Large SUVs Might Not Be As Safe As You Think

Gif: IIHS/ YouTube (<a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Fair Use;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Fair Use</a>)
Gif: IIHS/ YouTube (Fair Use)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just released new crash test results for three full-size, three-row SUVs — the Ford Expedition, Chevrolet Tahoe, and Jeep Wagoneer — and these family haulers had varied crash test performances. Full-size SUVs are popular choices due to their size and the perceived safety that comes with that size, but size alone doesn’t necessarily equate to safety in reality. The IIHS said the Expedition performed worse than 90 percent of all new vehicles in the small overlap crash tests, and the video reflects that.

The 2023-2024 Ford Expedition performed the worst out of the three SUVs the IIHS tested in this round of crash tests, with a particularly poor showing in the small overlap crash tests. In the video you can see the A-pillar peel away from the rest of the vehicle leaving the occupant exposed. This happened on both the driver’s side and the passenger side, earning the Expedition the IIHS’ second-lowest rating of Marginal for both driver and passenger side small overlap crashworthiness. The Expedition fared better in the other tests, though, with a great showing in pedestrian avoidance.

The 2023-2024 Chevrolet Tahoe performed slightly better than the Expedition in some tests, earning the IIHS’ second-highest rating of Acceptable in the small overlap test, despite the video looking a lot less intense than the Expedition’s. The Tahoe earned the worst rating of Poor for its headlight performance, an important aspect of nighttime road safety, and its pedestrian collision avoidance technology failed nighttime tests spectacularly, sending the child-sized dummy flying and earning the Tahoe a Marginal rating in the test. It also earned a Poor rating for the updated moderate overlap test that measures the safety of rear-seat occupants, with the dummy showing a high risk of head or neck injuries and chest injuries.


The 2023-2024 Jeep Wagoneer performed the best of these three big SUVs, earning a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS. It performed best in the small overlap crash test, earning the best rating of Good, and it had the best performing headlights. The Wagoneer didn’t keep rear seat occupants safe enough to earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating, though.

Before assuming that a vehicle is safe simply due to its size, check out its IIHS crash test ratings to make sure that your safety priorities are met. While heavier vehicles fare better in crashes with lighter vehicles, there are an infinite number of crash scenarios possible in the real world, so the full picture of vehicle safety is important to consider.

When approached for comment on their vehicles’ performance in this latest IIHS crash test, a Ford spokesperson said, “The 2023 and 2024 Expedition... is the only vehicle in the segment to achieve a five-star overall vehicle score in NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). 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.”

A General Motors spokesperson told us, “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. We value consumer metric ratings from IIHS and will look to incorporate these latest findings into our new vehicle designs.” Jeep issued a press release to celebrate the Wagoneer’s Top Safety Pick achievement, citing its pride in the work of its engineers. The Wagoneers performance in these crash tests proves that it’s not impossible to build a safe large SUV, but there’s always room for improvement, even for the Jeep.

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