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STYLING | 8 out of 10
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The Car Connection
Don't even bother trying to remember what the Escape used to look like, because this isn't anything close to it. Ford last year gave the Escape a from-scratch redesign, with a rakish, athletic exterior and an interior that's daring, sporty, and perhaps a little busy.
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, or Mazda CX-5. Size up the 2014 Escape and its pert exterior, and you might see its tightly fitted form as part hatchback, part running shoe. With the longer nose, we see hints of a good sport wagon (or sport sedan), as well as enough of the familiar upturned rear pillar to see that some of the influences from the Ford Focus (on which it's based) made it through here intact. From the side it's kicky and dynamic, but in front the mail-slot-sized grille still isn't working for us.
The kind of modern look you get inside the Escape is less familiar, more bold—and it stands as unique in this class. The overall theme of the instrument panel is upright yet chiseled, contoured, and heavily styled, and it wraps around the front occupants in a swoopy, finely detailed way that makes other compact crossover interiors feel boring. In turn, it loses the open, airy feel of the first-generation Escape, and the rakish look has some tradeoffs—like compromised visibility and thicker roof pillars—but this is the price of modernity.
For 2014, with the discontinuation of the mid-range SEL, the top Titanium model gets a little more visual differentiation on the outside, with 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, grill radiator shutters, and silver roof rails.
At center, a wide ribbon of high-gloss grey plastic, with some climate and audio functions, loops around these a set of center-stack controls, with a piano-like layout of buttons and tall, skinny air vents. 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. Oddly, there's another horizontal air vent beneath the LCD screen that seems to exist to cool the climate controls and knee caps.
The Escape doesn't bother nodding to the past; it forgets about the old SUV look and dashes for a more dynamic look.