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SAFETY | 8 out of 10
Five stars, frontal impact and side impact protection; three stars, rollover rating
Good," frontal offset impact; "acceptable," side impact
not all of the Ford Explorer's competitors can match the SUV's five-star front and side crash test ratings
When it comes to safety, Ford's engineers make the 2010 Ford Explorer a particularly safe vehicle, though its safety performance could be improved in some areas.
Last year's mechanically identical Ford Explorer was tested by both crash-test authorities in the United States, and the results are, for the most part, impressive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) subjected the Ford Explorer to its full range of crash tests and awarded it a perfect five-star rating for both driver and passenger protection during front impacts, as well as five stars for side impact protection on both sides of the vehicle.
The Ford Explorer also scores well with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which awards its highest rating, "good," for frontal offset impact protection. Unlike NHTSA, however, the IIHS bestows only its second-highest rating of "acceptable" for side impact protection. Nevertheless, Motor Trend observes, that "not all of the Ford Explorer's competitors can match the SUV's five-star front and side crash test ratings."
TheCarConnection.com's editors also note that Ford includes its Trailer Sway control system as standard to help keep trailers stable. Cars.com adds that "seat-mounted side-impact airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system and a five-level front-passenger sensing system" are all included, and "a 4-inch-thick foam block installed between the exterior and interior front-door panels helps manage side-impact forces on occupants' hips."
One safety aspect that shouldn't be ignored but is sometimes forgotten by automotive reviewers is driver visibility. On the Ford Explorer, ConsumerGuide warns that "outward visibility is hindered some by thick roof pillars, but the 2nd- and 3rd-row headrests fold to reduce obstruction." While the 2010 Ford Explorer doesn't offer a rear-facing camera, there are some aftermarket options available. Motor Trend also notes that the Explorer does have an optional "reverse sensing system" that should aid drivers during parking lot and towing maneuvers, but won't exactly help them see directly behind them.
The 2010 Ford Explorer might have a truck-based layout that’s no longer in favor, but Ford has done a good job keeping its safety features up to snuff.