Change can be a good thing. As much as you may like the status quo, when something comes along that is better in every way, it makes you wonder how long you have been missing out on something that was just so good. When Ford introduced the small crossover in 2000, it garnered so much praise as being a capable yet practical little ute. It rode on a truck platform like most sport utility vehicles in that era and had shared their stereotypical boxy layout.
It could be had with four wheel drive and a choice of two engines, a four cylinder and a V6. Later on, a hybrid model was introduced and quickly become one of the most fuel efficient SUVs on the market. With a slight redesign in 2008, the Escape grew up and was given a more comfortable interior, a softer exterior style and new technology in safety and entertainment. It had similar powertrain options yet upgraded to a more efficient transmission. It was fuel efficient, for the time, fun and well, it just got old. That was then, this is now.
Ford wasn’t playing around when it redesigned the all-new Ford Escape for the 2013 model year. Ford scrapped the old platform, and for good reason, and utilized the same basic platform from the current Ford Focus. The Escape received the kinetic language that is present on all of Ford’s small cars, inside and out, and is just aesthetically pleasing. To sum it up, it looks like a Focus on steroids. Personally, I think it is a good thing. It erases the old SUV stigma and is a more friendly look to would-be buyers. Its all about the “green” image these days, and Ford came out swinging with a host of new engines called EcoBoost. The Escape is offered with three engine choices, the base 2.5L 4-cylinder, the EcoBoost 1.6L 4-cylinder turbo, and the EcoBoost 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo.
It is not even worth talking about the 2.5L so I’ll just skip to the ones that matter. The EcoBoost line utilizes smaller displacement engines mated with a turbocharger along with independent variable camshaft timing. Translation; more power, better fuel economy. The added bonus being, you don’t need to run premium fuel, regular grade will work just fine. All engines receive 6-speed automatic transmissions and the EcoBoost equipped models can be had with AWD. The 1.6L EcoBoost scores 23 mpg city/33 mpg highway in FWD and loses 1 mpg city/3 mpg highway when adding AWD. The 2.0L EcoBoost is rated at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway for FWD models, and 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway for AWD equipped models. Again, all run on regular grade fuel.
Our test subject was a 2013 Ford Escape Titanium model with AWD and the stronger 2.0L EcoBoost engine. It came in a vomit green, excuse me, Ginger Ale Metallic clear coat, with Charcoal Black partial leather seating. It came loaded with the Titanium Technology Package, a tonneau cover, roof rails with cross bars, HID headlamps, a trick power liftgate, and parking sensors. The optional equipment added was the MyFord Touch along with Sirius satellite radio and navigation with an 8″ touch screen, and the parking technology package which includes the Blind Spot Detection System, Active Park Assist, and Rear View Camera. Including the $825.00 destination and delivery charge, the Ginger Ale Escape came in at a reasonable $34,735. Not bad.
As talked about before, the 2013 Escape receives Ford’s Kinetic design. With Ford’s current philosophy of there being One Ford, Europe’s version of the Escape, known as the Kuga, has been out for a while in Europe and is fairly similar to the style of the Escape we have on our shores in North America. The front fascia is a bit upright and transitions to a sleek headlight and upper grille design and that style makes its way all the way to the back giving the car a much more slippery shape to aid in efficiency as well as looks. The prominent wheel arches give the Escape a more macho look to aid in the fact that it is still a capable little ute regardless of its compact car underpinnings. Those wheel arches are filled with 19” painted aluminum wheels, shod in 235/45 R 19 Continental ContiProContact All-Season tires.
The headlights get the LED treatment that is sweeping across the industry, as well as HID projectors. These HID projectors are not the xenon lamps that people think of. They do no have a blue tint or a tint of any kind and are more of a regular projector bulb. Not that its a complaint, you get plenty of visibility and the high beams will surely anger occupants in oncoming cars with brightness akin to daylight. The LED strip on the bottom of the headlights act more as driving lights, however, Ford decided that it wasn’t enough and added fog lights to the standard equipment list. Now only if you can have your high beams, LEDs and fog lights on all at once, you might be able sear some retinas. As numerous as the forward lighting is, the rear tail lights are very simple and straightforward.
Ford decided to simplify the usage of chrome to only a single strip used on the bottom of the greenhouse that travels from the side view mirrors up the rear quarter window. It is simple and elegant. What isn’t so simple and elegant is the excessive use of fake vents in the fenders and under the headlights. With all the forward visibility you get, one wonders whether the lighting system needs cooling, hence the vents, but they are fake. Why not just make the headlights take up that space? The fender vents provide little in aesthetic appeal and have no function. They look out of place on an otherwise clean design. Other than the vents, plastics are kept to a minimum and only protect the lower extreme parts of the body and wheel wells. The plastic in the grille is finished in piano black and while a little excessive, works well for the overall look.
