Ford came to market late with the first-generation Escape, which followed Japanese benchmarks like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. But when it came, it came to dominate.
Escape rode on a car-based crossover chassis, but looked like a scaled down Explorer. It was the perfect Ford SUV for the urban environment or a high-MPG alternative to traditional wagons. A mid-cycle facelift, integration of SYNC, and available hybrid powertrain kept it popular for over a decade.
The coolest feature is the automatic parallel parking system. I’m pretty good at parallel parking, but the Escape is much better.
Now, a European-influenced second-generation smartly breaks away from boredom.
Gone is the “two boxes on wheels” profile of the original Escape, replaced by a sleek multi-faceted design influenced by European Fords like the Focus and Fiesta with a hint of Explorer in the wrap-around tail lamps.
Ford claims the new model is 10 percent more aerodynamic than the outgoing edition. I’d say, at least. The sportier look is more dynamic and visually ties the crossover to other Ford products.
Sitting inside, you immediately notice the big expanse of windshield and a convergence of curves and angles at every point. It’s a bit busy, but feels like a starship command center.
Fortunately, everything is easy to use and there is a noticeable attention to detail. The shifter glides through its notches easily. Our test car came with heated leather seats, thick leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB, deep cupholders, and high-up seating for five.
SYNC with MyFord Touch lets you manage the climate, navigation, communications, and entertainment functions through voice, steering wheel buttons, or touchscreens.
My past experiences with SYNC left utter frustration when it refused to execute basic commands, but the new version is better. Just think like a computer. Much easier to use is the sensor under the rear bumper that allows owners to wave their foot beneath and raise the tailgate electrically with hands full.
Moving inside and hitting the gas reveals bigger changes.
Last year’s engine choices are gone; there are no longer V6 and Hybrid options. The base powertrain is comprised of a 168 hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder connected to a SelectShift automatic 6-speed transmission.
Drivers can step to either the available 240 hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine or 178 hp 1.6-liter EcoBoost-four. Making those engines a delight is a turbo that delivers plenty of smooth, low-end torque that translates into a satisfying driving experience without burning excessive fossils.
The 1.6-liter EcoBoost and 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engines come with active grille shutters that divert airflow and improve mileage when not needed for engine cooling. All three engines achieve over 30-MPG Hwy.
Beyond its tight four-wheel independent suspension, the Escape is even more sophisticated under the skin.
Using 25 sensors, the available all-wheel-drive system analyzes inputs like wheel speed, accelerator position, and steering angle to determine where the driver wants to go and how to best execute his or her demands.
It can add and subtract torque as needed. Escape is the first Ford SUV to come with Curve Control, which automatically slows the vehicle when it enters a corner too quickly. Torque Vectoring Control uses the same system to help accelerate through a turn. It’s an impressive amount of technology for a small crossover.
If all of that doesn’t excite you, Escape is available with Ford’s BLIS blind-spot warning system and Cross-traffic alert that gives a heads-up when traffic approaches from the sides or something is behind it when backing.
The coolest feature is the automatic parallel parking system. I’m pretty good at parallel parking, but the Escape is much better. The system is just one more feature that makes the Escape a smart little crossover.
“We call our all-new Ford Escape the ‘Smarter Utility Vehicle’ because it offers the strengths that customers today really value—fuel economy, versatility and new technology that makes driving and living with the vehicle easier and more fun, all wrapped in a sleek, more modern design,” said Derrick Kuzak, group vice president, Global Product Development.
“Ford understands that more people every year are looking at vehicles like Escape, and we want to give them even more reasons to buy.”
An as-tested price near $30,000 puts the Escape against competitors like the Honda CR-V, Chevy Equinox, Kia Sportage, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Compass, and VW Tiguan.
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