New IIHS Midsize SUV crash testing reveals design flaws in models like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Top Safety Pick – these are three words automakers love to use in advertising their cars. Safety sells, particularly with SUVs, and if you can show your vehicle is safer than everyone else’s on the roads, you’re likely to win some points with folks shopping for a new car. However, cars like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee earned “Poor” ratings in a new, critical crash testing, which raises new concerns about their safety.
On the flip side, the 2019 Kia Sorento earned top marks – a feat which Kia quickly advertised on their website. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just released a new batch of results for midsize SUVs. And by “just announced”, we mean they published a release today about it. Already, Kia is advertising the new Sorento as a “Top Safety Pick+”. Currently, it’s the only car in its class to score that mark. Other vehicles in the segment, like the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, scored an Acceptable rating. The Volkswagen Atlas and GMC Acadia did well, earning overall Good ratings in most of their crash tests. The scale IIHS uses runs from Good as the best possible rating, and marks down to Acceptable, Marginal and Poor.
New tests necessitate design changes
Recently, the IIHS introduced a new test into the mix: a “passenger-side small frontal overlap test”. The organization crashes new vehicles on the passenger side as well as the driver’s side to see how they perform. Unfortunately, the 2018 Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee scored badly in the newer test. Hitting a immovable barrier at 40 MPH using 25 percent of the car’s front passenger-side area, both SUVs showed serious intrusion. The Jeep had 10 inches of intrusion into the passenger area, while the Ford had 15 inches of intrusion at the upper door hinge pillar. That’s not just inconvenient – it could lead to serious injury.
Taking the brunt of the force from an accident after structural points have failed is no good. However, the likelihood for serious injury for the passenger and their inability to escape by opening the door is even worse. Suffering a crash like the Grand Cherokee or Explorer, with their current design, may cause major leg and hip injuries to front passengers.
Now, both SUVs are pretty long in the tooth by now. On that front, it’s not too surprising they didn’t fare well in the new tests. Jeep last redesigned the Grand Cherokee in 2010, while the current-generation Ford Explorer went on sale in 2011. What’s important to note here, though, is how the new testing sheds new light on both cars. In their first years on sale, both scored well in crash tests. New tests, however, are starting to reveal flaws in their design. If automakers are driven to focus to excel on a narrow range of crash testing, they can neglect safety in other areas of the car.
As the IIHS testing becomes more elaborate, manufacturers will have to figure the new testing into their designs. Fiat-Chrysler and Ford are redesigning the Grand Cherokee and Explorer soon. With these new crash tests to consider, both should be much more resilient in passenger side crashes than today’s results show.