Jeep Says Wrangler Flip in IIHS Crash Test Was ‘Anomalous’ After Bronco Performs Better

The IIHS says the Wrangler actually flipped twice—once while using an FCA-approved method.​​​​

byChris Tsui|
Jeep News photo

Coke vs Pepsi. Batman vs Superman. Charmin vs Cottonnelle. There have been many classic rivalries over the years, but one that's got our attention these days is between the new Ford Bronco and Jeep Wrangler. Instead of off-road capability or on-road drivability, however, we're here to talk about crash tests for the two of 'em.

Particularly, the driver-side small overlap crash test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It involves ramming the corner of each vehicle at 40 mph into a five-foot-tall barrier. The Bronco does alright, keeping its passenger cell intact as well as all four wheels on the ground, earning a "Good" rating. Its Jeep-built rival, however, didn't fare quite as well. The Wrangler does a comparable job of keeping its passenger compartment protected by the initial impact but, unlike the Ford, is then lifted up and flipped onto its side. Not ideal.

Mainly because of the tip-over, the Jeep scored a marginal rating for this one. 

"The 2019 Jeep Wrangler 4-door actually performed quite well in the driver-side small overlap crash test by the normal metrics that we use to issue a rating," an IIHS spokesperson told The Drive. "This includes structural intrusion, dummy injury measures, and restraint performance. However, ratings can be downgraded for certain post-crash events. These include things like fuel leaks, a door opening, or, in this case, the Wrangler tipping onto its passenger side."

A tendency to tip over is never a good thing, regardless of the type of vehicle. But this rings especially true of off-roaders like the Bronco and Wrangler, which both come from the factory with removable doors and can sometimes find themselves in situations like this:

The IIHS notes that the marginal rating only applies to the four-door Wrangler from model years 2018 to 2021; the 2022 Wrangler apparently consists of changes that may help it do better. A crash test of that model is apparently upcoming.

When we contacted Jeep to ask whether or not the 2022 Wrangler consists of any relevant safety enhancements (and to explain the tip-over), a spokesperson didn't point out any specific fixes. Instead, they explained, "In keeping with our corporate strategy of continuous vehicle improvement, the 2022 Jeep Wrangler is benefiting accordingly. The new Wrangler has yet to be tested by IIHS. But no single test is a determinant of vehicle safety. We routinely monitor third-party evaluations and factor them accordingly into our product-development process. We design our vehicles using real-world data. Consistently strong consumer demand and industry-leading residual values demonstrate that Wrangler meets or exceeds customer expectations."

As for the tip-over, the company claims that the results were not representative of how the Wrangler performs in the real world. 

"These results were anomalous," the spokesperson told The Drive. "We have produced more than 873,000 of these vehicles. By conservative estimate, they have accounted for more than 13.1 billion miles of driving. From this population, we are unaware of any incidents that correlate with the vehicle dynamic portion of the IIHS small-overlap crash simulation. Notwithstanding, the vehicle provided 'good' protection—the highest-possible IIHS rating—in each of the injury metrics associated with small-overlap ..."

This is in spite of the IIHS actually having tested the Wrangler twice. The second test was conducted using a different, Fiat Chrysler-approved method after the automaker "questioned whether this outcome was related to the method that IIHS engineers had used to attach the vehicle to the crash propulsion system." The Wrangler flipped onto its side both times.

When we reached out to Ford for insight, the company declined to comment, simply stating, "We don’t have anything further to add. The video speaks for itself."

In fairness to Jeep, the Wrangler scored "Good" ratings in all of the specific driver injury measures related to this test while the Bronco was rated as "Marginal" when it comes to driver lower leg/foot injuries. Also key is that both off-roaders, in fact, leave notable room for improvement when it comes to safety, with the IIHS rep saying, "The [Bronco] came up short in our head restraints test, earning only an acceptable rating, which is pretty rare for a 2021 model year vehicle. Both vehicles have subpar headlights."

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