The Ford Escape has been around since 2000. Arguably, Ford has nearly unparalleled experience in the utility vehicle space, both sport- and crossover-varieties, given its venerable list of vehicles from the Bronco to the Explorer to the Expedition to, well, the Escape, which is now in its third generation.
Hip to Be. . .
This new Escape is visually a tremendous advance over the model it replaces. The previous one has so many rectangles that it could have been the official vehicle of “The Hollywood Squares.” (Of course, “utility” is part and parcel of the category this vehicle fits in, and so given the efficiency of the cubic form, it gets high marks for function if not form.)
Just as has been the case with the Ford Focus (and Fiesta), credit must be given to Ford designers—especially those in Europe, where the design language was articulated—for providing the Escape (which, incidentally, rolls on the streets of Europe as the “Kuga” (I don’t know what that means; two citations I found are a district in Japan and the word plague in Slovenian—I’m guessing it isn’t one of those) with a look that makes what has already been a highly competitive offering in the CUV category ready to take on the comers—and while the number-one target in Ford’s sights is the Honda CR-V, there are also an array of other offerings, including the Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, and the Kia Sportage.
In case you’re wondering: This is a Ford Kuga Titanium
Who & What
The compact crossover category has plenty of upside. There are those who have been in bigger vehicles who, for various reasons (the kids are gone; the boat sank; the price of gasoline is never going to see $2 a gallon), are downsizing; there are those who drive sedans who may want an alternative to a car without giving up any of the car-like amenities; there are those who simply continue to like that type of vehicle. Which goes to explain why there are so many entrants in the segment, and why the 2013 Escape puts Ford in an even better position than it had been in that space (generally vying with the aforementioned Honda for top position: according to Autodata, in 2001 Ford sold 254,293 Escapes to Honda’s 218,373 CR-Vs, but in 2010, Honda sold 203,714 CR-Vs to Ford’s 191,026 Escapes).
The 2013 Escape joins the “Four Cylinder-Only” club. While you could choose from a 2.5-liter I4 or a 3.0-liter V6 in a 2012 Escape, this time there is a choice of three I4s: a 2.5-liter and two EcoBoost models, a 1.6- and a 2.0-liter. Here’s a great example of what “EcoBoost” means. The 2.5-liter is the biggest of the three, yet it produces the least amount of horsepower: 168 @ 6,000 rpm. That’s compared with 178 @ 5,700 rpm and 240 @ 5,500 rpm, respectively for the two EcoBoost models when they’re gassed with premium (although, oddly, regular is recommended). Presumably because of the greater robustness of the EcoBoosts, those models are available with a four-wheel drive option; the base model is front-wheel drive only. There is a six-speed automatic across the board.
This will not make the engine breathe better, cool the brakes or do anything but look. . .goofy
Power or Pragmatism?
The vehicle I had has the 2.0-liter and four-wheel drive. And it is certainly peppy. Get on the throttle, and it goes. Which got me to thinking: Does anyone really buy a compact CUV for performance, or is it really a utility vehicle in the sense that it is something that is used basically for solid, comfortable transportation, for doing things like transporting kids or going to Target? So isn’t fuel efficiency more important than horsepower?
The Escape with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost and four-wheel drive is rated at 21 city/28 highway. I drove the vehicle with the lightest possible foot—in fact, in the screen that provided “Eco Driving” information I invariably achieved the following message:
--yet I could never get it above 22 mpg. Didn’t seem very champion to me.
Gas and Go
While the Honda CR-V with its 2.4-liter, 185-hp I4 would be in the dust of the 2.0-liter Escape, given its better mpg numbers—22 city/30 highway for the version with real-time all-wheel drive—it could be one of those tortoise-and-hare situations.
Well, the car as driven has MyFord Touch. The redesigned interface is certainly much improved. But the nicer touch is the array of optional sensors, front, rear, and, in particular, side (the blind-spot detection is a great feature, even though there are those old-school types who will argue vociferously that all you need to do is position your side view mirrors correctly and you don’t need any new-fangled sensor-based devices). The Escape also has the clever sensor system mounted beneath the rear fascia that allows you to, when the vehicle is unlocked, to put your foot beneath it and voila! the tailgate opens. This is ideal for those situations when you’re encumbered with groceries, children, or whatnot. I must confess, however, that I couldn’t always get it to work (like when I called my next door neighbor over to show her how cool this feature is and ended up doing the hokey-poky until she walked away with a shake of her head, undoubtedly imagining that I had truly gone around the bend). Still, a first-rate idea, one nearly as good as the capless refueling that I continue to be fascinated by (OK, while most people who write about cars have gotten beyond that, that’s because many of them don’t think about how real people will exist with the vehicles they buy, and that existence generally requires a weekly trip to the gas station, so that may be far more important than the car having a 10-way power seat with lumbar support [it does] because chances are someone is going to set the seat and forget it [yes, yes, if there is more than one driver, the adjustments may be more routine], but refueling is not an option, so the capless refueling is notable, in my estimation—but I digress.).
Don’t underestimate this
Often, leather seats are described by the manufacturer as being “leather-trimmed” seats because the seats aren’t entirely covered with leather. The seats in the Escape being considered here truly are leather-trimmed. As in being cloth covered with leather insets. They’re not unattractive. But it seems odd in the context of “leather.” The inset material might as well have been pleather. And speaking of materials, the plastics are a notch above those that had been used in the previous-generation Escape, and the inside is such that it is readily competitive with vehicles in the category.
When you open a door, you don’t expect to see exposed fasteners like this anymore, do you?
The base MSRP for this vehicle is $32,120. To go to the Honda CR-V—comparably equipped though, again, with the 185-hp engine, not the 240-hp EcoBoost—it has a base of $29,995. And arguably, what you give up in performance you get in room, as the CR-V has 37.2-cubic feet of cargo room vs. 34.3 for the Escape, and 101.5-cubic feet of passenger room vs. 98.1 for the Escape. Still, the Escape is more than a viable option and any number of people who are in the market for a compact CUV really ought to take this car into account.
Engine: 2.0-liter Ti-VCT GTDI I4
Material: Aluminum block and head
Horsepower: 231 @ 5,500 rpm (regular fuel)
Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 105.9 in.
Length: 178.1 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 66.3 in.
Curb weight: 3,732 lb.
Base MSRP: $32,120
As driven (inc. destination): $34,735
EPA: 21/28 mpg city/hwy