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Aug 10, 2004 | New York Post

Ford Explorer SUVs are the vehicles most likely to roll over in a sharp turn or other abrupt maneuver, according to a new study.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study of 2004 model vehicles including cars, SUV and vans showed that three different Ford Explorer models have nearly a 28 percent chance of landing on their sides when the driver turns the wheel sharply.

The Explorer Sport Trac two-wheel drive was slammed as the vehicle most prone to rollover, with a likelihood of 34.8 percent.

It was given only two stars out of a possible five.

Another Explorer, the four-door, two-wheel drive version, was tied for second worst among the SUVs studied.

It was given three stars and a 28.3 percent chance of flipping tied with the Mercury Mountaineer, GMC Yukon and the Chevy Tahoe.

Safety experts concluded years ago that SUVs are more prone to roll than passenger vehicles in single-car crashes.

But this year for the first time, the NHTSA assigned a percentage risk for rollover in addition to its star ratings, which are based on a mathematical calculation of the vehicle's measurements and a road test including very sharp turns.

Ford is countering the study's claims by saying private studies show the Explorer models perform the same or better than other SUVs.

"We're trying to work through the data and see how NHTSA's applying these numbers," said Ford spokeswoman Kristen Kinley.

"While we believe the NHTSA rating system has some value, we don't believe it's a good indicator of how a vehicle performs in the real world."

The Chrysler Pacifica topped the list as the highest rated SUV. It was given four stars and a calculated 13 percent chance of rolling over.

The only vehicle to be awarded five stars was the Mazda RX-8 passenger car which has a mere 8 percent chance of flipping.

The highest-rated van was the Nissan Quest. It has only a 12.1 percent chance of rolling over and was given four stars.

Rollovers represent a quarter of all traffic deaths, which rose to 43,000 in 2003, statistics show.

Rollover deaths in SUVs rose by 10 percent to 2,700 in 2003, according to government figures.

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