IN MONEY Ford, Jeep SUVs flunk crash tests

IIHS says Ex­plorer, Grand Chero­kee fared worst.

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Eric D. Lawrence

The Ford Ex­plorer and Jeep Grand Chero­kee had the worst re­sults for mid­size SUVs in the lat­est crash tests 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.

“Al­though some ve­hi­cles in this group of­fer very good pro­tec­tion, in other mod­els the airbags, safety belts and struc­ture showed se­ri­ous de­fi­cien­cies,” IIHS Chief Re­search Of­fi­cer David Zuby said. “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.

The rat­ings were based on re­sults from the pas­sen­ger­side 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.

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, and the Toy­ota High­lander, Nis­san Pathfinder and Honda Pi­lot re­ceived ac­cept­able rat­ings. All ve­hi­cles were 2018 mod­els ex­cept for the Sorento, which was a 2019 model.

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,” IIHS 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 ap­par­ently is bet­ter but not great. “The Ex­plorer also had poor struc­tural per­for­mance in the driver­side test and earns an over­all rat­ing of mar­ginal for driver-side small over­lap pro­tec­tion,” the re­lease noted.

The in­sti­tute 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,” IIHS 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,” IIHS said.

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