2018 Ford Explorer during IIHS crash test
2018 Ford Explorer

Two popular SUVs earned “Poor” scores in specialized Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests that were designed to determine the potential for passenger injury.

The Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee got the lowest possible rating in the new passenger-side, small-overlap tests. The crash assessment mimics a 40 mph crash when the front corner of a vehicle collides with a tree, telephone pole, or the front corner of another vehicle.

Vehicles that get a “Good” rating are ones that “we would expect most people to be able to walk away from that crash,” said IIHS chief research officer David Zuby. By comparison, the front passenger in a Grand Cherokee or Explorer may have injuries that require an ambulance at the crash scene, he said.

The IIHS, which is supported by auto insurance companies, crash tested eight new midsize SUVs. The 2018 GMC Acadia, 2019 Kia Sorento, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas all earned a “Good” rating. The 2018 Toyota Highlander, 2018 Nissan Pathfinder, and 2018 Honda Pilot all earned “Acceptable” ratings.

Car Safety

From this test group, only the Sorento has advanced safety features and top-rated headlights to also make it an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, the group's highest safety designation.

“IIHS continues to challenge the auto industry to improve occupant safety by introducing new tests designed to simulate specific types of crashes,” says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at CR’s Auto Test Center. “While most crash tests focus on the driver’s safety, this one assesses a vehicle’s ability to protect a front passenger.”

According to Zuby, upcoming redesigns of the Grand Cherokee and Explorer should address small overlap crash protection for driver and passenger.

“I think a lot of what we’re seeing here is the fact that these vehicles are older designs compared to the vehicles that are getting better ratings,” Zuby said. Both models had their last significant redesign for the 2011 model year and have gone through only a few changes since.

“We have been told by both companies that the next versions of these vehicles will offer better crash protection in these types of crashes for both sides,” he said. 

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee crash test.
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee