The SUV's image of ruggedness has suffered another blow. In a test of bumper strength at a mere 5 mph, eight of nine new SUV models failed miserably, some suffering damage that would cost up to $2,800 to repair. "The manufacturers of these SUVs try to create a rough-and-tough image for them, but their bumpers are flimsy," says Adrian Lund of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which performed the tests. "Vehicles shouldn't sustain major damage in a minor collision at a fast walking speed."
Still popular with American car buyers, SUVs have also proved to be vulnerable to rollover and a particular threat to other cars in collisions, to say nothing of their gas-guzzling tendencies. Now we learn that they don't even live up to their rugged names - such as 4Runner, Rodeo and Pathfinder - in a low-speed meeting with a pole. Each of those models (and many others) rated "poor" in their IIHS bumper ratings, and no mid-size SUV has earned the highest rating of "good" for bumper strength. Everyone pays for that shortcoming, of course, through higher insurance rates. Automakers should divert some of their formidable marketing resources into making a bumper that can survive a bump.