These big, thirsty SUVs don’t rate well for safety

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Drivers of big, gas-guzzling SUVs may feel safer towering over other vehicles, but that isn’t necessarily the case, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The IIHS on Thursday released safety ratings for three full-size SUVs. The Jeep Wagoneer received a Top Safety Pick award (one level below the highest Top Safety Pick+), but the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition received mixed ratings for crashworthiness, headlights, and collision-avoidance tech.

“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.”

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

Indeed, while the Wagoneer received the highest “Good” rating in the IIHS’ small overlap front crash test, the Tahoe and Expedition were rated “Acceptable” and “Marginal,” respectively. Both the Wagoneer and Expedition were rated “Marginal” in the updated moderate overlap front test, while the Tahoe was rated “Poor”—the lowest possible rating. All three SUVs received a “Good” rating in the side crash test, however.

The Wagoneer’s headlights were rated “Acceptable” or “Good,” depending on trim level. The Tahoe and Expedition headlights were rated “Poor” and “Marginal,” respectively, regardless of trim level. The Tahoe also received a “Marginal” rating for front-crash prevention tech, with the IIHS noting that its pedestrian-collision avoidance system “faltered in the dark.”

The entire gasoline Tahoe lineup gets 16 or 17 mpg combined, according to the EPA. The Ford Expedition lineup gets 17-19 mpg combined, while the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer return 16-20 mpg combined, depending on the version. Both of the latter two offer turbo six-cylinder engines while the GM SUVs go with bigger V-8s.

None of these models is available as a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, let alone an EV, although General Motors is reportedly rushing development of a new generation of plug-in hybrid pickups that could open the door for a future Tahoe plug-in hybrid (the Tahoe is based on the underpinnings of GM’s full-size trucks).

2024 Ford Expedition

2024 Ford Expedition

Meanwhile, earlier this week the 2024 Volkswagen ID.4 earned the IIHS’ next-best Top Safety Pick award. That makes the list of top-rated EVs even more diverse. Even with tougher requirements this year, the Genesis Electrified G80, Hyundai Ioniq 6, and Tesla Model Y received the highest Top Safety Pick+ award. In addition to the ID.4, the Audi Q4 e-tron and Q8 e-tron, Genesis Electrified GV70, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Lexus RZ, Nissan Ariya, Rivian R1T and R1S, and Subaru Solterra were named 2024 IIHS Top Safety Picks.

Extra weight can be a problem for EVs too, though. The IIHS has warned that weight is more of a concern for EV safety than fires. And a University of Nebraska-Lincoln study published earlier this year found that some EVs are too heavy for U.S. guardrails.

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