Jeep Wrangler Crash-Test Rollover Nets Marginal Safety Rating

Jack R. Nerad | May 08, 2020

The current-generation Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4-door has received a "Marginal" safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the driver’s side small overlap frontal-impact crash test. In two of the three tests monitored or conducted by the nonprofit organization, the Wrangler tipped over onto its right side after striking the barrier on the front left corner of the Jeep.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Sahara with the top off

At the same time, according to the IIHS, the popular Wrangler performed well in the normal metrics used to evaluate occupant protection in the test. Structurally, the Wrangler deflected crash energy to limit intrusion into the driver's space, and the restraint systems properly controlled the crash-test dummy's movements during the collision.

But, the IIHS said in a statement, "The partial rollover presents an additional injury risk beyond what the standard criteria are intended to measure. A vehicle tipping onto its side is not an acceptable outcome for a frontal crash, and as a result, the Wrangler's overall rating was downgraded to Marginal."

The response from Jeep's parent company, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), regarding the Jeep Wrangler crash-test scores was direct. "FCA has produced more than 500,000 of these vehicles. By conservative estimate, they have accounted for 6.7 billion miles of on-road driving. From this population, we are unaware of any incidents that correlate with the vehicle dynamic portion of the IIHS test result," the response said in part.

The iconic Jeep Wrangler, the brand's signature model, was completely redesigned for 2018. The previous generation Wrangler earned a "Good" rating in the small overlap frontal-impact test. 

To assess new Jeep Wrangler safety, the crash-test evaluation process included three separate driver’s side small overlap tests. One was conducted by FCA as part of the Institute's verification test program and two more were conducted at the IIHS vehicle research center. In both tests conducted by the IIHS, the Wrangler rolled onto its passenger’s side after striking the test barrier. In the test that FCA submitted, the Wrangler did not tip over.

In its report on the Marginal rating, the IIHS said "rollovers — even partial ones like those that occurred in the Wrangler tests — are especially dangerous crashes, in part due to the risk of complete or partial ejection." It added this was of "particular concern in the Wrangler, which has a roof and doors that can be removed."

In other IIHS Jeep Wrangler crash-test ratings, the SUV rates as "Good" in the moderate overlap frontal impact, side impact, roof strength, and head restraint evaluations. Its optional automatic emergency braking system, which enables the Wrangler to avoid collisions at speeds between 12 and 25 mph, got a "Superior" rating. But the IIHS gives the Wrangler a "Poor" rating for both its base halogen headlights and premium LED projector headlights.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing losses from motor vehicle crashes. In comparison to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA’s) 5-Star Safety Ratings, which also involve the crash-testing of vehicles, IIHS tests are not federally mandated. In NHTSA testing, Jeep Wrangler crash-test scores include 4-star-rated frontal impact protection and a 3-star rollover resistance rating.

The IIHS small offset frontal-impact crash test of the Wrangler came as one of several audit tests the organization makes on some vehicles to help ensure the integrity of the program. In its first audit test the Wrangler tipped over. After FCA questioned the validity of the test, IIHS conducted a second test using a different method approved by FCA. In that second test, the vehicle also tipped onto its side.

In its statement, FCA said, "The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited meets or exceeds all federal safety standards and continues to win acclaim from news organizations and consumer groups."

The information in this article came from the IIHS, the NHTSA, and FCA. It was accurate as of May 7, 2020 but may have changed since that date. Always consult the latest information before making a decision about this vehicle.

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