The top-of-the-line engine, the one to get if you need the maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four first offered in the 2012 Ford Edge and Explorer.
This is the engine that will compete directly with the high-end V-6 engines offered in competing vehicles. It too delivers its power through the six-speed automatic.
More electronic stability systems
Ford expects the two EcoBoost options to account for 90 percent of all 2013 Escape sales. Both engines come with an active grille shutter that blocks airflow through the grille if it's not needed to cool the engine. That reduces drag at speed, further improving fuel economy.
Front-wheel drive is standard, and an all-new intelligent all-wheel drive system is optional with either EcoBoost engine. It continuously varies torque both front to rear and between the two front drive wheels, to maximize stability during accelerating and cornering.
The Curve Control system also contributes to stability and safe driving, by detecting when the vehicle is entering a turn too fast, and braking the inside wheels as needed to slow the car to a safer speed.
Clever features that customers want
Among the new features that Ford believes will convince buyers to opt for the new Escape are an optional hands-free power liftgate that's operated by waving a foot under the center of the rear bumper. The person doing so must keep the key fob in a pocket to trigger the system, however.
Sensors see the motion--and are said to be able to distinguish it from, say, an animal running under the bumper--and open the power liftgate, after a pause to allow the person to step back safely.
The 2013 Ford Escape will be fitted with the latest version of the MyFordTouch system, which lets drivers operate the climate control, navigation, mobile phone, and sound systems with voice commands, steering wheel controls, or a mixture of both.
Parking Assist, Blind Spot warning
Ford's well-reviewed Active Park Assist system is another optional convenience feature. Pressing a button directs the system to evaluate an empty parking space, and steer the Escape into the space automatically if it's large enough--with the driver only having to accelerate and brake as it does so.
Also available is a Blind-Spot Information System, which alerts drivers when another vehicle is within the Escape's blind spot--potentially preventing dangerous lane changes into a vehicle the driver can't see.
It's paired with cross-traffic alert, which scans for vehicles coming toward the Escape from the side--while the driver is reversing out of a parking space, for instance--and signals the driver if so.
The 2013 Ford Escape will go on sale next year. Ford has not released trim levels, option packages, or any pricing. Meanwhile, the outgoing 2012 Escape will remain at dealers--so if you want an Escape Hybrid, now's the time to buy one.