ESCAPE GETS A RE-DO
The new Ford Escape got off to a rocky start after it was introduced last spring. Early production models were recalled several times for one problem or another. However, Ford was able to correct these glitches, and the Escape went on to have a banner year in sales. Over 260,000 Escapes found new owners in 2012. A major reason for its success was that Ford completely redesigned the 2013 Escape giving it a stylish new body.
In contrast to the boxy appearance of the previous Escape, this latest model displays a sportier personality, with plenty of curves and sharp creases in the sheetmetal. A wide-mouth grille and prominent fender flares add some macho that was lacking in its predecessor.
Ford has always done a nice job with the interiors of Escapes, and the 2013 model carries on this tradition. The sculpted dash is finished in high-quality soft touch vinyl, and accented with piano black trim. The leather clad seats in my high-end test car sported contrasting stitching like you see on luxury imports.
Passengers have more than adequate room in the Escape. Those up front have chair-like seating, and a commanding view of the road. Most adults will find that sufficient head and legroom in the rear too. The cargo area behind the back seat measures 34.3 cubic-feet, which is competitive with others in this class. And a one-touch lever enables the rear seatbacks to fold flat for additional storage. New this year is an optional hands-free liftgate. Wave your foot under the bumper, and presto, the power door opens.
Escape buyers will find big changes in the engine selection for 2013. The three choices available are all four-cylinder. The V-6 is no longer offered. But not to worry, there is sufficient power with the four-bangers. The base engine is the revised 2.5-liter with 168 hp. However, most buyers will get the turbocharged 1.6-liter Ecoboost that generates 178 horses. Those seeking more oomph can opt for the Ecoboost turbo 2.0-liter that pumps out a solid 240. Gas mileage ranges between 24 mpg for the 2.5 to 28 mpg for the 1.6 in combined city/highway driving. All motors are hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Ford offers the Escape in four levels of trim, S, SE, SEL and Titanium. The S is the most basic, and is available only with the 2.5 engine. However, it does come standard with blind-spot warning and a six-speaker sound system. The SE will appeal to more buyers with amenities, like alloy wheels, satellite radio and the Sync voice-activation system. The SEL adds a touch of luxury with leather upholstery, heated front seats and MyTouchFord electronics. The Titanium goes even further with the 2.0-liter engine standard, as well as 19-inch wheels and keyless entry/start.
Some buyers, especially those who are downsizing their ride, want the latest high-tech options. Ford accommodates them with features, such as a navigation system with backup camera, voice activated controls and an automated parallel parking system. This last feature works surprisingly well, but requires an act of faith to use the first time.
Reading the specs on the new Escape, I had high expectations for its driving dynamics. This latest model is based on the Ford Focus, which handles well and delivers a firm, but comfortable ride. However, something got lost in translation to the Escape. This crossover is okay in normal driving, but it doesn’t feel as sure-footed when you have to make a quick lane-change. The Escape feels a little unsteady, rocking from side to side. As for the ride, it’s fine on smooth freeways, but not very compliant on uneven pavement. Hopefully, Ford will make some suspension tweaks down the line.
Pricing for the Escape starts at a reasonable $23,295 for the S model with front-wheel drive, but can zip up to $32,945 for the Titanium with AWD. My test car, a Titanium with nearly $2,700 in options, had a hefty bottom line of $35,630.
Fuel Efficient Engines
Loads of Features
Disappointing Handling and Ride