Despite tweaks, which Ford says reduces noise, harshness and vibration, its venerable Escape with new, more potent 171-horsepower, 2.5-liter, I-4 engine, six-speed automatic transmission, and butch hood power bulge, is still what the college crowd calls a hot mess.
It's rough-edged whether static or in motion. Examples of the former include sloppily molded interior door handles; razor-sharp, dash-vent tabs; visible screw heads, a rear seat release that pops apart; and two-tone plastic panels that accent uneven gaps. The front head rests supports skewer the knees of those sitting aft. Ouch!
Start the engine and the power train shakes so violently that one thinks the safety belts are attached to a vintage full-body massage Vibra-Trim machine. In motion, despite the addition of two forward speeds, the Escape still pauses and surges. It feels impotent. A manumatic function with dash shift-mode indicator would help, but it's not available. Ride quality is fair. Expect jolts and much road noise. The heater outlet bakes the driver's right foot.
Despite the lousy interior, its room and cargo capacity are generous; the front center console, with nifty clip-on cup holder, limits usable seat width. Handling seems crisp at lower speeds. When pushed, however, the Escape protests and scrubs off velocity. Stability and anti-rollover controls are standard.
EPA's estimates: 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. I netted 21.5 mpg average.
List price is about $24,000.
The Escape isn't as CUV-itable as, say, the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester.