The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's top-rated SUVs for safety in 2015 include the Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota Highlander and Mercedes M class. The SUVs are grouped according to class, which includes small, midsize and midsize luxury, and the IIHS rates them as Top Safety Pick and TSP+.
The IIHS evaluates vehicle safety in two categories: crashworthiness and crash avoidance. The former category evaluates how well occupants are protected in the vehicle if it crashes. The second category covers standard or optional technology that may prevent or mitigate crashes.
The IIHS rates vehicles in a sliding scale from good to acceptable and down to poor. The five tests used to determine this are roof strength, head restraints, moderate and small front overlap and side. The rating for crash prevention is basic, advanced and superior.
For example, the 2015 Acura MDX is rated as advanced in crash avoidance but only achieves this rating if optional equipment is purchased. It is rated good for crashworthiness, with that rating in all five test categories. Another example is the 2015 Toyota Highlander, which achieves a TSP+ rating but was rated as acceptable in the small overlap front category. The Highlander earned a good rating in the other four categories.