Luxury vehicles have earned that title for a level of engineering that rises above the average mass-market vehicle. From comfort and convenience to performance and technology, luxury brands promise the best of the best––but not every model always delivers. When it comes to safety, it is almost impossible to find a truly unsafe luxury SUV these days, but a handful of models rise to the top. The high price tag of any luxury SUV means that it is virtually guaranteed to come standard with a full complement of advanced safety features, from driver-assist features to small engineering innovations. However, some brands, like Tesla and Volvo, go above and beyond to deliver a more robust level of safety in their vehicles.
Midsize SUVs are The Safest Models
Virtually every luxury SUV on the market in 2022 provides a high level of safety, with durable frames designed to absorb impacts and protect passengers. Even mass-market vehicles are expected to pass the toughest crash-test scenarios these days, so it should be no surprise that any vehicle claiming the luxury title should manage to rack up 5-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). SUVs also tend to perform better in crash testing than smaller vehicles, making luxury SUVs naturally the safest class of vehicles on the road.
That said, luxury SUVs can range from subcompacts like the BMW X1 to full-size models like the Cadillac Escalade. Generally, the safest models are the ones in the middle––midsize two or three-row vehicles. The recently updated Side Impact test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in particular, revealed some weaknesses of smaller luxury SUV models. For the 2022 model year, the IIHS started crash testing vehicles using a heavier barrier moving at higher speeds, and it proved challenging for some smaller vehicles to resist. We have already seen the 2022 Lincoln Corsair downgraded from “Good” to “Marginal,” while the 2022 Audi Q3 and 2022 Volvo XC40 were downgraded to “Acceptable.”
However, the largest luxury SUVs have some weaknesses of their own. The full-size 2022 Cadillac Escalade, for example, only scored a 4-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, including a particularly worrying 3-star rollover rating. Rollover risk is always higher for SUVs than sedans, and it is especially an issue for the taller truck-based models. While it is almost impossible to find a SUV that has scored a perfect 5-star rollover rating, midsize models usually perform better.
Choosing the Safest Luxury SUVs of 2022
Between IIHS and NHTSA testing, it is possible to put together a list of some of the safest luxury SUVs of 2022. Generally, the IIHS testing is stricter, but its tests also take into account many factors that can skew the results, from headlight brightness to pedestrian safety. Therefore, it is important to examine the detailed ratings to get a better understanding of each vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses. In order to qualify as one of the safest SUVs of 2022, a model must be able to excel in both traditional crash testing and automated collision-avoidance testing, giving you a vehicle that will not only protect you in the event of a crash but help avoid accidents in the first place.
When it comes to two-row luxury SUVs, there were three models that particularly stood out in both NHTSA and IIHS testing. All of these models scored a perfect 5-star rating in every crash test scenario and were awarded a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS, making them among the safest vehicles of 2022. While several other luxury models achieved similar ratings in crash testing, these three vehicles also offer better than average collision avoidance systems, further increasing safety on the road.
#1 – Tesla Model Y
The only electric vehicle to make the cut, the 2022 Model Y stands out for scoring a perfect 5-star rating in NHTSA rollover testing in addition to acing the more traditional crash test scenarios. It is also one of the select group of vehicles that managed to completely avoid a collision in all eight IIHS vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention tests, with its advanced driver-assist systems automatically bringing the vehicle to a stop from speeds of up to 37 mph. These incredible results make the Tesla Model Y arguably the safest luxury SUV available on the market today.
#2 – Volvo XC60
If you aren’t interested in driving an electric vehicle, the 2022 Volvo XC60 deserves your consideration. Volvo has always had a strong reputation for emphasizing safety, and the XC60 is no exception, easily passing all the NHTSA and IIHS crash-test scenarios. The Volvo also boasts an extremely capable collision prevention system that successfully avoided collisions in seven of the eight IIHS test scenarios. Even in the one failure, the XC60 successfully reduced speed from 25 mph down to just 3 mph before impact.
#3 – Audi Q5
While not quite as capable as the Tesla or Volvo, another safe choice is the 2022 Audi Q5. On top of its strong performances in crash testing, the Q5 offers a highly capable suite of driver-assist tools. However, you will have to upgrade to the optional radar-based Audi Pre Sense Front system, as the standard Audi Pre Sense City system failed to prevent a vehicle-to-vehicle collision at 25 mph in IIHS testing. The Audi also failed to meet the vehicle-to-pedestrian collision prevention standards of the Tesla or the Volvo, although it did manage to keep most impacts below 4 mph.
Many families require the space of a three-row SUV, but this category has fewer options compared to the more numerous two-road models. Further, many of the options have either not been tested or provide surprisingly poor results––particularly the full-size models based on truck platforms. While it is likely that many of the untested models do perform more than adequate, the following vehicles have all proven their safety in crash testing.
#1 – Volvo XC90
It isn’t any surprise to find the 2022 Volvo XC90 on this list, and this model performs excellently in crash testing, just as you would expect. However, its crash prevention systems are not quite as good as those on the XC60. While it did successfully avoid every collision in IIHS vehicle-to-vehicle testing, the XC90 was less successful in vehicle-to-pedestrian testing, failing to stop completely in two of the six scenarios. This is likely the result of the XC90’s slightly older architecture, although it was still good enough to claim an “Advanced” rating from the IIHS.
#2 – Lincoln Aviator
The 2022 Lincoln Aviator is an interesting example of how upgrading to optional systems does not always improve safety. When equipped with the standard Lincoln Co-Pilot360 system, the Aviator avoided collisions in five IIHS test scenarios and nearly avoided collisions in two more, only impacting at speeds above 1 mph in a single test scenario. However, when equipped with the optional Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus package, the Aviator collided at higher speeds in three of the eight scenarios. Overall, this is a safe option to pick, but you might be better off avoiding the optional safety package.
#3 – Cadillac XT6
The 2022 Cadillac XT6 performed well overall in crash testing, as evidenced by its 5-star NHTSA ratings and IIHS Top Safety Pick+, although two “Acceptable” scores in the small aspects of IIHS testing marr its otherwise perfect record. However, the XT6 makes up for this with its solid driver-assist technology. When equipped with the optional Enhanced Automatic Emergency Braking System, the XT6 avoided collisions in seven of the eight IIHS test scenarios––an above-average performance for the segment.
Modern vehicles are safer than ever before, and luxury SUVs are in a class of their own when it comes to protecting their passengers. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the research to get the best of the best. While nearly every vehicle in this segment meets high standards for safety, a few go above and beyond, taking safety to an all-new level. From solid crash test scores to advanced collision-prevention technologies, these six vehicles are top picks for any driver seeking the safest luxury SUVs on the road.