The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee fared worst among midsize SUVs in the latest crash test results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In fact, damage to the Ford Explorer caused the structure to collapse, and both the Grand Cherokee and Honda Pilot showed the possibility of head injuries.
The ratings were based on results from the passenger-side small overlap test. A small overlap crash happens when the front corner of a vehicle strikes another vehicle or an object such as a utility pole or tree, according to a news release.
“Although some vehicles in this group offer very good protection, in other models, the airbags, safety belts and structure showed serious deficiencies,” said Insurance Institute Chief Research Officer David Zuby. “In those SUVs, a front-seat passenger would be at risk of injuries to the head, hip or leg in a right-side small overlap front crash.”
Zuby said the institute had noticed that some automakers had improved safety for drivers but had neglected front-seat passengers and wanted to put them on notice that the institute expects the same level of protection for both.
Of eight SUVs tested, the Explorer and Grand Cherokee both received poor overall grades in the tests focused on passenger-side impacts, while the Kia Sorento earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the group and the others all earned good or acceptable ratings.
In addition to the Sorento, the GMC Acadia and Volkswagen Atlas received good ratings, while the Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot received acceptable ratings. All vehicles were 2018 models except for the Sorento, which was a 2019.
In the Explorer crash, the damage severely compromised “the survival space” for the front passenger, according to Zuby.
“Intrusion reached 15 inches at the lower door hinge pillar and 13 inches at the upper door hinge pillar and the dashboard. The door sill was pushed in 6 inches toward the dummy,” the release said.
The crash test dummy experienced forces consistent with broken bones or dislocations of the right hip or lower leg, Zuby said.
Driver-side protection in the Explorer is apparently better but not great.
“The Explorer also had poor structural performance in the driver-side test and earns an overall rating of marginal for driver-side small overlap protection,” the release noted.
The institute also recently rated the Ford Escape at the bottom for passenger protection.
The Insurance Institute said the Grand Cherokee structure was not as bad as the Explorer, but it had other issues.
“More alarming was what happened to the passenger dummy’s head. It hit the dashboard hard through the front airbag and then, because the side curtain airbag didn’t deploy and the door opened, it moved outside the vehicle during rebound,” the release said.
Zuby noted that the door opening indicated a risk of ejection or partial ejection, and that right leg and head injuries would be possible.
Despite the possibility of head injuries in a crash, the Honda Pilot scored an acceptable rating because of “good structural performance,” the release said.
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