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STYLING | 8 out of 10
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The Car Connection
The 2013 Ford Escape champions change. It's slipped on entirely new, athletic sheetmetal and a shiny, busy cockpit, and in the process it's climbed to the styling peak of the compact-ute class.
We golf-clap--while we wonder if some shoppers will be lost without the old ersatz-Explorer looks. From 2001 to 2012, you'll remember, the Escape did its best impression of the first-generation Explorer, down to the grille and window shapes and even the outdated graining of its interior plastics. That's all gone now, replaced by a tightly fitted form that's part hatchback, part running shoe. There's even a bit of the long-nose proportions of a good sports sedan, and enough of the upturned D-pillar to keep the family relationship to the Focus intact. Mostly it's dynamic--though as with the same pieces on the Focus, the mail-slot-sized grille still isn't working for us, and the gaping, buttressed front end is starting to remind us of a dust ruffle pulled up during a dust-bunny hunt.
The Escape now looks the part of a modern crossover from the outside--with lots of passing resemblances to the new Hyundai Santa Fe Sport--and it rings even more truly modern inside. The cabin's lost the open, airy feel of the first-generation Escape, and the raked form and safety needs of the day mean the pillars are thickly built too--as is the dash itself, which looms larger than in some similarly sized crossovers. The cut-tube gauges occupy their own nacelle; the audio and climate controls nest in the center stack with a piano-style set of controls and tall, skinny air vents. Oddly, there's another horizontal air vent beneath the LCD screen that seems to exist to cool the climate controls and knee caps. A wide ribbon of high-gloss grey plastic, like the mixed-emotion stuff found in the Chevy Volt, loops around these controls. At the top of this Matterhorn of modernity, ironically, is a CD slot--the one relic of the past decade we can spot inside the new Escape from a dozen feet away.
With dynamic looks that ditch its past, the 2013 Escape crosses over far from its former SUV-lookalike territory.