The 2008 Audi Q7 luxury SUV has won the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Pick award in the Institute's latest round of testing. To qualify, a vehicle must earn the highest rating of 'good' in the institute’s front, side, and rear tests and also be fitted with electronic stability control.

The 2008 Q7 received a "good" rating in all three crash tests, including side impact, offset frontal and rear impact seat tests. Importantly, the latest score only applies to models built after December 2007 and will carry over to the 2009 model year.

The Institute’s frontal crashworthiness evaluations are based on results of 40mph frontal offset crash tests. Each vehicle’s overall evaluation is based on measurements of intrusion into the occupant compartment, injury measures recorded on a dummy in the driver seat, and analysis of slow-motion film to assess how well the restraint system controlled dummy movement during the test.

Side evaluations are based on performance in a crash test in which the side of a vehicle is struck by a barrier moving at 31mph - the barrier representing the front end of a pickup or SUV. Rear crash protection, meanwhile, is rated using a test that simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph.

Incidentally, the Q7 was recently tested by Germany’s ADAC motoring group, where it was pitted against a Fiat 500 minicar. As expected the Q7 sustained only minimal damage to its body but surprisingly it’s only rated at four stars out of five in the EuroNCAP crash safety tests.