Crash tests carried out by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) have become the accepted standard in the industry for measuring the level of safety offered by vehicle models.
Manufacturers take into account the agency’s standards when designing and constructing their vehicles, with the goal of earning its sought-after Top Safety Pick or – even better - Top Safety Pick Plus rating.
The fully renewed 2020 Ford Explorer was not able to get the best score on the IIHS’ driver-side small-overlap crash test, which tests the vehicle’s ability to protect occupants in a frontal collision where only 25% of the front end collides with an obstacle.
To Ford’s surprise, the SUV was unable to earn a Good rating. According to the IIHS, the structure held up well overall, and much better than the previous version of the Explorer. But it noted that there was too much intrusion into the driver’s side footwell after an impact, and gave the model an Acceptable rating. A Good rating is required to earn a Top Safety Pick designation.
The IIHS also noted issues with the headlights and gave the SUV an Acceptable rating there as well.
The Explorer’s twin over at Lincoln, the Aviator, did worse in some configurations (and with certain headlights) and better in others in the headlight test.
Ford has promised to take a look at why the Explorer did not perform better on the small-overlap test. Said the IIHS,
"Ford had expected the Explorer to earn a good rating in the driver-side small overlap test and said it would investigate why it didn't. The automaker plans to implement changes with the aim of improving the vehicle's performance for a future test."