New & Used Ford Escape: In Depth
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The Ford Escape is a compact crossover that has enough space to haul around a small family. Even though its predecessors looked boxy and truck-like, the latest generation of Escape has sleek and stylish lines, seating for five passengers, and upgraded technology.
When it was new in 2001, the Escape quickly became one of Ford's most successful vehicle launches ever. It ranked quickly alongside the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in sales, and it outlived both of them, staying true to its original design through the 2012 model year.In that first generation, the Ford Escape offered a tall, boxy layout that proved to be a good blend of space for passengers and cargo, mixed with just enough ruggedness for very light off-roading. Throughout its eleven model years on sale, the first Escape remained a good choice for those who needed compactness and maneuverability yet wanted impressive safety and a flexible, spacious interior.
While this Escape had a very boxy, traditional SUV silhouette, it had car-based underpinnings, originally borrowed in part from the Mazda 626. Although it underwent many small design changes through the years, it carried through a design intended to mimic that of the original Ford Explorer, right through the 2012 model year.
Originally the base engine on the Escape 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.
From 2004 to 2012, Ford sold a Hybrid version of the Escape. Using a system comparable to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, the Escape Hybrid combined an Atkinson-cycle version of the four-cylinder with a sizable battery pack and electric motor system. Fuel economy was rated at 34 mpg city, 31 highway, and the Escape Hybrid became a favored vehicle among politicians who want to "drive American."
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.
For the 2013 model year, a brand-new Escape is being introduced. The new Escape leaves behind its Mazda-based roots--and this time, no Mazda companion is being offered, though the new Mazda CX-5 crossover bears a striking resemblance in looks, proportions, and overall dimensions to the Escape, an unsurprising closeness since the companies were close partners when engineering work began.
A trio of four-cylinder engines is offered, with a carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder being the most economical choice. It's paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, as are the 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 Hybrid model, however, has not returned. Instead, Ford now offers a more Prius-like gas-electric hatchback, the 2013 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 with an option for all-wheel drive.
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 is much improved in this new crossover. The new body structure helps the Escape earn the IIHS' Top Safety Pick status, as well as four-star federal test results from the NHTSA, 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.
The launch of the new Escape hasn't been an easy one, and this model has been affected by a number of high-profile recalls that happened in the 2013 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 are being recalled for overheating that could result in a fire risk, while two of the first few recallswere linked to its optional 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine
The 2013 Escape is priced from about $23,000 to more than $33,000, in trim levels from base to Titanium.