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The 2020 Cadillac XT6’s Roundabout Ride to the Top in Safety Ratings

Dark red 2020 Cadillac XT6 rear angle view 2020 Cadillac XT6 | Cars.com photo by Mike Hanley

When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety first tested the 2020 Cadillac XT6 using its 2019 criteria, the three-row SUV was named a Top Safety Pick, the insurance-industry-backed crash-safety advocate’s second-highest award. For 2020, IIHS revised its award criteria and, now, the 2020 XT6 is a 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus, IIHS’ highest safety award. Both the 2019 and 2020 designations only apply to XT6 models built after October 2019.

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Here’s what happened: In 2019, the model-year 2020 XT6 (at least, those built after October 2019) aced all six of IIHS’ crashworthiness tests: driver-side small overlap front, passenger-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. In each of those tests, post-October 2019 XT6es earned the requisite score of good on a scale of good, acceptable, marginal and poor.

The 2019 and 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus criteria required a score of good in all six of those tests. Thus, the 2020 XT6 qualified in both years. Still with us?

A second component of IIHS’ testing is available front crash prevention systems, which are rated on a scale of superior, advanced or basic. In 2019, to earn a Top Safety Pick Plus, a vehicle’s system needed to score superior or advanced in vehicle-to-vehicle crash-prevention testing, which both the standard and optional systems in the XT6 did. For 2020, IIHS expanded the testing to include vehicle-to-pedestrian front-crash prevention, and the XT6’s two systems both scored superior in that testing. In both years, the XT6 would be two-thirds of the way toward a Top Safety Pick Plus. 

The third and final component of IIHS testing is headlight testing, where the various standard or available headlights of a vehicle are rated on the same scale as vehicle crashworthiness (good, acceptable, marginal or poor) — and here’s where things get the trickiest. In 2019, IIHS required that at least one set of headlights be rated good for a vehicle to qualify for Top Safety Pick Plus. Both of the XT6’s headlights rated as acceptable, relegating the XT6 to a 2019 Top Safety Pick designation.

For 2020, IIHS updated the Top Safety Pick Plus headlight criteria to require that all sets of a vehicle’s headlights earn an acceptable or higher rating. While this lowers the minimum criteria slightly, it also makes it less likely that only a vehicle’s highest-available (read: priciest) trim level — typically the trim level with the most advanced, and thus highest-rated headlights — meets all the Top Safety Pick Plus criteria. The 2020 XT6, with acceptable-rated headlights on all its trims, is thus a 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus despite no actual changes to its previous testing scores (though it did also earn the highest-possible rating in the newest vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention test).

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Similar-size competitors among luxury SUVs include the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class and 2020 Volvo XC90, both 2020 Top Safety Pick Plus designees, and the 2020 Lexus RX and 2020 Lincoln Aviator, both 2020 Top Safety Picks.

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