptable' ranking while the base ones were marked as 'Poor' due to excessive glare from the low beams. Conversely, the e-tron’s standard LED lighting was given a 'Good' rating.

To achieve a Top Safety Pick+ award, a car must receive a 'Good' score – the highest rating – in the driver and passenger-side small overlap, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraint tests, as well as in headlight testing.

Front crash prevention systems are assessed on a scale of 'Basic' to 'Superior' and a Top Safety Pick+ award winner must receive at least an 'Advanced' in this category. The e-tron received a 'Superior', even in base trim. Entry-level e-tron models in the US come standard with forward collision warning, with front cross-traffic collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, among a raft of safety features available in an option package.

A car can receive an 'Acceptable' passenger-side small overlap front test rating and an 'Acceptable' headlight rating and still get a Top Safety Pick award.

In addition to the e-tron, Audi also scored a plus award for the A6. It was rival Genesis, however, that was able to boast Top Safety Pick+ awards across its (admittedly smaller) model range.

This year was a year for firsts as Hyundai’s Nexo became the first hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle to receive the Top Safety Pick+ award. Hyundai has much to brag about as, besides the perfect scores for its luxury Genesis brand, it also achieved the highest rating for its Elantra, Sonata, Kona, Tucson and Santa Fe.

The corporate family should keep plenty of space atop the mantle for trophies as the Kia Forte (Cerato), Niro, redesigned Soul, Optima, Stinger and Sorento also received the highest rating.

Above: 2020 Subaru Liberty

Perhaps the most impressive showing in this year’s IIHS testing, however, was Subaru. Excluding the BRZ, its entire North American model range all received the Top Safety Pick+ prize.

The total number of Top Safety Pick + awards per brand were: