I think I can sum up my week with the 2013 Ford Escape with one sentence: What took Ford so long?
The Escape is a solid compact SUV that runs great and looks even better. And it’s those looks that has me confused.
The original Escape hit the US in 2001. It was Ford’s answer to the crossover craze. Instead of building SUVs on a truck chassis, crossovers use a sedan frame. Its styling might have been OK in 2001, but by 2012 it was definitely looking severely dated.
Meanwhile, in 2008 Ford introduced the Kuga in Europe. The Kuga was a crossover based on the Focus platform but had much better looks. That was five years ago. For some reason, Ford kept thinking that we preferred boxy. Of course it’s hard to fault success. Sales numbers on the Escape actually did best at the end of the run and topped 250,000 for the last two years.
But this year the Escape is all new, and I like it. Let’s start with that styling. the boxy look is gone and it has a suitably wind-swept look. It has a nice rake that gives it an aggressive stance. I’m not sure it needs the fake side vents on the front fenders, but that’s a minor point. This is a body style that is looking forward. It’s built on the same chassis as the Focus which gets plenty of positive reviews.
My test car had the 2.0 liter GTDi Ecoboost engine. The turbocharged engine delivers 240 horsepower from four cylinders. You have two other options. The base engine is a 2.5 liter 168 horsepower four-cylinder, while the middle of the road is a new turbocharged 1.6 liter motor with 178 horsepower. If mileage is your goal, then the 1.6 liter should be your choice. You’ll get 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway. That’s actually better than the base engine. The 2.0 comes in at 21 city/28 highway. I guess that’s just the price to pay for the extra power. You also get a six speed transmission with the choice of front or all-wheel drive.
Inside, the Escape isn’t in luxury territory, but it’s solidly in the nice, middle range so that you don’t feel like it’s old or cheap. The only knock might be that the dash has a lot going on, but that didn’t really bother me. The Escape is longer and wider, and the back seat passengers will appreciate the change. They get an extra inch of leg room. Up front the seats were nice and comfortable. With all the seats in place, you’ll get an extra five cubic feet of cargo space compared to the 2012 Escape.
The biggest news for me was the My Ford Touch system. That’s the dash display that controls the car audio and other functions. It was news because it actually worked. The last time I tried the My Ford Touch it was in a 2012 Ford Edge and I found it glitchy and slow. This time around, it did everything it was supposed to without me wondering whether I needed to touch the screen six more times to get some reaction. It’s taken Ford several tries to get it right, but I no longer think it’s a reason to avoid buying a blue oval product.
I give Ford credit for using and promoting its green efforts. The Escape’s web site points out that they used 10 pounds of scrap cotton made from stuff like jeans and old t-shirts to make the sound absorption material. And the carpeting is made of fibers from about 25 recycled plastic bottles.
OK, is it just me or does the center portion of the dash look an awful lot like the helmets they used to use on the original Battlestar Galactica? Nothing wrong with that, but I’m thinking they have some sci-fi fans in the design room.
There are a couple of cool options. The first is the hands free tailgate. When your arms are full of packages, just waive your foot under the proper spot along the rear bumper, and the tailgate will open by itself. For some reason I had a hard time hitting the right spot, but that was probably operator error. I’m sure that after you own it for a while you’ll know exactly where to wiggle your leg. The other interesting option is the parking technology package. The $995 options does two things. First, it helps to find a suitable parking spot in the line of cars parked along the curb. Engage the system and all you do is control the shifting, accelerating and braking. The car steers automatically. It’s actually a pretty cool system and worked very well. Although for nearly $1,000 I think I can park on my own.
There are four trim levels for the Escape: S, SE, SEL and Titanium. I had the Titanium model that started at $32,120 and finished at $34,735 after options and delivery charge. Of course, if you’re looking for something simpler, you can opt for the S which starts at $22,470. I have a feeling that the SE model might be the best option starting at $25,070.
So the bad news is that it might have taken Ford a little too long to bring the Escape’s new styling to market (at least for me). The good news is that it’s finally here and definitely worth considering if you’re looking for a compact SUV.