2005 Ford Escape
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The 2005 version of the car-like Ford Escape should keep it the top-selling compact sport-utility vehicle, with revised styling, a more powerful base engine that replaces an anemic one and a bunch of other improvements.
The Escape is for those who want a roomy sport ute that isn't as truck-like or fuel-hungry as midsize sport utilities.
Ford pretty much ignored the 2004 model year with the Escape, so the new version arrives as an early 2005 model. It remains a 4-door SUV with a rear hatch that has a flip-up glass area.
There is slicker front styling, thanks to a new fascia with a restyled grille, integral fog lights and quad headlights with "jewel-effect" clear lenses. Also revised is the rear design.
Better Base Engine
A 200-horsepower V6 remains available and has been refined, with improved part-throttle response. (A hybrid gasoline-electric Escape is scheduled to arrive later this year.)
The new 4-cylinder engine increases towing capacity from 1,000 pounds to 1,500 pounds, while the V6 can handle up to 3,500 pounds.
More Transmission Choices
The larger 4-cylinder can handle the automatic fairly well, although acceleration only is lively with that combination to about 60 mph—and the 65-75 passing times on level roads are just average. The 4-cylinder Escape is quicker with the manual gearbox because that transmission absorbs less power, although steady 75 cruising is no problem with the base engine and automatic.
The V6 comes only with the responsive automatic, but that engine falls a few miles per gallon short of the 4-cylinder engine, which provides an estimated 22 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway with the automatic.
Two Drive Setups
The V6 is standard in the higher-line XLT and Limited trim levels, which start at $22,750 and end at $26,365. The 4-cylinder Escape XLS Escapes begin at $19,265 and go to $21,155—although watch for price hikes of several hundred dollars before summer sets in.
Move to the XLT and you get a power driver's seat and cruise control, besides the V6. The Limited adds leather upholstery, automatic headlights and special alloy wheels.
The car-like Escape has quick, accurate steering. The retuned all-independent suspension helps provide nimble handling and a good ride—although occupants still can feel larger bumps.
Improved brakes stop the Escape very quickly, although the pedal sometimes feels a bit touchy. Brakes have a new Assist feature, which recognizes hard braking and helps a driver apply maximum braking force for shorter stops.
Fairly Easy In and Out
The large windshield has front posts with big, convenient (especially for older folks) grab handles. Occupants sit high, with a good view of surroundings, and the driver's view isn't blocked to the sides or to the rear.
Much Needed Change
Front seats are more comfortable and stylish. They're also supportive, and there's plenty of room for up to five 6-footers. The rear-seat area provides more room than some midsize sport-utility vehicles.
Gauges in the new instrument cluster can be easily read, and controls work smoothly. The new center console has larger, conveniently located cupholders.
There's more sound insulation material and tighter sealing in the 2005 Escape, but some wind and road noise still are noticeable at highway speeds.
The cargo area opening is rather high. But it's also wide, with large pull-down areas on the inside of the hatch that make it easy to quickly slam shut. The entire split back seat easily flips forward to make room for considerably more stuff. There's 29 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats in their normal position and 66 cubic feet with the seat folded. The spare tire has been moved to under the floor from instead the cargo area for more load space.
With all the changes, the 2005 Escape is a better alternative than ever to larger truck-like sport-utility vehicles that are bulkier and consume more fuel.