Technology moves at a frightening pace. Only 18 months have passed, since an automotive lighting laboratory proved that production-ready LED headlamps were considerably inferior to HID Xenon types. Yet, the latest adaptive LED headlamps challenge this finding but their availability has been limited to certain very pricey models. That is, until Vauxhall launched its IntelliLux system, as a £1,560 optional extra to its more affordable, newly-launched, British built, 2016 European Car of the Year.
What is the point and how does it work?
Equipped on the new Astra, IntelliLux relieves the driver of dipping the main beam manually. While auto-dip lamps are nothing new, IntelliLux is claimed to provide enhanced visibility over conventional main/dip beams. Using information received from a camera system that detects road conditions, oncoming traffic, plus a host of other parameters (such as speed, wiper activation, ambient lighting, et al), the eight LED units within each headlight are switched on and off automatically, fading out certain sections of the main beam pattern that may dazzle oncoming drivers. The dipped beam intensity is also reduced in certain conditions, such as on street-lit urban roads. IntelliLux is also able to illuminate corners at speeds between zero and 43mph, by simply switching on the LEDs at the extremities of the lamp unit.
Having driven an IntelliLux-equipped Astra for approximately 100 miles on a variety of roads, including dual carriageways, twisty A-roads, country lanes and in town conditions, we can report that the system is incredibly effective. While not the best that I have encountered, the main beam throw is very good, as is the manually-selectable dipped beam setting that is not too dim in comparison with other systems.
IntelliLux is also very effective at dipping the main beam progressively, as oncoming traffic approaches, while retaining the full-beam illumination kerb-side and reinstating the previously extinguished light sections afterwards. Notably, I managed to save a pheasant’s life (and the Astra’s frontal paintwork), by being able to spot the bird early and react, prior to it stepping into the roadway. While the automatic dipping of the entire main beam, in lit urban conditions, is a positive courtesy function, I also found it to be useful, when approaching lit roundabouts, especially when the main beam function is restored almost immediately, after accelerating to in excess of 31mph. Another benefit is that conventional manual function of dipping the main beam can be selected quickly and intuitively, when on the move, using the indicator stalk as normal.
Despite working very effectively in 95% of situations, the system confuses floodlights on private driveways with approaching headlamps and reacts by plunging the affected side of the road into relative darkness, which is an annoying trait. A more pertinent problem is that the motorway setting, which reduces the reach of the beam to reduce the risk of dazzling other drivers, is not activated until the car is driven over 71mph, which is illegal on UK roads. This may be why an oncoming car appeared to flash its headlamps at the Astra, as I drove at 60mph on an almost deserted dual carriageway.
However, these flaws are not insurmountable and software fixes should address most of them. Yet, like all current LED headlamps, IntelliLux has no means of replacing failed bulbs and LEDs, while potentially long-lasting, do not last forever. The only solution is to replace the whole lamp, at a typical cost of £935+VAT, compared to the price of a standard halogen bulb (typically, under £15.00), or a complete filament headlight (£112+VAT). In my experience, however, many replacement ‘Xenon’ HID headlamp assemblies tend to be priced at well over £1,000, if the self-levelling system fails, therefore the replacement lamp cost is not excessive, in my view.
Without a doubt, IntelliLux achieves an important milestone of bringing the latest in LED headlamp technology to a more mainstream car model. Overall, the system works well and, providing it is used properly and the driver understands its operation, Vauxhall’s system is a useful safety enhancement and well worth the money, especially if you drive regularly at night-time. Despite not being flawless, the system also provides an excellent base for the next generation of adaptive LED headlights.
This video demonstrates IntelliLux in action, in typical, real-world conditions.