The Ford Escape has very neatly “escaped” its 11-year boxy sport utility persona with a new-generation vehicle featuring three 4-cylinder engines including two performance-oriented fuel-efficient EcoBoost powerplants; a new athletic, aerodynamic look; and a well-controlled driving demeanor that belies its SUV stance.
The transformation is astounding, and we would say long overdue—long overdue if it wasn’t for the outgoing Escape’s sales success.
Hard to believe, but the outgoing Escape has maintained its lofty status as one of the best-selling SUVs in the country without major changes right up to its last day of production earlier this year.
It’s amazing that in 2011 the aging crossover outsold the Honda CR-V—the sales champ in recent years—with more than 254,000 units reaching customer’s hands. Even through the first four months of 2012, 76,000 units were sold, beating all competitors except the restyled CR-V.
The 2013 Escape promises enormous improvements and it delivers.
The new Escape is a world car—as many are these days—based on the Ford Kuga, a European compact crossover. Both share a platform with the current Ford Focus. The Escape takes on the new Ford family sculpted styling that graces the Focus and the smaller Fiesta.
It’s handsome from all angles, and 180 degrees from the Escape’s traditional SUV look that dates back to its inception in 2001.
The sleeker design is 10 percent more aerodynamic than the outgoing model, Ford says. If you like the traditional SUV look, however, you may be disappointed with the curvaceous 2013 Escape.
Ford officials say the SUV has 11 new features exclusive to the compact SUV segment. Among them are a hands-free power liftgate activated by a gentle kicking motion under the center of the rear bumper, allowing quick and easy access to the cargo area without having to set down packages or dig out keys, and Ford’s Active Park Assist for those who fear parallel parking.
Ford will continue to sell the carryover 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine developing 168 hp in the base model. But Ford estimates the base engine will account for only 10 percent of the mix, mostly used in fleet vehicles.
Better Performance, Fuel Economy
The big news is that Ford is offering a pair of its award-winning EcoBoost (turbocharged) engines that offer increased performance while achieving better fuel economy.
The engine that will probably get the most consideration is the 1.6-liter DOHC 4-cylinder with four valves per cylinder, producing 178 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A bigger EcoBoost engine puts some real muscle into the Escape, a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that pumps out 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. All three engines come with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
We think fuel economy is excellent considering the rather prodigious horsepower and torque. The 1.6-liter is rated at 23 city/33 highway in FWD mode and 22/30 with AWD. Move up to the bigger engine and the trade off in fuel economy for the increase in horsepower may be worth it for many owners—22/30 in FWD and 21/28 AWD.
We drove both EcoBoost engines in the San Francisco area in April and the power difference wasn’t that discernible on level roads, but it was noticeable on mountain grades.
We came away thinking that we could easily live with the smaller EcoBoost with its less expensive purchase price and its increased gas mileage. It never failed to adequately answer the call in a full range of driving situations. The price difference for the engines in comparably equipped vehicles in mid-level SE and SEL trim is $1,095.
For comparison purposes, the 2.0-liter has been measured from 0-to-60 in 6.8 seconds and the 1.6-liter in 8.5 seconds.
The Escape’s interior is well-done and it’s readily apparent that good materials were selected in both the upscale leather interior and the standard cloth. The instrument panel and center stack are first class, and lighting is crisp and clean. Mileage numbers on the digital IP readout are easily discernible, even from the passenger side.
There’s a lot of “haul” room in the new Escape with its flat-fold rear seating. With the seats down the cargo volume is 68.1 cubic feet behind the first row; 34.3 cubic feet behind the second.
Regardless of which of the top three trim levels you purchase—SE starting at $25,070, SEL at $27,870, or Titanium at $30,370—standard equipment abounds. But like most vehicles these days, the Escape can be loaded up well into the upper reaches of $30,000 territory.
Pick the vehicle that best fits your needs and pocketbook and we are convinced the new Escape will not disappoint.
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