When you think "Ford," you probably think of several brands--F-150, Explorer, Mustang, Taurus. Shame on you if that list is missing the Ford Escape.Last year, Ford sold more than 250,000 copies of its compact crossover, capping an eleven-year run on sale with the ute's best year ever, and with more than a 30-percent boost over 2010 sales.
The Escape's an important leg in the Ford sales story, and for this model year, there's a brand-new model coming to dealers. Starting in June, the 2013 Escape arrives in showrooms, and it's an about-face to the past decade-plus of compact crossover SUVs sold by Ford. There's no V-6, and no Hybrid; no Mercury model, and no Mazda companion, though that formerly intertwined company's CX-5 is exceedingly close in just about every basic specification to the new Escape.
The new Escape is built from Focus underpinnings, which means a fresh design, which also means saying goodbye to the faux-SUV looks that characterized the model from the moment it was launched in the 2001 model year. The 2013 model is a completely fresh take for Ford, one that's altogether more fitting with today's crossover market. It's lean and athletic, smoothly rounded, not at all referential to the company's lineup of best-selling trucks. It reads as a car, albeit one with a tall roofline.
The Escape isn't just an aesthetic change of heart for the American automaker. It's a linchpin in its fuel-economy strategy of downsizing and turbocharging engines in some of its best-selling models, while reserving electrification for limited runs and low-volume applications like the Ford Focus Electric. All three available engines are four-cylinders; each is estimated to earn more than 30 miles per gallon on the EPA highway cycle. Of the two turbocharged engines, one has enough power to effectively replace the old Escape's optional V-6 engine. The other gets mileage ratings high enough to nearly match the outgoing Hybrid model.
It's also a revelation in road manners. Ride and handling truly transform the newest Escape. The trucky traits of the 2001-2012 model have been wiped clean, replaced by tight steering, a well-damped ride, and taut road manners that feel very much like those from the Ford Focus.
Finally--and critically, Ford's vice president for marketing and sales Jim Farley says--the Escape's a vital part of its strategy to sell even more copies of its hugely popular Fusion sedan, which is also new for the 2013 model year. How's that? Farley, at the launch of the Escape this week outside San Francisco, points out that the compact-crossover class is the one most often cross-shopped with the mid-size sedan segment. Find one in a family fleet and you're almost as likely to find the other, he points out.
"Compact SUVs are ground zero for the American garage," he says.
Prices range from $23,295 for the base S to $31,195 for the top Titanium model, the 2013 Ford Escape goes on sale in June.
For more on styling, performance, utility, features, and safety, read our full review of the 2013 Ford Escape