By Mike Davey
Arlington, Virginia -- October 26, 2016 -- Late-model pickup trucks are falling short in the headlight department, according to the latest study conducted by the US-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The Honda Ridgeline was the only one large pickup tested by IIHS that is available with “Good” rated headlights. Even in that case, a statement from IIHS says “all but the most expensive trim levels come with poor ones.”
The IIHS tested seven large and four small pickups. The 2016-17 GMC Sierra received an “Acceptable” rating from IIHS. Aside from the Sierra and the Ridgeline, every truck tested received a rating of “Marginal” or “Poor.”
It may be unfair to single out pickup trucks. The IIHS evaluated the headlights of midsize cars in March, followed by small SUVs in July. The results were not good, although later data analysis by a third-party organization seemed to show that at least some of the issues arose from improper headlight alignment, rather than the headlights themselves.
"These latest ratings follow the same disappointing pattern as the other groups," says Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer. "As vehicle safety has improved in recent years, this important equipment has been overlooked."
A statement from IIHS says the group launched its headlight ratings after finding that government standards based on laboratory tests allow for huge variation in the amount of illumination headlights provide in on-road driving. The IIHS measures how far light is projected from low beams and high beams as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Glare from low beams for oncoming drivers is also measured.
The 11 trucks evaluated have a total of 23 possible headlight combinations. Fourteen of them have excessive glare, contributing to their low ratings. A vehicle cannot earn a rating better than “Marginal” if it produces too much glare in any of the five test scenarios.
“A bright spot in the ratings is the headlight system on the Ridgeline's RTL-E and Black Edition trims,” said the IIHS in a press release. “The LED projector low beams provide fair to good visibility on most approaches, with inadequate visibility only on the gradual left curve. High-beam assist, a feature that automatically switches on high beams if no other vehicles are present, makes up for some of the deficiencies of the low beams.”
The next highest rated vehicle, the GMC Sierra, earned an “Acceptable” rating for the headlights on certain trims. However, other versions of the truck only earned a marginal or poor rating.
The Nissan Titan is available with two headlight options, both of which earned a “Marginal” rating. Some versions of the Ram 1500 earned a “Marginal” rating, but the other versions of the truck only earned a “Poor” rating.
The Ford F-150 is among the poorest performers, according to IIHS. Both the base halogen and the optional LED low beams provide inadequate visibility in all test scenarios, including both sides of the straightaway, on sharp curves in both directions and on gradual curves in both directions. The LED lights also produce unacceptable glare. The high beams on both versions have mostly inadequate visibility too.
The Chevrolet Colorado earned the dubious honour of having the headlights that provided the worst visibility, according to the IIHS. The halogen reflector low beams on the pickup's base trim illuminate to only 123 feet on the right side of the straightaway. In contrast, the Ridgeline LED low beams illuminate to 358 feet.
Good: 2017 Honda Ridgeline
Acceptable: 2016-17 GMC Sierra
Marginal: 2017 Nissan Titan, 2016 Ram 1500
Poor: 2016-17 Chevrolet Silverado, 2016-17 Ford F-150, 2016-17 Toyota Tundra
Poor: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado, 2016 GMC Canyon, 2016 Nissan Frontier, 2016-17 Toyota Tacoma