Some Large SUVs Surprisingly Struggle in IIHS Crash Tests

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that large SUVs might not be as safe as often believed, especially when colliding with stationary objects. Recent tests on three popular body-on-frame SUVs revealed that they may not adequately protect second-row passengers.

David Harkey, the IIHS president, explained that while the significant mass of these large SUVs offers additional protection in crashes involving smaller vehicles, it also means they pose a greater risk to other road users. Furthermore, their substantial size results in greater force during impacts with fixed obstacles like trees or barriers, making it challenging to manage crash energy effectively.

The IIHS tested the Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition, and Jeep Wagoneer. The Wagoneer achieved a 2024 Top Safety Pick award but fell short of the Top Safety Pick+ distinction. The Tahoe and Expedition did not receive any safety awards.

The Jeep Wagoneer received top marks in small overlap front and side-impact tests, but only a marginal rating in the updated moderate overlap front test. Its headlights varied in quality, with higher trims rated as Good and basic trims as Acceptable. The forward collision warning system also received a Good rating, but the seat belt chime was rated Marginal.

The Chevrolet Tahoe earned an Acceptable rating in the small overlap front test and a Poor rating in the moderate overlap front test, but performed well in the side-impact test with a Good rating. However, its headlights were rated Poor, and its forward collision warning system was deemed Marginal. The IIHS highlighted significant risks of lower leg injuries for the driver and worse performance in the passenger-side test.

The Ford Expedition received Marginal ratings in both the small overlap front and moderate overlap front tests but performed well in the side-impact test with a Good rating. Its headlights were rated Marginal, but both the forward collision warning system and seat belt chime were rated Good.

The primary concern for the IIHS is the safety of second-row passengers. Test results indicated a high risk of chest injuries due to high seatbelt forces in all three SUVs. The Tahoe showed a significant risk of head, neck, and abdominal injuries for second-row passengers. Despite the Expedition being the only model equipped with second-row belt pretensioners, it did not outperform the other two models in protecting these passengers.

Additionally, airbag deployment issues were noted. The driver dummy’s head struck the steering wheel through the airbag in the Wagoneer, and the driver’s side curtain airbag failed to deploy during the Expedition’s test.

To achieve a Top Safety Pick+ rating, a vehicle must earn a Good rating in both the small overlap and updated side crash tests, as well as an Acceptable or Good rating in the updated moderate overlap front test and front pedestrian crash prevention tests. Its standard headlights must also be rated Acceptable or Good, a more stringent requirement compared to previous standards.


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