A video released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows a current-generation Jeep Wrangler Unlimited rolling onto its side after a small front overlap crash test. The slow-motion video reveals the driver side front axle collapsing, shoving the wheel under the Jeep, before the off-roader eventually rolls onto its passenger side.
The IIHS small front overlap test sends the subject vehicle at 40 mph towards a five-foot-high rigid barrier. This crash evaluation highlights one of the worst-case-scenarios for vehicles in a head-on collision, as the crash impacts only 25 percent of the vehicle’s front. Wranglers are built with off-road capability in mind, and their lack of a front overhang means there’s less crumple zone in precisely this kind of impact.
While the test dummy appeared to have been well restrained by the seat belt and airbags, being on your side at the end of a crash is, well, suboptimal. That’s especially true in a vehicle designed with a removable roof and doors, where ejection is a real risk. The Wrangler received “Good” ratings in preventing driver head/neck, chest, hip/thigh, and lower leg/foot injuries in the small frontal offset test, but the resulting roll to its side earned it an overall “Marginal” rating for small frontal offset.
The IIHS uses Good, Acceptable, Marginal, and Poor rating to give each vehicle it tests a report card on crash performance. The new Wrangler earned a “Good” overall evaluation on the moderate overlap front crash testing, roof strength test, and side-impact test. The only blemishes there were an “Acceptable” rating for driver torso protection and a “Marginal” rating for rear passenger head protection, both during side-impact. The IIHS noted, “The dummy’s head was hit by the window frame and C-pillar. This impact did not produce high head injury measures, but the head protection is insufficient.”
The only “Poor” scores in the Jeep test were on both the halogen and LED headlights.
Will this test result dissuade shoppers from buying the popular 4×4? It seems that Wrangler buyers realize that there are compromises that come with driving a solid-axle vehicle with high ground clearance. The previous-generation JK Wrangler also received “Marginal” ratings from the IIHS, although it was in the side-impact and head restraint categories, so the current JL appears to have made some ground. This may just be the excuse JL owners use to justify upgrading their factory axles and aluminum spindles.