2009 Ford Escape

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Review: 2008 Ford Escape

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2012.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Popular Escape gets improvements and a more rugged look while retaining a user-friendly design.
Pros:
  • Improved styling
  • Nicer interior
  • More standard equipment
Cons:
  • Carryover engines
  • Occasional jittery ride
  • Dashboard reflections

The early 2008 Ford Escape was due for a complete overhaul, but the 2007 model was pretty good so Ford just gave the new version more rugged styling, nicer interior and additional features.

The Escape has been the top-selling small SUV since its 2001 arrival, with more than 1 million sold. Carried over from the 2007 version are a rigid structure, decent room for five tall occupants, a large cargo area and good roadability.

Engines also are carried over, as is a gasoline/electric hybrid version.

Passing for Crossover
The Escape looks like a tough SUV, but is small and comfortable enough to be called a crossover vehicle. It drives like a good crossover, with quick new steering, neutral handling balance, good braking and a ride that is firm but supple—although it gets a bit jittery on uneven freeway pavement.

The entry gasoline-engine XLS, midrange XLT and top-line Limited trim levels are offered with front- or all-wheel drive without low-range gearing. So is the gas/electric Hybrid version.

New Rugged Styling
Ford made the new Escape look more like its larger Explorer and Expedition. It has a raised beltline to give its profile a stronger proportion of sheet metal to glass. And sculpted body surfaces provide more of a "Ford Tough Truck" appearance. Ford also raised the hood to integrate the higher beltline and gave it a "reversed crease" design.

Headlights sweep up toward the corners of the Escape and surround a large new grille. Available 17-inch wheels further toughen the overall look.

New recessed channels in the roof panel improve airflow over the top of the Escape, and horizontal ribs in the roof strengthen the body structure and reduce interior noise. Additional isolation from wind and road noise is provided by thick new carpeting and an acoustic headliner on the inner roof.

Lower Sticker Prices
It can be tricky to figure sticker prices, but Ford says the new Escape has sticker prices that average $1,100 less than those for 2007 Escapes.

Base prices range from $18,580 for the front-wheel-drive XLS 4-cylinder version with a 5-speed manual gearbox to $26,825 for the all-wheel-drive Hybrid, which has a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).

The Limited V6 costs $23,580-$25,330, but the trim level expected to account for half of Escape sales is the $21,880 front-wheel-drive XLT V6.

The XLS also is available with a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the V6 only comes with that automatic. A more modern 5-speed automatic really should be offered.

Lazy Base Engine
The base 2.3-liter 153-horsepower 4-cylinder Escape has decent acceleration to 60 mph but is lazy above that speed, although steady high speed highway cruising isn't a problem.

The 3.0-liter 200-horsepower V6 delivers considerably better acceleration and lets the Escape tow up to 3,500 pounds, although the 65-75 mph passing time on highways is average. An engine with at least another 35 horsepower and more torque would be appreciated, especially if the Escape has a heavy load.

Surprisingly Fast Hybrid
The 155-horsepower Hybrid has lower rated horsepower than the gasoline V6, but benefits from the extra torque of an electric motor. It thus does 0-60 mph nearly as quickly as the Escape with the gasoline V6—and has surprisingly fast highway acceleration.

The Hybrid's transition between gas and electric operation was good, but has been made smoother for 2008.

Lower Estimated Economy
Stricter EPA-estimated fuel economy is lower for all 2008 vehicles, so the new Escape gets a few less estimated miles per gallon than the 2007 model. Still, it's no fuel hog.

The front-wheel-drive Escape 4-cylinder with the manual gearbox delivers an estimated 22 mpg in the city and 28 on highways. Figures with front-wheel drive and the automatic are 20 city and 26 highway—and 19 and 24 with all-wheel drive.

The Escape V6 front-wheel-drive version provides 18 city and 24 highway, or 17 and 22 with all-wheel drive, which usually lowers fuel economy.

Economy Champ
The Hybrid is the economy champ with its sophisticated 4-cylinder engine and 330V nickel-metal hydride battery. It provides 34 mpg in the city and 30 on highways with front-wheel drive and 29 and 27 with all-wheel drive. (Most gas/electric hybrids deliver higher city fuel economy because they can run a lot on battery power at low speeds in urban areas.

More Upscale Interior
The quieter, more comfortable interior looks more upscale and has additional features and new storage options.

There's a new uncluttered center console. And a "top-of-dash" level display in the dashboard shows radio functions, climate control readouts and ambient temperature. This new design puts key vehicle information in one place at the top of the dash to make it easier to reference when driving. But daytime reflections on dashboard gauge covers should be eliminated.

Upgraded Steering
Steering is newly upgraded with a speed-sensitive electric power assist system, and there are new second-row 60/40 fold-flat seats, new MP3 audio input jack, new front storage bin with power point and room for laptop storage—along with new 16-inch wheels.

All safety features now are standard. They include "safety canopy" side air curtains that provide head and neck protection, side-impact airbags, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure-monitor system and a traction/anti-skid control with a roll-stability control system (except for the Hybrid).

New options include dual electronic automatic temperature control, SIRIUS satellite radio, leather seats with a power driver's seat, sunroof, 17-inch wheels and a Limited Luxury Package with heated front seats, reverse sensing system and steering-wheel audio switches.

The 2008 Escape is more of an attractive buy than ever, although regular versions could use stronger gasoline engines.

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BB06 - 8/27/2014 6:05:17 AM