Midsize luxury SUVs safety ratings: Mercedes-Benz v. Audi

Mercedes-Benz and Audi luxury SUV models received top safety honors from the IIHS in 2017. Auto insurance for luxury SUV's is around 18% higher than normal.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 22, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Modern-day families rely more on SUVs than ever before. This comes from their spacious cabins, powerful engines, and reliable performance
  • To test a vehicle for safety, one must focus on their performance on various crash tests such as those done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)
  • Comparing Mercedes-Benz and Audi models for safety is no easy task. Both brands dedicate countless resources to their protection advancement, as seen in their IIHS test results

Having been around for over a century, SUVs have taken it upon themselves to merge the effectiveness of a small car with the power of a large pickup truck.

Fuel efficiency mixed with horsepower north of two-to-three hundred is the reason why buyers adore these models. Furthermore, the cabin can host as many as seven or eight people and provide state-of-the-art features. The problem, however, comes from driving these cars.

The engine must be powerful because of the weight of the car. One could say that manufacturers did a trade-off between ease of control and overall strength. Since most SUVs are around two tons the following can be issues:

  • slowing down
  • braking
  • turning
  • parking

First-time buyers tend to overlook these difficulties because of their lack of knowledge. Regardless, as further discussed, manufacturers such as Audi or Mercedes-Benz engineer their SUVs to be an embodiment of safety.

To get informed on an SUV’s safety, one has to go beyond customer reviews.

This is where the IIHS comes into play. Their goal is to grade a vehicle based on extensive testing.

To visualize how a vehicle performs during an accident, they will conduct an actual crash. This is done by utilizing a human-like dummy with sensors in the driver’s seat when the vehicle is crashed into a wall.

Then, the dummy’s injuries are accessed and vehicle’s performance quantified.

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Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Versus Audi Q5


These two models tested by the IIHS come from some of the most thriving manufacturers in the world. Both Audi and Mercedes are German brands whose production output is counted in millions of vehicles every year.

The models used for this comparison are midsize luxurious SUVs with similar characteristics. Audi Q5 is more up-to-date as it is a 2018 model, whereas Mercedes GLE is from 2017.


This is the primary test for IIHS, and the results can be poor, marginal, acceptable, and good. There are five categories graded:

  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
  • Small Overlap Front Test
  • Side Durability
  • Roof Strenght
  • Head Restraints

Each test gets reviewed separately and vehicles that obtain all five highest grades are Top Security Picks.

As far as Mercedes GLE and Audi Q5, every single test was performed successfully by both vehicles. Furthermore, both models also continued an already-existing trend of perfect completion for crashworthiness.

To acknowledge GLE’s slight advantage, this model weighs almost 1,000 pounds more than the Q5, yet it did not come short in any way.

Dummies from both cars had no severe head or neck injuries, there were no large knee displacements, and chest compression was comparable with 34 millimeters for Mercedes GLE and 31 millimeters for Q5.

Airbag deployment was efficient thus limiting movement forward and preventing side-glass hits. One area where Mercedes outperformed Audi was the roof strength test, with a strength-to-weight ratio of 6.68 to 5.16.

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Crash Avoidance and Mitigation

After learning what a vehicle can do during a crash, this test is made to overview the ability to prevent one. Grading scale differs slightly with basic, advanced, and superior powers of accident avoidance.

In regards to Mercedes GLE and Audi Q5, both models were awarded a “superior” ranking. Mercedes achieved a one-point lead over the competitor, with a six-to-five final score.

The subcategory where GLE outperformed Q5 was highspeed auto-brake where vehicles are slowing down from 25 mph.

Mercedes was able to reduce its speed by 24 mph when a danger was detected, and Audi brought it down by 21 mph. Furthermore, GLE did better with their headlights since their rating was “acceptable” while Q5’s was “marginal”.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)


Once again, the two models clashed in an equally matched battle. Both were rated “good” and IIHS did not present a single issue with their child seat anchors. This test is graded on the same principle as the crashworthiness, thus “good” is the most a vehicle can get.

Leather seats in GLE and Q5 did not prevent experts from finding the anchors or having to use excessive force to connect them with the child seats.

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Top Safety Picks

As noted, vehicles that score high in all five categories of the crashworthiness test are labeled Top Safety Picks. Since these two vehicles met that threshold, they were both granted this award for 2017.

Another Mercedes-Benz vehicle that IIHS reviewed, GLC-class SUV, did not obtain this award as it performed a little below these two models. Audi had no other cars that were graded by the IIHS.

The Winner


Although Mercedes GLE and Audi Q5 are statistically almost perfectly matched, it seems that GLE outdid Q5.

The fact that Mercedes weighs almost 1,000 pounds more than the Audi yet still slowed down better than its competitor is impressive.

Furthermore, Audi’s minimum lack in headlights performance can be held against it since this is a top-scale comparison where every detail counts!

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