- 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.
2008 Ford Escape
Most reviewers—including the editors of TheCarConnection.com—give a thumbs-up for the bolder, more rugged look of the exterior of the 2008 Ford Escape.
The newly redesigned 2008 Ford Escape wins acclaim for a comfortable cabin and stylish exterior.
Most of the updates given to the Ford Escape are purely cosmetic, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On the outside, Edmunds.com raves about the “bolder grill, taller beltline, higher hood and Edge-inspired headlights.” In general, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com found the more progressive lines of the Escape SUV to be a welcome evolution in the seven-year-old design. Cars.com notes that the compact SUV mimics the stylings of its bigger brother, the Ford Explorer, and is less cutesy and more rugged.
The interior of the 2008 Ford Escape has also been redesigned. Automobile.com raved about the posh leather of the Escape; Ford’s new interior is “sporty and suited to a more expensive car.” Other reviews were mixed on the styling of the retooled dashboard. ConsumerGuide cries foul on the “cheap looking, hard plastic panels.” Cars.com is more forgiving, finding the dash appealing, but still conceding that the materials aren’t on par with similar 2008 compact SUVS like the Saturn Vue. Ergonomically speaking, however, all gauges can be seen in a quick glance.
Speaking of materials in the Ford Escape, 2008 is the year this crossover becomes the first car to use 100 percent post-industrial plastic waste in the upholstery (standard fabric seating only). Reviewers felt the added recycling effort is a nice tip of the hat to old Mother Earth, and doesn’t negatively affect the interior styling in the slightest.
2008 Ford Escape
The 2008 Ford Escape doesn’t accelerate quickly even with the V-6 engine, and handling is more SUV than crossover.
Reviewers had gripes about the general sluggishness and outdated transmission of the 2008 Ford Escape.
Cars.com notes that the handling of the new Ford Escape is “firmer than that of recent models like the Ford Edge and Taurus X.” This rigid ride was considered acceptable, though Edmunds.com was hoping for a bit more absorption in “small road imperfections.” Ultimately, the comfort level comes down to personal preference. Drivers who prefer the firmer feel of a truck will likely enjoy the 2008 Ford Escape, while those accustomed to smaller, sportier rides may be turned off.
Automobile.com knocked off points for the older four-speed automatic transmission, stating that “it is sometimes slow to shift” and is especially reluctant to “shift itself down into first gear.” Car and Driver chimed in on the lackluster acceleration of the 2008 Ford Escape, adding insult to injury with the observation that “we measured distinct decreases in every one of our performance tests” over previous-year models. These performance tests included acceleration, which showed that with the V-6 AWD Limited Escape, Ford’s new crossover, “takes 10 more seconds to get to 100 mph than it did in 2001.”
With the 2008 Escape, Ford made obvious attempts to improve fuel economy. In general, reviewers found these efforts to be satisfactory. ConsumerGuide reported that the 4WD Limited Edition Escape 2008 averaged 17.6 mpg, while the 2WD Hybrid Escape Ford scored an impressive 31.2 mpg. The Limited Edition fuel-economy is comparable to similar models, such as the Hyundai Tucson and Toyota RAV4, though it falls a few miles per gallon below the Jeep Patriot.
The Ford Escape Hybrid, which gets much better gas mileage, is covered separately by TheCarConnection.com.
2008 Ford Escape
Comfort & Quality
At Ford, 2008 brings an Escape that provides ample room and comfort for four adults of any size, though backseat drivers may need to raise their voices to be heard over the wind noise.
The 2008 Ford Escape wins accolades across the Web for comfort and interior room. Car and Driver boasts that the 2008 Ford Escape offers “plenty of space for those in the 99th percentile in both height and circumference.” More than just roomy, the front seats were found to be “well bolstered and comfortable,” according to Edmunds.com. However, the same could not be said for the rear seat, with the general consensus noting the rear seats do not recline, though space is good.
Cargo space abounds in the 2008 Ford Escape as well, with 29.2 cubic feet with the backseats up, or 66.3 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. ConsumerGuide praised the convenience of the opening tailgate glass and “generous space enhanced by a low-level load deck.” Numerous cubbies and storage compartments provide convenience up front in the Ford Escape, with the “crown jewel” being the “center console, which is large enough to swallow a hand bag or laptop computer.”
Excessive cabin noise was a major complaint on last year’s Escape. Ford attempted to quiet this in 2008 with roof sheetmetal changes and new liners between windows and the ceiling. While an improvement, reviewers weren’t impressed. ConsumerGuide complained about an “intrusive roar from the tires and suspension,” as well as “an annoying [air] leak around the driver’s window.”
2008 Ford Escape
Safety features are top-notch, but the 2008 Ford Escape’s potential rollover problems show the age of its basic design.
The addition of numerous standard safety features, including side curtain airbags in late-2008 Escape models, helped quell much of the safety quibbles reviewers had with the compact SUV. Edmunds.com notes that anti-lock brakes, stability control, side and curtain airbags, and traction control are all standard on the Ford Escape, 2008 edition. According to Kelley Blue Book, the safety ratings of the 2008 Ford Escape are identical or better (minus the rollover rating) than similar models such as the Mazda Tribute, Mercury Mariner, and Saturn Vue.
Cars.com criticizes the three-star NHTSA rollover rating, noting that the 2008 Ford Escape is “one of only two car-based SUVs with a rating of three stars instead of four” (the Honda Element being the other). This is due in large part to the Escape’s high center of gravity. It is because of this increased rollover vulnerability that side curtain airbags are a must for those seeking an Escape--Ford’s Roll Stability Control system is also helpful here, effectively identifying the start of rollover and acting to stop it in some cases.
2008 Ford Escape
A plethora of standard and optional features lets drivers customize the 2008 Ford Escape to their liking, but SYNC is not available.
Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com were impressed with the level of standard and optional features available on the 2008 Ford Escape. According to Edmunds.com, the three trim levels--XLS, XLT, and Limited--all feature “air-conditioning, keyless entry, full power accessories, a CD player and an auxiliary input jack.” The XLT provides additional features such as 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, auto headlights, power drive seat, cruise control, and upgraded cloth upholstery. The Escape Limited delivers a color-keyed grille, posh leather seating, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Kelley Blue Book lists the most desirable optional equipment as the “3.0-liter V6 engine, four-wheel drive, 320-watt Audiophile sound system, GPS navigation, 17-inch chrome wheels, six-way power driver’s seat, leather seats, heated front seats, 110-volt power outlet, power moonroof, fog lamps, keyless entry pad and the Reverse Sensing System.”
Automobile.com lists the prices of various popular optional packages for the 2008 Ford Escape. The lowest-priced package is the Cargo Convenience Group, which costs $395 and “includes a retractable cargo area cover and a compartmentalized rear storage bin.”
TheCarConnection.com has experience with Ford’s navigation systems. While they direct you to destinations effectively, the older systems lack some of the keen map displays of the latest navigation systems from Honda and Nissan. For 2009, the Escape gets a new navigation system—as well as the SYNC entertainment controller you’ve seen in commercials.