Make your way inside the cabin on the all new Ford Escape Titanium to treat yourself with a fresh style and soft touch materials just about everywhere your hands touch. The leather wrapped steering wheel is thick and well padded, as is the dash, the front doors and center arm rests. The seats are supportive and very comfortable. Even after a long trip, you feel rested and the entire driving experience is relaxed. The bolsters are leather, while the actual surface where you sit and lay back into are a fibrous cloth material which feels more synthetic than natural. It looks and feels tough so keeping it clean should be rather easy. The heated seats have heating elements in the bottom and lower back which heat up rather quickly. The buttons on the steering wheel control just about anything you may ever need to control in the car. MyFord Touch along with Sync gives you full control with just your voice and push of your finger tips.
It took me very little time to figure it out and to those of you who are new at voice recognition interfaces, it takes very little time to learn and learning makes it all the more fun. The only issue with the system is that if the song titles or artists in your MP3 player are not in proper English, it will have a little hard time trying to figure it out. Same with names in your phone book. If you have children, they will probably be experts on it before you even press the voice recognition button. On our trip back to New York City to drop it off, the navigation system decided it didn’t want to deal with us anymore and stopped giving us verbal prompts regarding the next upcoming turn. No matter what we did, it did not go back to verbal prompts so we had to pay attention to the navigation screen which isn’t the safest thing to do when you are trying to find your way around New York City.
The view from the driver’s seat is immense. The windshield is large and the A-pillars do not affect your field of view, however it can be difficult to tell exactly where the hood ends. The upward sloping sides create blind spots and poor visibility but with the aid of the BLIS (Blind Spot Information System), you are never in any real predicament. With numerous other aids such as Cross Traffic Alert, which lets you know of any oncoming vehicles when you are backing out of a parking space, the backup camera, and the front and rear parking sensors, navigating the Escape through mall parking lots and tight spaces is fairly simple.
Plastics are kept to a minimum inside, and the buttons and shifter are either soft touch or smooth giving the interior a more upscale feel. My driving position for a 5’10.5” frame leaves very little room for occupants in the rear. Even with my seat-back upright as comfortably possible, it was tight to get into the rear seats and my knees hit the back part of the front seats, even with the concave design. If you are an adult, don’t spend too much time in the back, it was meant for children. The nice leather padded material on the front doors don’t make it to the rear. You get a harder textured plastic, but it is laid out nicely. The rear seats share the same style as the fonts with the leather on the bolsters and most of the seat-backs, with the high grade cloth like material on the parts where you rest your posterior.
The rear seats are a cinch to fold down, press the button on the headrest to let it fall forward, locate the handle of the seat, which is plainly visible when you open the door, pull it up and the 60/40 rear bench will fold as flat as they come. There is plenty of space for cargo and whatever else you may decide to throw in there. Even with the rear seats up, the cargo space was still large enough to fit an average size suitcase, a book bag, and a recycling bin full of text books and four bags of groceries all together under the tonneau cover. Ford boasts that you get a total of 68.1 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded and 34.3 cubic feet when the rear seats are upright. I was not able to see if the front seat folded flat as I always had a passenger next to me but the general consensus was that of comfort and space.
The coolest feature to hit the automotive world, in my opinion, is the trick liftgate. Walk up to the rear of the car, with the FOB on your person, wave your leg under the rear bumper and take a step back. The rear hatch beeps and lifts up slowly. Want to close it again? You can press the button, but its more fun to wave your leg underneath the bumper and then step back and watch it close itself. I spent about twenty minutes one day just playing with it. Occasionally my cameraman, Garry, and I would simply walk by and wave our leg underneath the bumper just to make sure it could still do it. We received funny looks but it was worth showing it off. I would strongly recommend ticking the option box for it whether you have a family or not.
The Titanium package came standard with push-button keyless start. Simply press the lock button and the turnover button twice and you can heat up or cool off the interior in no time. Every time I got in, the ventilation system was working overtime to cool off the interior which is great. If you decide not to use the automatic start on the FOB, just get inside and press the Start/Stop button on the dash and watch the systems come to life. You are greeted with a pleasant chime and the navigation screen will cycle. The gauge cluster and buttons are backlit in a cool blue hue that is easy on the eyes and less boring than the usual green illumination that is still prevalent in vehicles today. The gauge cluster sports a large tachometer to the left and a speedometer to the right with an information screen in the center that will display any and every thing you need to know about the car.
Cycle through the display using the controls on the left side of the steering wheel and you can display such information as average fuel economy, 4WD status which displays which wheels are getting the power, and it has special gauges for fuel efficient driving. There are two categories to the fuel efficient driving; Anticipation, and Speed. Next to each category, you will get up to 5 green leaves in the shape of a star. Fill out all 5 leaves and you will be an Eco Champion! It sounds a little cheesy but it is never a dull moment in the Escape.
Also, like in all other Fords, you can change the mood lighting in the foot-wells, door handles, and cup holders. Cycle through the color pallet using a button located on the roof near the rear view mirror and you can cycle through different colors depending on your mood or what your children want. The climate controls are fairly straight forward. They can be difficult to get to with the location of the shifter getting in the way at times but it is much easier using the voice controls instead. Yes, you can control the climate control using just your voice thanks to MyFord Touch. There is really very little reason to take your hands and eyes off the road.
