Top Honors

Discover the engineering and technology that’s enabled the Subaru Forester to be named an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ for four years running (2014-17).1

For Subaru, keeping vehicle owners and those they love safe is always the top priority. Long recognized as one of the safest vehicles in its class, the 2018 model year Forester has, for 2017, earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) TOP SAFETY PICK+ when equipped with EyeSight2 and Steering Responsive Headlights, the highest IIHS safety rating.

Kenneth K. Lin, director of product management, Subaru of America
2018 Forester with EyeSight and Steering Responsive Headlights is a 2017 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+.

Each year, IIHS puts popular passenger vehicles through a battery of safety tests. The nonprofit organization, funded by various auto insurers, is tasked with evaluating the potential financial liability that a vehicle poses to insurance companies.

To qualify for the top laurel, a vehicle must earn an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating for front crash prevention, an “Acceptable” or “Good” rating for headlight performance, and “Good” ratings in five crashworthiness tests. We spoke with Kenneth K. Lin, director of product management for Subaru of America, to discuss the engineering and technologies that enable Forester to continue to earn top marks.

Front Crash Prevention 

As noted, a vehicle must earn an “Advanced” or “Superior” rating for front crash prevention in order to qualify for a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating. Subaru active safety features, such as EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, play a pivotal role in safety. They work to help prevent accidents from occurring in the first place – helping the Forester earn a “Superior” rating in this category. 

Standard Headlights versus Steering Responsive Headlights that turn toward the direction of travel.
Standard Headlights versus Steering Responsive Headlights that turn toward the direction of travel.

Headlight Performance 

“The challenge here is to provide good visibility to the driver while not creating glare for oncoming vehicles,” says Lin. The Forester accomplishes this with LED headlights that utilize adaptive features. These include High Beam Assist, which automatically activates the high beams, and Steering Responsive Headlights, which actively track in the direction of a turn. 

Crashworthiness 

Early crash testing tended to focus on head-on collisions, but in real life, there’s usually some “overlap” involved, as drivers try to avoid a direct collision. Front small overlap testing thus replicates a situation where a car “clips” another car, stressing not only the bumper, but also the fender, wheel and suspension components. “The goal in the Forester design is for those components to absorb and redirect the impact forces into the reinforced structures of the vehicle,” says Lin. “That helps to dissipate the energy and protect the passenger compartment.”

Front moderate overlap impacts are the most typical scenario in accidents. “Here, we’re able to engage more of the crash structure,” says Lin. “The bumper can transmit force throughout the reinforced sections of the vehicle.” The design of the Forester is packaged in such a way that various elements of the powertrain are directed away from the passenger compartment to help keep occupants safe.

Side impacts can be more difficult to protect occupants against than frontal impacts, as there’s significantly less “crush space” to work with. To combat this, key elements of the doors and B-pillars, or midvehicle vertical support, are fortified with high-strength steel and reinforced cross-bracing. This helps direct energy throughout the vehicle’s crash structure.

Roof strength is primarily tested to measure vehicle safety in the event of a rollover. The forces applied to the structure can be significant in this kind of accident, which is why the roof is designed to withstand nearly five times the weight of the vehicle. “This strength is critical because it gives you a margin of error in terms of safety,” says Lin.

Head restraints and seatbacks reduce chances of whiplash.

The head restraints and seatbacks in the Forester are designed to cradle occupants and reduce the chances of whiplash in a rear impact. One way they accomplish this is by minimizing the distance between the seat elements and occupants’ upper torsos.

For Subaru, the mission to create safe vehicles is as constant as it is vital. “One of our main goals at Subaru is to be a leader in safety,” says Lin. “It’s an important part of who we are as a brand, and a key reason why customers have been drawn to Subaru vehicles over the years.” 

2017 Subaru models with EyeSight receive the highest possible rating for front crash prevention from IIHS.

2018 Forester with EyeSight and Steering Responsive Headlights is an IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+.

1 The 2017 IIHS TOP SAFETY PICK+ applies to models equipped with EyeSight and Steering Responsive Headlights. 2 EyeSight is a Driver Assist Technology which may not operate optimally under all driving conditions. The driver is always responsible for safe and attentive driving. System effectiveness depends on many factors such as vehicle maintenance, weather and road conditions. See Owner’s Manual for complete details on system operation and limitations. Please remember to turn off EyeSight when going through a car wash.