Full-size pickups maybe popular, but despite their size, they may not be as safe as they look.
At least not when it comes to crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
The 2016 Ford F-150 SuperCab was the only full-size pickup to earn a top Good rating in IIHS small overlap front crash tests.
This was the first time the IIHS used small overlap crash testing to look at both crew cab and extended cab body styles across automakers, and the agency found differences.
For example, double-cab versions of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500, GMC Sierra 1500 and Toyota Tundra earned Acceptable (second-best) ratings, but crew cab versions of the same trucks earned lower Marginal ratings.
That’s in part because the IIHS says the crew cab models experienced significant intrusion into the cabin, which “compromised survival space.”
Both Quad Cab and Crew Cab versions of the Ram 1500 received Marginal ratings in the small overlap test.
The IIHS is funded by insurers, and the small-overlap crash test is meant to show what happens to a vehicle and its occupants when the front corner of something strikes an object, be that another vehicle or something stationary like a wall or tree.
In general, automakers have been challenged by this test due to potential cockpit intrusions.
The Ford F-150 earned an IIHS “Top Safety Pick” nod thanks to the Good rating. That makes it the only truck from this batch to get that designation.
Ford credits 31 new safety innovations, including improved structures and simulated testing methods using supercomputers.
“We spent thousands of hours engineering, designing and developing multiple safety features that work together in the event of an accident,” Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president for global product development, said in a statement.
A Toyota spokeswoman told Automotive News that the Toyota trucks tested by the IIHS meet or exceed federal safety standards. “We are evaluating the test results with the goal of finding new ways to continuously improve the performance of Toyota trucks and to further enhance the safety of our vehicles,” she wrote to the outlet in an email.
Testing of extended cab trucks began after the IIHS found out that the Ford F-150 had crash-protection designs and features not available on other models.
After testing last year lead to Marginal small overlap test ratings, Ford added crash protections such as wheel-blocker assemblies and reinforced rocker panels and door-hinge pillars to regular cab and SuperCab F-150s for the 2016 model year.
“Ford is leading the way among large pickup manufacturers when it comes to protecting people in a range of crashes and offering technology to warn drivers of imminent frontal crashes,” Raul Arbelaez, vice president of the IIHS’ Vehicle Research Center, said in a statement. “We commend Ford for taking last year’s test results to heart and upgrading protection for SuperCab occupants in small overlap crashes.”
Cockpit intrusions can cause injuries to feet and legs, or cause them to be trapped. The F-150 was the only truck that was able to prevent those types of “moderate to severe” intrusions during testing. The competitors’ trucks didn’t fare as well, as the IIHS said “serious” lower-leg injuries could result.
“Drivers in these pickups would need help freeing their legs from the wreckage following a small overlap crash,” Arbelaez said in a statement.
The Ram fared the worst, with up to 17 inches of intrusion in both body styles. The instrument panel, the A-pillar and the steering column were all pushed back toward the driver.
The current Ram 1500 launched in 2012, which was the first year of the small overlap test, the competitors are all newer. Ram parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said last year that it would follow in Ford’s footsteps when it came to crash protection.
“Our vehicles are designed for real-world performance, and no single test determines overall, real-world vehicle safety,” a FCA spokesman said in a statement to Automotive News. “Every FCA US vehicle meets or exceeds all applicable motor-vehicle safety standards.”