Last year marked the introduction of new four-cylinder and V-6 engines for the Escape; both return in the 2010 Ford Escape with few additional changes. The new four-cylinder is considerably smoother, while the V-6 brings some 40 hp more than the engine it replaces. Both can be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, while the four-cylinder model comes standard with a five-speed manual gearbox.
“The company claims a front-drive four-banger Escape chops 1.7 seconds from its 0-to-60 time, bringing it down to 10.4 seconds," reports Car and Driver. "We handily beat that estimate in our testing, making it to 60 mph in a much-improved 8.9 seconds.”
“The V6 is a significant improvement over last year's version, though a tall first gear sacrifices a bit of off-the-line grunt in favor of fuel economy,” reports Popular Mechanics, while ConsumerGuide says, speaking of the new six-speed automatic, "The transmission is the highlight of this powertrain, providing smooth upshifts and snappy downshifts when needed.” This is corroborated by Automobile Magazine's reviewers, who assert the transmission’s “short off-the-line gear ratios are complemented by very long, widely spaced upper gears. Sixth gear is very long—great for highway fuel economy and quiet cruising.”
Automobile Magazine also tests a manual-transmission, four-cylinder Escape and reports that it doesn't feel as responsive with the stick as with the automatic; throws are long and the shifts "aren't particularly rewarding," Automobile asserts.
You might not need to step up to the V-6, however. Plenty of reviewers report that the four-cylinder is just fine. Popular Mechanics says that when the smaller engine is “equipped with the 6-speed automatic, the four-cylinder produces reasonably strong acceleration—certainly enough to satisfy most daily driving conditions.” They also note, “On the road, all three Escape variants accelerate with more authority than before, but they feel more refined, too.”
Fuel economy is as important to the new Escape’s engines as improved horsepower. According to ConsumerGuide, “an AWD V6 Escape averaged 20.0 mpg in driving slightly biased towards highway use. Similar Mercury Mariner AWD 4-cylinder averaged 23.2 mpg in mostly highway driving over the course of its 4802-mile extended-use evaluation.” TheCarConnection.com's editors don't see figures that high; in a recent test of the nearly identical Mariner V-6, they observe just 17 mpg in mostly city driving.