BMWs Receive Poor Headlight Ratings – What it Means for MINI

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (the IIHS) has completed its first ever rating of automotive headlights. While MINI was absent from this first test, two BMWs (representing several different lighting systems) both fared poorly in the test. Interestingly it was the lowly Toyota Prius that beat the field with a “Good” rating.

What does this mean for MINI? We have some thoughts. The 2 and 3 Series tested represented three different systems: halogen, HID Xenons and a newer LEDs system. While the MINI offers a standard halogen system similar to the 3 Series tested, it’s optional LED system is powered by a different bulb than the 3 Series. Also of note, this test puts emphasis on automated functions such as auto high beams and curve-adaptive systems, both of which most MINIs lacks. Interestingly the previous generation R56 system had a curve-adaptive system but made due with an older Xenon HID system.

The Clubman's optional LED headlight

The Clubman’s optional LED headlight

From our experience the F56 equipped with LEDs is the best system to date. But go with the standard halogen set up and all three generations have looked the same to us over the years. Have a differing opinion? Hit the comment section below – we’d love to hear it. In the mean time let’s take a look at the results for those two BMWs.

The 2 Series and it’s optional HID Xenon system scored either poor or marginal depending on whether you check the box for driver assistance. Interestingly the test doesn’t just found distance but also the availability of options such as automatic high beams and the presence of a curve-adaptive system.

Here’s the full text of what they found on the 2 Series:

Low beams: On the straightaway, visibility was inadequate on both sides of the road. On curves, visibility was good on both right curves and inadequate on both left curves.

The low beams never created excessive glare.

High beams: On the straightaway, visibility was good on the right side of the road and fair on the left side. On curves, visibility was good on the gradual left and both right curves and fair on the sharp left curve.

High-beam assist (optional) compensates for some limitations of this vehicle’s low beams on the straightaway and on both left curves.

BMW 340i

The IIHS tested three different 3 series which included three lighting trim levels. Below is the highest level which included the optional LED lighting:

Low beams: On the straightaway, visibility was inadequate on both sides of the road. On curves, visibility was fair on both right curves and inadequate on both left curves.

The low beams never created excessive glare.

High beams: On the straightaway, visibility was good on both sides of the road. On curves, visibility was good on the gradual right and gradual left curves and fair on the sharp left and sharp right curves.

High-beam assist compensates for some limitations of this vehicle’s low beams on the straightaway and all 4 curves.

It’ll be interesting to see how BMW (and other luxury automakers who were poorly graded) will react to this study. Given BMWs history of debuting new technologies within automotive lighting it’s certainly an unexpected development.