Car Industry

Midsize SUVs all over the map in IIHS passenger-side crash tests

The Jeep Grand Cherokee's side airbag didn't even deploy when it should have.

IIHS

There's a bunch of ways to muck up a crash test but still receive a decent score, as several midsize SUVs proved in the latest round of crash tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS subjected a group of midsize SUVs to its new passenger-side small overlap crash tests, which are meant to build on similar tests the IIHS instituted for the driver side. The tests are meant to mimic collisions with trees and utility poles. It tested the 2018 Ford Explorer, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas, as well as the 2019 Kia Sorento.

"Oh, I know a guy who can fix that, easy peasy."

IIHS

The two best performers were the Atlas and Sorento, both of which earned "Good" scores in every metric. The Acadia was close behind, with only one "Acceptable" rating for passenger restraints. The Acadia was dinged a bit as the passenger dummy's head slid off the front airbag, increasing the risk of head injury.

At the bottom of the barrel are the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Explorer's structure was "seriously compromised" in the crash, with 15 inches of intrusion at the lower door hinge pillar, which pushed the doorsill 6 inches toward the dummy, greatly increasing the risk of injury. As for the Grand Cherokee, the passenger dummy's head actually hit the dashboard through the front airbag, and the side airbag didn't even go off. To put the cherry on top of this not-so-great sundae, the Grand Cherokee's door opened during the collision. Overall, both vehicles earned a "Poor" rating in this test.

The middle of this midsize pack comprised the Highlander, Pathfinder and Pilot. All three earned an "Acceptable" score overall. The Pilot fared well, but its dummy slid off the front airbag and contacted the dashboard.

Automakers regularly update their cars to conform to new IIHS crash tests, and this is no different. The Sorento's 2019 update specifically included adjustments to perform well in this test, which explains why it earned the rating it did. The poorest performers, the Grand Cherokee and Explorer, are both quite old and will likely address these deficiencies in future updates.