New & Used Ford Escape: In Depth
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Well known since 2000 as one of the leading compact crossovers, the Ford Escape is now a thoroughly modern vehicle in its third year of the current generation. Its predecessors were boxy and outdated after their 12-year run, despite two rounds of updating, but the latest Escape offers sleek and modern styling, more fuel-efficient powertrains (though no hybrid), seating for five, and all the technology features a family buyer could want.
Ford Escape history
When it was first introduced in 2001, Ford's Escape instantly became one of its best-selling vehicles. It picked up on a trend just emerging: compact crossovers. The Toyota RAV4 had started the niche, and was followed soon by the Honda CR-V. The Escape would join them as one of the most popular vehicles in the segment, even picking up sales as it got older.
The first-generation Escape made good use of space in a small package thanks to its tall and squared-off profile, accommodating passengers and cargo nicely. It also offered the smallest amount of off-road capability thanks to its ground clearance and available all-wheel drive. The carlike ride and handling were a product of it sharing some underpinnings with the Mazda 626, and it continued as a comfortable small-crossover option through eleven years on sale, with updates including revised sheetmetal for 2004 and larger upgrades for 2007.
The first Escape was a good choice for those who needed compactness and maneuverability yet wanted impressive safety and a flexible, spacious interior. Its original base engine was a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, making 130 horsepower. It was underpowered, coarse and unrefined. In 2005, this engine was replaced with a 2.3-liter making 153 horsepower—enough to power the Escape confidently enough, provided you don't carry a heavy load or need to pass quickly on the highway. The 200-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 that was available gives the Escape a very different character. It's worth noting that real-world fuel economy in four-cylinder versions of the Escape often didn't prove to be much better than that of V-6 Escapes.
Interior materials of the Escape through 2007 on all but the top Limited model were quite inferior to those of other vehicles in its class, but the substantial refresh given to the model for 2008 brought upgraded materials throughout. At that time the Escape received new powertrains, including a 240-horsepower version of the 3.0-liter V-6, along with a new 171-horsepower, 2.5-liter base four-cylinder engine. By 2010 its entertainment offerings were upgraded to include SYNC, Ford's Bluetooth-driven voice controller for phone, audio, and navigation systems.
Throughout its lifetime, the first-generation Escape earned mostly good scores for safety. The most noteworthy exception is for 2001-2007 models without the optional side airbags, and frontal performance for 2001-2004 models. In the IIHS's new roof-strength test got a mediocre 'marginal' score, keeping it from getting the Top Safety Pick designation this year. The NHTSA did not re-score the Escape after it changed its testing criteria for the 2011 model year.
Ford sold an Escape Hybrid from 2004 through 2012, when it was redesigned with more efficient engines across the board. Like other early Ford hybrids, the Escape used a system very similar to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, combining an Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder engine with electric motors and a large battery pack. All-wheel drive was available, with about half of hybrid customers opting for it. The hybridized Escape was rated at 34 mpg city and 31 highway. Many politicians chose to drive the Escape Hybrid as a way to drive a green American car.
The Escape also spawned the Mercury Mariner and the Mazda Tribute, both of which also had Hybrid variants at one time. Both were discontinued in the 2011 model year.
The new Ford Escape
For the 2013 model year, a brand-new Escape was introduced. The launch of the 2013 Escape wasn't an easy one, with a number of high-profile recalls that happened in the new Escape's first few months on the market. For the larger recall, more than 70,000 2013 Escapes sold in the U.S. with the 1.6-liter four were recalled for overheating that could result in a fire risk. Two of the first few recalls were linked to its optional 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
A trio of four-cylinder engines is offered in the current Escape, with a carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder being the most economical choice. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, as are both other engine choices. A pair of new turbocharged four-cylinders take over the Escape's performance duties: a 178-hp 1.6-liter turbo four is the mainstream engine choice, while a 240-hp, 2.0-liter turbo four is the quickest Escape offered in the 2013 model year. All versions improve on fuel economy, with some versions earning ratings of up to 33 mpg highway.
The new Escape left behind its Mazda-based roots--and this time, no Mazda companion was offered, though the new Mazda CX-5 crossover bears a striking resemblance in looks, proportions, and overall dimensions to the Escape. The Hybrid model also did not return. Instead, Ford now offers a more Prius-like gas-electric hatchback, the C-Max Hybrid. Like the C-Max, the new Escape uses running gear from the same family as Ford's Focus sedan, which means front-wheel drive--but only the Escape offers an option for all-wheel drive, not the C-Max.
The new Escape remains in the same compact size class, but Ford promises ample interior and cargo space, with new conveniences and features. A new flip-fold mechanism for the rear bench seat helps tuck in the headrests for easier cargo loading, as does a motion-sensing tailgate that opens or closes at the wave of a foot under the rear bumper. The Escape's electric power steering can park the car itself, with the driver keeping control over braking, while blind-spot monitors can alert drivers of traffic approaching from the side and rear.
Safety has been improved in this new crossover. The new body structure helped the Escape earn the IIHS' Top Safety Pick status for 2013, but that rating was withdrawn for 2014 when the two-year-old car earned an embarrassing 'poor' rating on the new small-overlap front crash test. The NHTSA gives it four stars out of five on most tests, with a five-star rating for side-impact protection.
MyFord Touch, the voice-controlled system that runs audio, phone and optional navigation systems, has clearer displays and improved action, and the new Escape has options for luxe touches like leather upholstery and a panoramic sunroof.
Ford made only minor changes to the Escape for 2013. Soon, however, a new version of Sync, named Sync 3, will replace the MyFord Touch interface in all of Ford's vehicles. Rollout likely will be gradual and may coincide with new-vehicle introductions and updates.
The Escape is priced from about $23,000 to more than $33,000, in trim levels from base to Titanium.