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The IIHS has recently released the latest Top Safety Picks for 2023. There are many familiar vehicles to make the list, such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, and the Subaru Outback. There was only one Ford to make the cut this year, however, and it may not be the one you expect.

A white 2023 Ford Explorer Hybrid, which is the best hybrid Ford, parked close to a pier.
2023 Ford Explorer | Ford Media Center

What is the Top Safety Pick?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) spends a lot of time and money wrecking cars and then giving them a grade based on how well they hold up. Dummies are often involved in an effort to see how wrecks would impact human passengers. Earning a Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick+ is a huge deal in the auto world, and is often the determining factor in whether some consumers purchase a vehicle or not.

U.S. News reports, “To earn a Top Safety Pick award, a new vehicle must earn ratings of Good in all IIHS crash tests, including the passenger-side small overlap front test (a new addition for 2020). The vehicle also needs to earn an Advanced or Superior rating for front crash prevention and a score of Acceptable or Good for its headlight performance.” 

The news site went on to explain, “Top Safety Pick+ award winners have to ace all of the tests, with scores of Good across the board. This includes the difficult passenger-side small overlap front test.”

The Ford Explorer earned a Top Safety Pick

The 2023 Ford Explorer was awarded the Top Safety Pick for the midsize SUV category from IIHS. It received a score of good in each of the crashworthiness categories, and a score of acceptable for the headlights and LATCH ease of use. 

Unfortunately, the Explorer earned a poor score for seat belt reminders from the IIHS. Other factors that helped bring the Explorer’s score down included a moderate foot injury on one of the dummies. The airbags did an excellent job of protecting the dummy’s head from injury.

The NHTSA isn’t quite so forgiving of the 2023 Explorer, however, because it keeps getting slapped with recalls. Some of the most recent include a pickup fuel recall. This doesn’t seem to have affected the IIHS scores, which focus mostly on how vehicles hold up in a wreck as opposed to being driven daily. 

The 2017 Explorer just narrowly avoided another recall involving the exhaust system. It has long been expected that some Explorers are filling cabins with high levels of carbon monoxide. This was highly alarming, and the NHTSA did a thorough investigation. 

This mainly applied to the Explorer Police Inceptor model used by several law enforcement agencies. While it was determined that carbon monoxide was leaking into the cabin, it wasn’t at a high enough level to set off alarms. 

While this doesn’t seem to be an issue for the 2023 model, there’s no denying that it is drawing quite a bit of negative attention due to the growing list of recalls.

The Ford Explorer was not alone

There were eight midsize SUVs to make the list. Two, including the Ford Explorer, earned the Tops Safety Pick, while the rest were Top Safety Pick+. 

The 2023 Mazda CX-9 was awarded the Top Safety Pick. The midsize SUVs which earned a Top Safety Pick+ award include the 2023 Volkswagen ID.4, Toyota Highlander, Subaru Ascent, Nissan Pathfinder, Kia Telluride, and the Hyundai Palisade.

Even though the Explorer didn’t manage to get the Top Safety Pick+, it’s still a highly rated vehicle amongst some critics. The recalls are cause for alarm, however, so if you’re interested in buying a 2023 Ford Explorer, proceed with caution.


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