- Still looks good
- New interior is a big improvement
- Available Hybrid model
- Comfortable for four adults
- Four-speed automatic
- No third-row seat
The 2008 Ford Escape looks better inside and out, but the curtain airbags, higher-output V-6 and Sync audio system in the upcoming 2009 model year version are worth the wait.
The 2008 Ford Escape is a survivor. Launched in 2001 after the first-generation Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 already were on the market, the Escape and its near-twins, the Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute, have endured in largely the same form while other compact crossovers have grown up and out.
That’s both good and bad. The Ford Escape always has had some of the better road manners in the class, and it’s one of the few smaller crossovers to come with a Hybrid powertrain as an option. (TheCarConnection.com covers the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid separately.) On the downside, the Escape’s powertrains aren’t up to date in 2008, and there’s no third-row seating option.
For the Escape, Ford’s crafted a new set of lines inside and out. A clear improvement on the last edition, the new Escape has a much larger front-end appearance and a much richer style to its dash and cabin. It’s a more masculine look that ties the Escape more closely to Ford’s big Expedition and Explorer SUVs.
Inside, the Escape’s dash has been reworked to include a strip of readouts near the windshield, including temperature and radio functions. Recycled materials are used for all the seating surfaces. New audio systems include a standard MP3 jack for personal music players. Ford has swapped out the Escape’s green lighting for a new blue treatment--and it’s swapped the Escape’s small console for a laptop-sized bin between the drive and the front passenger. The front seats are a little flat but comfortable for long trips, and there’s plenty of headroom for four adults inside. The second-row seat doesn’t have a lot of extra room for adults, but two will ride happily. The Escape’s assembly quality seems very high, with good materials and well-fitted trim pieces.
Like the similar 2008 Mercury Mariner, the Escape has a revamped range of engines. The 2.3-liter four with 153 horsepower returns, and is teamed with either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. A 3.0-liter V-6 option kicks up 200 hp and is mated to a four-speed automatic. Ford plans to upgrade both engines with more power and to install a six-speed automatic in the Escape for 2009. Both versions offer optional all-wheel drive. The engines quiets down with the addition of thicker glass, and they get the job done, but neither pushes the Escape with much authority. A 230-hp V-6 is on tap for the 2009 model year. Handling and braking are fine for the class, but you’ll never mistake the Escape for a performance car.
The Escape is one of the more improved vehicles at Ford; 2008 brings standard side curtain airbags late in the model year. TheCarConnection.com recommends waiting for those models since it improves the Escape’s crash-test scores to four and five stars for front and side impacts. The Escape has a rollover rating of three stars, while other compact crossovers rate higher. The Escape’s older design plays a role in the rating.
A navigation system, remote start, and Sirius Satellite Radio are available, but Ford’s SYNC entertainment controller won’t be available until the 2009 model year.