Ford Explorer Crash-Test Rating Improves to Top Safety Pick

Liz Kim | Sep 18, 2020

It’s safe to say that most midsize 3-row SUVs are used for family-hauling duty. And when it comes to protecting the people you love, you want to try to give them the best chances of walking away from an accident by choosing a vehicle with the highest crash-test safety ratings.

2021 Ford Explorer Platinum Gray Rear View Cargo Space 

Lately, the Ford Explorer has struggled to deliver in this respect. In 2019, the previous-generation version of the SUV scored an unimpressive Marginal rating in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) small overlap frontal-impact test on the driver’s side and a dismal Poor rating for the same test on the front passenger’s side. The headlights also performed poorly.

Ford redesigned the Explorer for the 2020 model year, aiming to get top safety ratings with its new family SUV. However, the IIHS found that driver-side protection was not up to its Top Safety Pick standards. 

Ford, knowing how vital a Top Safety Pick rating is for a vehicle like the Explorer, wasted no time in finding a solution. The automaker reengineered the right and left front subframes and put the changes into production starting on June 1, 2020. These changes, and the production date, also apply to the foundationally identical 2020 Lincoln Aviator, a new model introduced for 2020.

After a re-test by the IIHS, the 2020 Explorer now earns the coveted Top Safety Pick+ designation, while the Lincoln Aviator gets a Top Safety Pick badge. The difference between the two lies in headlight performance. The Ford gets an Acceptable rating for its standard and available headlights. The Lincoln gets a Marginal rating for its base headlights. 

If you’re shopping for a 2020 Ford Explorer or 2020 Lincoln Aviator and you want one with the revised engineering and improved crash protection, make sure you check the small sticker on the vehicle’s door jamb, which should show the month and year of manufacture. 

For a 2020 version of either SUV, the magic date is June of 2020 or after that.

The information in this article is from the IIHS. It was accurate on September 17, 2020, but may have changed since that date.

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