The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) added two more players to its roster of Top Safety Picks recently, when the 2013 Acura RDX premium crossover and the 2012 BMW 3 Series sport sedan achieved top scores in the organization’s much-watched safety-testing regimen. The series of tests includes evaluations of each vehicle’s ability to protect passengers in front, rear and side impacts, as well as a special test of roof strength, designed to measure safety protection in rollover accidents.
The all-new Acura RDX is a fresh entry among today’s next-gen premium crossovers, with compact dimensions that make it a strong match for rivals like the BMW X3 or Lexus RX, albeit with a notable advantage on the pricing front: The BMW X3 XDrive28i starts at $38,500, while the Lexus opens with an MSRP of $39,310—the price of a new RDX is as low as $34,320, making it the least-expensive entry crossover from any of the traditional premium brands.
Of course, price isn’t always the most important factor when shopping for a premium vehicle, so the RDX also offers an all-new powertrain that delivers more power and higher fuel-economy ratings than the 2012 model, as well as chassis upgrades like amplitude reactive dampers for enhanced ride and handling. The result is an agile and sporty crossover, wearing tightly fitted, sharply sculpted sheet metal and offering a thoroughly upscale interior.
Naturally, there’s a slew of technologies available, including the Acura ELS Surround audio system, AcuraLink Satellite Communication System, and a hard-drive-based nav system with advanced speech-recognition capabilities.
And, as its new IIHS Top Safety Pick prize clearly shows, the RDX is an impressive torchbearer for Acura’s new commitment to “Safety through Innovation”: After failing to receive a Top Safety Pick in its previous generation, the new RDX made the cut in 2012 thanks to enhanced roof strength, a robust Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, a comprehensive Vehicle Stability Assist system and numerous air bags, including side-curtain units that protect both front- and second-row outboard occupants.
2012 Top Safety Pick: 2012 BMW 3 Series Sedan
Here’s a surprise: Although the BMW 3 Series excels in nearly all facets of the driving experience, its record in IIHS testing has been a mixed bag. In fact, the previous generation of the 3 Series family didn’t earn a Top Safety Pick designation, due primarily to its “acceptable” grades for roof strength—vehicles must be rated “good” in all measures to make the list.
That’s changed—obviously—with the next-gen 3 Series sedan which, along with its Ultimate Driving performance, also offers safety measures including BMW’s Dynamic Stability Control, a full-color head-up display that helps drivers keep their eyes on the road, lane-departure and blind-spot warning technologies, a bird’s-eye rearview camera system and, on models with the BMW Assist telematics setup, an industry-leading automatic collision notification system, developed in cooperation with the William Lehman Injury Research Center in Miami.
Also big news from the Bavarians for the new model year is a new powertrain for the BMW 328i, which swaps out the past model’s I6 for a 2.0-liter I4 with TwinPower Turbo technology. In the process, the current car adds 40 more horsepower, 30 more lb.-ft. of torque and almost 28 percent higher fuel-economy ratings in combined driving. The new tale of the tape: 240 hp, 260 lb.-ft. of torque and an EPA line of 23 mpg city/34 mpg highway/27 mpg combined.
Yet BMW managed to minimize the price increase between the 2011 and 2012 models, with the current 328i starting from $34,900—just $300 more than the previous version.
(Note: Only the BMW 3 Series sedan is an IIHS Top Safety Pick, as the 2012 BMW 3 Series coupe and Sport Wagon have not yet moved to the car’s updated platform.)