The all-new U.S.-built 2000 Toyota Avalon was designated a "Best Pick" today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for its performance in a frontal impact offset crash test at 40 miles per hour in the midsized moderately-priced car category. The Avalon got "good" ratings across the board for structural performance, dummy injury measures, and restraints/dummy kinematics.

"Avalon was engineered with a high priority on safety," said Don Esmond, general manager and senior vice president, Toyota division. "The IIHS 'Best Pick' rating reflects Toyota's rigorous program of engineering and its internal testing in a variety of crash configurations to help deliver occupant safety to our customers."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit, research and communications organization dedicated to reducing highway crash deaths, injuries and property losses. The IIHS evaluations are based on three aspects of performance -- measurements of occupant compartment intrusion, injury measures from a Hybrid III dummy positioned in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the impact.

The IIHS offset frontal impact test is a separate test from crash tests required by the federal government to demonstrate occupant protection. Recognizing that no one test can accurately reflect all real-world conditions and vehicle performance characteristics, Toyota strives to optimize performance in many types of crash tests.

Toyota's superior safety engineering has earned its vehicles five "Best Pick" ratings in the IIHS tests (Toyota Avalon, Camry, and Sienna, and Lexus LS400 and RX300), with seven "good" ratings (Toyota Avalon, Camry, Sienna, 4Runner, and Lexus LS400, GS300/400, RX300). In addition, Toyota has received "acceptable" ratings for the Corolla and Tacoma.

The Avalon features a solid body design that helps absorb and diffuse energy along predictable paths, helping to minimize intrusion into the passenger compartment. Within the vehicle, energy absorbing material has been added to the roof rails, front pillar and center pillar to help reduce injury. Other Avalon safety features include an enlarged rear-view mirror for better visibility, dual front airbags, daytime running lights (DRL), seat belt reminder warning lights for the driver and the front-seat passenger, and front seat-mounted side-impact air bags.

Toyota is a leader in integrating active and passive safety features into its vehicles. Many Toyota vehicles feature Daytime Running Lights (DRL), Antilock Brake Systems (ABS), Whiplash Injury Lessening (WIL) seats, Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) with Brake Assist, Traction Control (TRAC), side impact airbags, seat belt pretensioners and load limiters, power window jam protection, an Automatic Locking Retractor/Emergency Locking Retractor (ALR/ELR) function on the outboard front passenger and all rear belts, a seat belt reminder system to remind front seat occupants to buckle up, and child- friendly power window switches.

In the next model year, Toyota will begin to incorporate several new safety features into new models, including an Advanced Airbag System, Curtain Shield Airbag, and a LATCH system to enhance compatibility with child safety seats.