Both the 2020 Ford Explorer and 2020 Lincoln Aviator are not currently eligible for either the Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick Plus awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety after receiving a lower score than required in the driver-side small overlap front crash test. Both vehicles are rated as acceptable — on a scale of good, acceptable, marginal or poor — after crash tests showed a higher risk of injury to the driver’s left leg.
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IIHS points out that this is still an improvement over the previous-generation Explorer’s rating in that crash test — the last generation received a marginal rating — but unless Ford makes changes to the Explorer, it will receive neither crashworthiness honor.
To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a vehicle must earn a rating of good in five crashworthiness tests — driver-side small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints and seats — and an acceptable rating in the passenger-side small overlap front test. It must also receive an advanced or superior rating for available front crash prevention technology — on a scale of advanced, superior or basic — and an acceptable or good score in headlight testing. For a Top Safety Pick Plus designation, a vehicle needs ratings of good in all crashworthiness tests, as well as in headlight tests, and an advanced or superior rating for any available front crash prevention tech.
The 2020 Explorer and Aviator (Lincoln is Ford’s luxury division) had not yet been rated in the passenger-side small overlap front test, a test with which the previous Explorer also struggled, receiving a poor rating. On all other crashworthiness tests, both vehicles receive a good rating and both receive a superior rating for both the standard and available front crash prevention technology. In headlight testing, 2020 Explorers built after June 2019 receive an acceptable rating, while the Aviator receives a marginal rating for its standard headlights and a good rating for its optional curve-adaptive LED headlights.
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Given the importance of the Explorer and Aviator for Ford and Lincoln, it’s possible both will receive structural updates to improve both vehicles’ crash-test ratings. Other brands like Jeep and Cadillac have recently made changes to vehicles like the Renegade and XT6, respectively.
Competitors for each vehicle include numerous Top Safety Pick Plus and Top Safety Pick designees. For the Explorer, Top Safety Pick Plus designees include the 2020 Hyundai Palisade, 2019 Subaru Ascent and 2019 Mazda CX-9, while the 2020 Kia Telluride, 2019 Toyota Highlander, 2019-20 Nissan Pathfinder and 2019-20 Honda Pilot are Top Safety Picks. The 2019 BMW X5 and both the 2019 and redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class are Top Safety Pick Plus recipients, and the 2020 Cadillac XT6, 2020 Lexus RX and 2019 Volvo XC90 are Top Safety Picks.
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