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Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer flunk passenger-side crash test

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 (IIHS)

Two of the most popular crossover SUVs for families don't provide nearly the same protection for front-seat passengers as they do for drivers, the IIHS said Tuesday.

In its demanding passenger-side small-overlap crash test, the IIHS bestowed "Poor" ratings on the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2018 Ford Explorer. By comparison, the two crossover SUVs earned "Marginal" ratings when the same test, which replicates impact with a utility pole or a tree, was performed on the driver's side of the vehicle.

MORE: How to be sure you're buying an IIHS Top Safety Pick+

In the Explorer, the IIHS cited a poor crash structure incapable of withstanding the impact. In the test vehicle, the lower door hinge pillar intruded 15 inches into the cabin and the door sill moved 6 inches toward the passenger after the crash test. The Grand Cherokee's structure held up a little better, but the crash-test dummy's head contacted the dashboard through the frontal airbag, the side-impact airbag didn't deploy, and the door opened during the impact causing the dummy to move outside of the vehicle.

The insurance industry-funded safety group found better results—but still side-to-side discrepancies—in three other crossovers, the 2018 Toyota Highlander, 2018 Nissan Pathfinder, and 2018 Honda Pilot. All three vehicles earned "Acceptable" scores in the passenger-side test and "Good" scores in the driver-side test.

The IIHS called out the Pilot and said that the crash-test dummy's head hit the dashboard through the airbag.

Three crossover SUVs tested provided a similarly high level of protection for both the driver and the passenger. The 2019 Kia Sorento, 2018 VW Atlas, and 2018 GMC Acadia earned "Good" ratings. The Sorento was the only vehicle of the eight tested to earn a Top Safety Pick+ award—although that only applies to trims fitted with optional LED headlights that earn a "Good" rating in the IIHS' tests.

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