Our tester boasting the 2.0L EcoBoost was a pleasure to drive. It doesn’t like to be pushed hard, it isn’t meant to be, but its road-holding ability is stunning for a vehicle in this price point. It was hard to decipher steering feel until I got onto some really twisty and undulating roads in the back country of Connecticut. There isn’t much in the way of feedback but it is accurate and tighter than expected in this segment. That is not to say it is bad, its just sportier than I was expecting. Body roll is kept under wraps and the Escape feels rooted when tossing it around. Most vehicles in the Escape’s segment simply cannot even come close to the levels of grip and solidity it imposes. The brakes are solid but pedal feel and feedback is a bit unnatural. Then again, I drive a sports car most days so my senses are tuned to wanting more of everything.
I will probably be the only one to push this car as much as I did in its lifetime, in an athletic manner. The 2.0L EcoBoost felt adequate but felt a bit underpowered at times. I’m sure the 3,742 lbs. curb weight had something to do with it. Ford claims that the 2.0L pumps out 240 bhp @ 5,000 rpm and 270 lb.-ft. @ 3000 rpm. The high horsepower number is reached on premium fuel, regular yields less (231 bhp). There isn’t ever a need to push the car past 4,500 rpm, and it has plenty of grunt to get the vehicle moving and get to the desired speed.
Bury the needle in the higher end of the tachometer and you get more sound than actual go. It isn’t rough, or overly loud, it is just complaining as to why its being driven in this manner. I wasn’t able to test 0-60 or 1/4 mile performance, but I was able to test what really matters for this car; real world performance. Merging onto highways was never a taxing job for the Escape and it was able to get up to speed rather quickly without worrying myself or the passengers inside. Keeping up with traffic or reaching your desired cruising speed will happen without a complaint and no engine strain what so ever running at around the 2000 rpm mark. Thank you, EcoBoost.
The 6-speed automatic befuddled me. In normal mode, the shifts were smooth and could hardly be felt which was great and is what customers will come to expect. However, even when slightly depressing the go pedal to just give you a little more power, it wants to downshift immediately. It refused to ride the strong torque provided by the little four-cylinder. I tried shifting the transmission myself in sport mode using the ridiculous buttons on the side of the shift lever and it just drove better in my opinion. It didn’t shift when you didn’t need it to and it was simple driving. My guess is that the computers didn’t have time to adjust to my driving style after only a week.
My average fuel economy came out to be 24.0 mpg with a high of 24.3 mpg and a low of 23.2 mpg. This included at least three hours of highway driving five days out of the week, and in-town driving with mostly 45 mph speed limits on fairly flat areas. The lowest was seen when pushing the vehicle hard, but driving through hills and twisty roads didn’t seem to effect it much. Even with my light footwork, it was hard to get much more out of it. I had a higher expectation for average fuel economy given the whole EcoBoost marketing push, and I felt a little let down.
The suspension does a great job isolating occupants from the road and soaks up road irregularities and bumps with confidence without any rattles or squeaks inside the cabin. For added comfort, the 18” wheel size is probably the best choice. The intelligent four-wheel drive system helps divert power to the wheels necessary using an electromagnetic clutch. The Escape does like to understeer when pushed hard, and especially when driving hard on less than reputable roads. Thanks to unpaved back roads, I was able to test out the AWD system and was impressed with the level of grip and control that could be had with standard disc brakes, Ford’s own Rollover Stability Control, traction control and ABS. The bigger wheels weren’t so forgiving in this rougher environment but it never gave the impression that it wasn’t able to handle it. I must admit, I came away impressed.
I had one unknown issue with the car. I put regular fuel into the Escape throughout the week and before it was time to return it, I was noticing a rough idle. The car felt like it was going to stall but caught itself and returned to normal idle. It happened whenever I came to a complete stop at a light or stop sign. After the regular fuel was completely used up, I filled it up with premium grade. My cameraman, Garry, was driving it back while I was in the “chase car,” and he didn’t notice any hesitation or rough idle at stops. I cannot comment because I was not able to drive it on the return trip.
There are many sayings that allude to enjoyment not being in the trip, but in reaching the final destination. I would have to respectfully disagree. As great as it may be to get to your final destination, the trip must be a joyful and comfortable one. If you share my way of thinking, the all-new 2013 Ford Escape is the vehicle for you. There are very few automakers that combine luxury, comfort, technology, capability, safety, practicality, style, as well as value into one vehicle. Ford seems to have done the best job so far with the 2013 Escape. The vast options list, engine choices, drivetrain options, and an impressive list of standard features gives customers the choice of getting what they want how they want it. There are few vehicles I actually recommend, this just happens to be one of them.
Photo Credit: Copyright 2012 Garry Gulledge / Car Fanatics Blog