2013 Ford Escape

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2013 Ford Escape Review

By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.2

Bottom Line:

Ford jumps from also-ran to front-runner in the compact SUV market with the all-new 2013 Escape. Good economy, ample power, sporty handling and plenty of amenities are reasons to consider it.
Pros:
  • All-new and feature rich
  • Great combination of power and economy
  • Spry compact-SUV handling
Cons:
  • Tall cowl hinders forward view
  • Not loud, but not the quietest SUV
  • “Cell phone” dash styling

The Ford Escape has had a good run. Since its introduction in 2000 as a 2001 model, the Escape has been one of America's best-selling compact SUVs. Why? It combined the styling and four-wheel-drive capability of a traditional SUV with the size, practicality and driving characteristics of a midsize car. Plus, it was priced right for the weekend warrior looking for something that was fun to drive and capable of some light off-roading or towing.

But it has been five years of unrelenting competition in the compact sport utility market since the Escape was last refreshed. Consequently, the vehicle is no longer a leader among the small utes. Instead, it's near the bottom of the pack.

Enter the all-new 2013 Escape. Starting with the modern Ford Focus platform, Ford has built a vehicle bristling with features, offering sporty handling, great power and such impressive fuel economy that the hybrid model has been discontinued.

But will it put the Escape back on top?

Model Lineup
Ford offers the 2-row, 5-passenger Escape in four trims: S, SE, SEL and Titanium. The entry-level S is comfortably outfitted with soft-touch materials throughout the front of the cabin, a nice base sound system, tilt and telescoping steering, backlit instruments, repeater stereo controls in the steering wheel and a host of safety features. It is available only with the carryover 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive powertrain.

The SE and SEL trims are the mainstream Escapes and carry the 1.6-liter inline-4 engine as standard and the turbocharged 2.0-liter option as an option. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. Generally, the difference between the two trims is the amount of standard luxury and conveniences. But many buyers will find the SE's 17-inch wheels, urethane steering wheel, cloth seats and standard Ford Sync communications just right for daily chores.

SEL buyers step up to standard 10-way power-adjustable and heated leather seating, 18-inch wheels, heated exterior mirrors with puddle lights, ambient lighting and MyFord Touch electronics, among other niceties. Expect keyless entry, pushbutton starting and 9-speaker sound in these models as well.

Naturally, the Titanium offers everything as standard, including high-definition radio and Sony-branded audio, remote starting, and a power liftgate, along with the usual chrome trim and premium 19-inch wheels.

Under the Hood
This all-new third-generation Escape boasts significant powertrain and chassis upgrades. There is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 168-horsepower 4-cylinder engine listed as the base Escape engine. But Ford didn't bother bringing it the press event and it is clearly for the price-above-all buyer.

More interesting is the pair of EcoBoost 4-cylinder engines: the 1.6-liter 178-horsepower and 2.0-liter 240-horsepower powerplants. "EcoBoost" is Ford-speak for their combination of variable-cam timing, direct fuel injection and turbocharging, a synergy of technologies that delivers both exciting power and fuel economy.

All Escapes feature 6-speed automatic transmissions with center-console shifters. A rocker switch on the side of the shifter gives full manual control over the gearbox in lieu of paddle shifters — that steering column real estate is preserved for the Escape's audio and telematics.

The AWD system is fully automatic, integrated into the stability control and transparent to the driver. It normally powers the front wheels, but computer controls automatically shuttle up to 100 percent power to the rear tires if the fronts slip. There is no low-range gearing; the system is designed for use on pavement in inclement weather.

Inner Space
Given the furious competition in the compact SUV/crossover market, Ford has worked hard to provide as premium an interior as possible while holding costs in line.

The basics are all there. Adults fit just fine in the rear if the front-seaters cooperate; children are the main consideration for the somewhat upright second row. There are also a few hard edges in the rear pew, but overall the Escape interior is well executed in base trim, and it's definitely luxe in the higher models. Customers will enjoy the good headroom, contrast stitching and general refinement in the typical SE and SEL Escape.

The seats have a noticeable dish to their backsides, which provides good lateral support without hindering ingress or egress, or lounging on long trips.

In the SE trim we inspected there were adequate cupholders in the front and rear console or flip-down armrest, plus two 12-volt outlets, one audio input and a USB port, all in the center storage compartment. Expect powerful single-zone air conditioning in SE Escapes and dual-zone air conditioning in the SEL. Likewise, all Escapes have a small information screen far atop the dash, while the up-graded models add a navigation screen in mid-dash.

Shorter drivers mentioned that the center-stack controls felt a bit distant. However, many are repeated on the steering wheel so that's a moot complaint. And with the Escape's tall cowl, the dashboard is somewhat vertical; even tall drivers may not see the front fenders.

On the Road
"Sporty," surprisingly, describes the Escape's driving dynamics. The electric power steering is a touch numb but precise, and best of all, the lighter 4-cylinder engines greatly aid handling. The Escape feels more nimble and sure-footed than expected; midsize SUVs such as the also-new Ford Explorer feel ponderous by comparison. A host of electronic aids, plus the optional AWD, mean the good handling should be there in emergencies and bad weather, too.

Power is abundant with either of the EcoBoost 4-cylinder engines. The 2.0-liter is torquier, quieter and clearly the choice for full passenger loads and especially towing, but the 1.6-liter is quicker than expected. For general duty, the 1.6-liter in lighter FWD trim is likely the better choice. There's a touch more mechanical noise with the 1.6-liter, but nothing objectionable.

Turbo lag is nearly nonexistent and only the most mechanically inclined can sense these are 4-and not 6-cylinder engines.

For a compact SUV the rocker-switch manual gear selector works well. It requires more effort than paddle-shifting, but never gets "lost" to your fingers during tight turns requiring steering-wheel movement. It's a boon for downhill speed control, or for eliminating all lag from the turbo or excessive shifting when charging through tight, twisting roads.

The tall Escape, with its fairly firm ride, handles more like a sedan than an SUV, and coupled with the turbo power really does feel sporty.

Fuel economy is rated at 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway for the FWD 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline 4-cylinder engine, and 22/30 mpg for the 2.0-liter engine. The basic 2.5L Duratec inline-4 gets 22/31 mpg.

Right for You?
Compact SUVs and crossovers are experiencing "feature creep" with its corresponding price rises, and the new Escape follows the trend. But it's squarely in the game, with the following base prices: S ($22,470), SE ($25,070), SEL ($27,870) and Titanium ($30,370).

A nicely equipped SE FWD with 1.6-liter power is representative at $27,950 as we inspected it. That includes destination charge, navigation, HD radio, MyFord Touch and a 110-volt outlet.

Considering the Escape's combination of new design, excellent power, good fuel economy, generous features and widespread availability, it's definitely a must-consider compact SUV.

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BB03 - 7/22/2014 11:10:43 AM