Adaptive headlights—which turn as you steer to better illuminate bends in the road—are the next big thing in proactive safety measures. That’s thanks in part to a new change in IIHS Top Safety Pick testing: a new headlight component is being added to the TPS evaluation process. In fact, the first batch of cars recently went through that process, and the results were, uh, illuminating. Only one vehicle, of the 31 mid-sizers tested, achieved a “Good” rating; 11 more were rated “Acceptable.” And the one with the top lighting grade—the Toyota Prius V—doesn’t have adaptive headlights, and neither do some “Acceptable” cars. What we’ve done is collected those with both, while also shining our own expert-focused spotlight on a few that haven’t been tested yet.
10 Cars with Adaptive Headlights
Photo Credit: MINI
2016 MINI Hardtop 2 Door
We'll start off with one of those untested vehicles, the 2016 MINI Hardtop 2 Door. It's a sporty little hatchback that seriously lowers the pricing bar for cars with adaptive headlights. After all, the standard Hardtop has an MSRP of $20,700, and owners can order the brand's LED headlights with cornering lights as a standalone option for $1,000. That upgrade also can be paired with white turn signals as a no-cost add-on. It's also worth noting that if the dimensions of the Hardtop 2 Door are a bit too MINI for some customers, the cornering lights feature is available throughout the lineup, too, including for the larger Hardtop 4 Door, the MINI Convertible, and the MINI Countryman crossover.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2016 Volkswagen Jetta
The least expensive sedan among our cars with adaptive headlights is the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta, and it further stands out with an "Acceptable" rating from the IIHS for its forward illumination, as well as a Top Safety Pick+ rating based on its performance in the other crashworthiness and technology tests. Just note that while the Jetta Sport can be furnished with adaptive front lighting—and high-intensity bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps—for $21,890, those models actually can't be configured with the technologies needed for Top Safety Pick+ recognition. That's limited to the Driver Assistance package in SEL and SEL Premium trims, which start from $24,645 without that package, and cost an extra $950 with it.
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
2016 Mazda Mazda3
The (former) Zoom-zoom brand has been building a strong reputation for affordable safety in recent years, thanks to entries like the compact 2016 Mazda Mazda3. Sold in hatchback and sedan body styles, both qualify as cars with adaptive headlights for right around $25K: the Mazda3 sedan in the s Grand Touring trim, fitted with the bigger, 184-horsepower engine, sports an adaptive front-lighting system for $24,745; and the same setup in the hatchback goes for $25,445. Safety minded shoppers also should keep this in mind: although the Mazda3 wasn't part of the first round of IIHS headlight testing, it is a Top Safety Pick+ for the 2016 model year, complete with an “Advanced” rating for available front crash-prevention technology.
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
2016 Mazda Mazda6
Mazda's midsize sedan was tested by the IIHS for lighting performance, becoming one of the few mainstream cars with adaptive lighting to earn an "Acceptable" grade for its technology. However, customers have two ways of enjoying this extra illumination feature with the Mazda6. It's available first with the automatically transmissioned Touring models, though as part of a double-package deal that combines safety measures such as Smart City Brake Support and rain-sensing windshield wipers with lux touches like heated front seats, an 11-speaker Bose audio system and a power moonroof. Alternatively, Mazda's adaptive front-lighting system is standard on the Mazda6 Grand Touring, at $30,195 and boasting navigation, leather-trimmed seats, and all the standard features of the Touring model.
Photo Credit: Hyundai
2017 Hyundai Elantra
Too new to be tested by the IIHS is the 2017 Hyundai Elantra, but this all-new compact sedan also lowers the price of admission to cars with adaptive headlights. Here, Hyundai offers the brand's Dynamic Bending Lights—and a whole lot more—for $26,750. To put that into context, the Elantra starter model opens for $17,150, while the Elantra equipped with adaptive headlights is the up-level Limited trim ($22,350) with Hyundai's Tech package ($2,500) and Ultimate package ($1,900). And with all that, its standard equipment includes not just the fancy headlamps, but also navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen, eight-speaker premium audio by Infinity, heated front and rear seats and the full range of Hyundai’s high-tech safety measures.
Photo Credit: Infiniti
2016 Infiniti Q50
The redesigned, re-engineered 2016 Infiniti Q50 is packed with performance-oriented features, with a particular highlight being a new twin-turbo V6 that kicks out 400 horsepower in Q50 Red Sport editions. Of course, when you've got that kind of power under the hood, you'll want an especially clear view of the road ahead, which is exactly what you get with the car's available adaptive front-lighting system with auto-leveling. As is the case with many other cars with adaptive headlights, those for the Q50 require multiple interlocking packages, to the point of adding $9,150 to the vehicle's bottom line—reaching $49,050. That said, the Q50’s system was rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, unlike that of rivals from Mercedes, Audi and BMW.
2016 Subaru Outback
Autobytel experts are going to sneak the 2016 Subaru Outback onto our honor roll of cars with adaptive headlights, despite not having them. That's because what it does have is a low-cost alternative—steering-responsive fog lights—which helped the Outback garner an "Acceptable" headlight certification from the IIHS. Here's how they work: the Outback's available fog lights are specifically aimed to enhance visibility when the vehicle is turning, but if those lights are turned off, sensors will read the Outback's steering wheel and automatically turn on the unit pointed in the direction of the curve, for improved visibility. Now, that is, again, part of a package, but so equipped, the Outback is an IIHS TPS+ winner.
Photo Credit: Volkswagen
2016 Volkswagen CC
Some folks may be surprised that the 2016 Volkswagen CC still exists, let alone that it's on our list of cars with adaptive headlights. Yet not only does VW serve up a standard adaptive front-lighting system for the CC 2.0T Sport trim—with an MSRP of $34,475—that technology also was a key to the CC receiving an "Acceptable" headlight rating from the IIHS. As a quick refresher, the VW CC is based on the previous-generation Passat midsize sedan, but wears a more dramatic, "four-door-coupe" exterior design on the outside and showcases plenty of Passat-plus luxuries on the inside. The car’s slightly dated platform also prevented the CC from getting a full Top Safety Pick rating.
Photo Credit: Volvo
2016 Volvo S60
Naturally, the 2016 Volvo S60 had no such issues with the IIHS crashworthiness tests, nor with the evaluation for front crash-avoidance technology, and the premium sedan finishes up with an "Acceptable" grade for its available adaptive headlights. Indeed, Volvo boasts that, with its dual xenon headlights with active bending lights, "you get a 90 percent boost to your vision around bends at night." That technology is available from the entry point to the S60 lineup, the T5 Drive-E model that's priced at $34,150, and to be clear, it’s also provided on a growing number of Volvo vehicles that could be considered among the best cars with adaptive headlights.
Photo Credit: Mazda USA
2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
We'll wrap the way we started, with a vehicle that may not have had its headlights tested yet by the IIHS, but one that is the well-known answer to many a motoring question. So if you're asking about cool cars with adaptive lighting, the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata is a correct choice here, too. Mazda's adaptive front-lighting setup is standard on Grand Touring models as part of an MSRP of $30,065, and it's bundled with navigation, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-departure warning in one of the most fun-to-drive convertibles around.