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Jeep Wagoneer excels as other large SUVs fall short in safety tests

New SUV crash test results revealed
New SUV crash test results show room for improvement in key safety categories 02:00

When it comes to driving a safe SUV, size matters, but some larger models offer more protection than others, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). 

The Jeep Wagoneer is the only one of three popular large SUVs to qualify for a 2024 Top Safety Pick award, which is one step down from its highest ranking, IIHS said Thursday in releasing new ratings.

The Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition, also bestsellers, fell short for reasons including subpar performance in the small overlap front crash test, the Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit said. More than 90% of new models have sailed through the evaluation with good ratings since 2021, IIHS noted. 

All three vehicles are designed to haul people and to tow boats and campers, yet none offer good protection for backseat passengers, an issue that kept the Wagoneer from earning the higher-tier Top Safety Pick+ award.

"The huge mass of these large SUVs provides some additional protection in crashes with smaller vehicles, though that also means they present more danger to other road users," IIHS President David Harkey stated in a release. "The flip side of their large size is that there is a lot more force to manage when they crash into a fixed obstacle like a tree or bridge abutment or the barrier we use in our front crash tests."

SUV rankings Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Good rating

The Wagoneer did a good job maintaining survival space for the driver and front passenger in the small overlap evaluation. It performed slightly worse in the driver-side test: slight intrusion in the footwell brought a modest risk of injury to the driver's left foot and ankle, IIHS found. In both driver-side and passenger-side tests, the front and side curtain airbags prevented crash dummies' heads from hitting the vehicle's rigid structures.

"This recognition validates the dedication of our engineers, who integrated state-of-the-art technology in every aspect of the Wagoneer's design," said Bill Peffer, senior vice of Jeep North America, in a statement to CBS News. "The combination of a robust body structure and a comprehensive suite of over 120 standard and available advanced safety features, helps create a secure environment for drivers and passengers."

Acceptable rating

The Tahoe maintained adequate survival space for the driver, but substantial risk of lower leg injuries. Performance was worse in the passenger-side test, with IIHS finding a high risk of injury to the right foot and moderate risk of injury to the passenger's left leg. 

"We are confident in the safety of the Chevrolet Tahoe that achieved a 4-star safety overall rating from NHTSA's comprehensive New Car Assessment Program," said General Motors spokesperson Bill Grotz in a statement provided to CBS News. "We value consumer metric ratings from IIHS and will look to incorporate these latest findings into our new vehicle designs."

Marginal rating

The Expedition did not perform well in the tests of either side. In the driver-side test, the steering column partially detached from the instrument panel, and in both tests the A-pillar separated from the rocker panel. Excessive intrusion into the footwell contributed to a high risk of injury to the driver's right leg and moderate risk to the left. Footwell intrusion was also seen in the passenger-side test to a lesser degree, IIHS found.

The vehicles were given varied ratings in other tests, including pedestrian crash avoidance. Front crash prevention systems in the Expedition and Wagoneer were given good marks, while the Tahoe was given a marginal ranking. 

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A Ford spokesperson provided CBS News with the following statement:

"Overall: The 2023 and 2024 Expedition meets or exceeds the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) regulatory requirements, and it is the only vehicle in the segment to achieve a five-star overall vehicle score in NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

"For small overlap: Expedition is carefully designed to provide excellent protection for its own occupants and protection of occupants in other vehicles in multi-vehicle accidents, which were not replicated by the IIHS small overlap rigid barrier test. Designing SUVs in Expedition's weight category to perform better in the small overlap rigid barrier test could potentially increase injury to occupants in lighter-weight vehicles involved in a crash.  

"For moderate overlap: IIHS recently changed their moderate front overlap test procedure for the second row, however, Expedition received a "Good" rating in the previous moderate overlap test. We are always working to continuously improve, and we consider third-party feedback in vehicle development."

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