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Are big SUVs safer? Wagoneer excels; Expedition, Tahoe falter

Are big SUVs safer? Wagoneer excels; Expedition, Tahoe falter

Full-size SUVs such as the Jeep Wagoneer and Ford Expedition may seem like safe family vehicles due to their prodigious size, cinder block shape, and durable truck platforms. But recent crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) proves that looks can be deceiving. 

The 2024 Jeep Wagoneer withstood the non-profit’s battery of crash tests better than the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe.

2024 Jeep Wagoneer crash-test impacts conducted by the IIHS

2024 Jeep Wagoneer crash-test impacts conducted by the IIHS

2024 Jeep Wagoneer crash-test impacts conducted by the IIHS

2024 Jeep Wagoneer crash-test impacts conducted by the IIHS

2024 Jeep Wagoneer crash-test impacts conducted by the IIHS

“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 said in a statement. “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.”

Newest of the American-made full-size family haulers, the Jeep Wagoneer earned a 2024 Top Safety Pick for earning top “Good” results in protecting front occupants in front and side crashes, and it did a “Good” job of avoiding crashes with pedestrians in the IIHS’s updated automatic emergency braking testing. 

2023 and 2024 Chevrolet Tahoe crash-test impacts by the IIHS

2023 and 2024 Chevrolet Tahoe crash-test impacts by the IIHS

2023 and 2024 Chevrolet Tahoe crash-test impacts by the IIHS

2023 and 2024 Chevrolet Tahoe crash-test impacts by the IIHS

2023 and 2024 Chevrolet Tahoe crash-test impacts by the IIHS

2023 and 2024 Chevrolet Tahoe crash-test impacts by the IIHS

The 2024 Chevrolet Tahoe earned an “Acceptable” rating in the small front overlap test that simulates a head-on collision with an oncoming vehicle or with a static object such as hitting a light pole. It’s a test that more than 90% of all new car models tested by the IIHS since 2021 have earned top “Good” ratings. 

The test measures airbag efficacy and intrusions into the cabin area, from the head down to the footwell. The Tahoe had more intrusion into the footwell that suggested a “substantial risk of lower leg injuries.” The safety agency funded by the insurance industry rated the Tahoe’s headlights as “Poor” for weak nighttime peripheral illumination and high glare. 

2024 Ford Expedition

2024 Ford Expedition

2024 Ford Expedition

2024 Ford Expedition

2024 Ford Expedition

2024 Ford Expedition

The 2024 Ford Expedition performed worse, earning a “Marginal” rating in the small front overlap test. The driver’s side curtain airbag did not deploy, the steering column detached, the A-pillars separated from the structure, and there was “excessive intrusion” into the driver’s side footwell. The Expedition’s headlights were rated at “Marginal” for similar reasons as the Tahoe. 

“Good headlights and effective pedestrian crash avoidance systems are especially important for larger vehicles, since their greater height and weight make them more dangerous than smaller cars for pedestrians and other road users,” the IIHS explained.

2024 full-size SUV crash-test results from the IIHS

2024 full-size SUV crash-test results from the IIHS

In another counter to expectations, none of the three SUVs tested earned a “Good” rating in protecting second-row occupants, which is a new test introduced last year by the IIHS. As more automakers have improved crash structures to the front cabin, the rear seat safety lagged behind even though historically it was the safer place to be in a crash. In the rear-seat tests, a dummy sized like a tween or a small woman sits behind the driver’s seat. Results showed a high risk of chest injuries in all three vehicles. The Tahoe added a high risk of head and neck injury, as well.  

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