Today at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford takes the wraps off one of its most significant new vehicles, the 2013 Ford Escape compact crossover.
It's the first new-from-the-ground-up Escape in more than 10 years, and the 2013 model brings a sleeker and more aerodynamic look, plus a pair of new EcoBoost engine options for better fuel efficiency.
Ford projects that the 2013 Escape will offer best-in-class gas mileage ratings, with numbers up to 5 mpg higher than the outgoing model. You'll look in vain for the Escape Hybrid model, though; Ford has killed it off, transferring its hybrid efforts to the upcoming C-Max five-seat small minivan.
The 2013 Ford Escape also offers a host of new convenience features, from a hands-free power liftgate to the latest version of the MyFordTouch voice-activated infotainment and vehicle control system.
Overall, Ford highlights 11 features in the new Escape that are either all-new or have never appeared in compact crossovers before.
Growing global segment
Because it's built on the same compact platform used for the Ford Focus compact sedan and hatchback, the new Escape will be a global vehicle. It'll be sold as the Kuga in Europe and China, with different engines and features for those markets.
2013 Ford Escape
The compact crossover segment is large and growing; Ford says that roughly 60 percent of U.S. buyers next year will look at either a mid-size car or a compact sport-utility vehicle.
As old as it now is, the outgoing 2012 Escape remains among the best-selling entrant in the class. That vehicle, first launched for 2001, competes head-to-head with newer entries from Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Chevrolet, and Nissan.
So there's a lot riding on the new Escape. Here's our rundown of the significant features.
Longer, sleeker, less truck-like
The 2013 Ford Escape may be the clearest example of the move away from truck-like profiles for small crossovers. The old Escape was tall, slab-sided, and imposing for its size; the 2013 redesign is longer, lower, and considerably smoother and sleeker, with actual "styling" effect like accent lines.
2013 Ford Escape
The third window on each side kicks up at the bottom to meet the drooping roofline, rather than the old Escape's rectangular windows and straight-line roof.
Overall, Ford says the new Escape has a drag coefficient 10 percent lower than the outgoing model--meaning it will use less fuel to overcome wind resistance at higher speeds.
Getting into the new Escape is easier with less of a step up, and the interior feels much more car-like. Thicker pillars and a more raked windshield and tailgate, however, cut the sense of light and airiness of the old model.
Easy-fold seats, more load space
The rear seats incorporate a simple fold-flat mechanism that requires just the pull of a strap on top of the seat back. That causes the headrests to fold down, and the seat back to fold onto the cushion.
The rear-seat headrests can also be folded down just by pushing a button, to improve rearward visibility when no passengers are riding in the rear seat.
2013 Ford Escape
The added length in the 2013 Escape provides a larger load bay with a longer floor than today's model. It holds 34.3 cubic feet behind the second seat and 68.1 cubic feet behind the front seats. The new Escape also has a considerably lower lift-over height of just 27 inches.
Three engines, two EcoBoost
Ford is offering a choice of three gasoline engines, and no hybrid, for the 2013 Escape. The EPA hasn't rated them for gas mileage yet, and Ford hasn't released complete projections for all versions.
The base engine, available only in the lowest-level S model, is an adaptation of the current 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, mated to a six-speed automatic.
The middle engine option is a 1.6-liter EcoBoost direct-injected and turbocharged four, also paired with the six-speed automatic. This engine will deliver mileage up to 5 mpg better, Ford says, than any previous Escape.
The top-of-the-line engine, the one to get if you need the maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four first offered in the 2012 Ford Edge and Explorer.
This is the engine that will compete directly with the high-end V-6 engines offered in competing vehicles. It too delivers its power through the six-speed automatic.
More electronic stability systems
Ford expects the two EcoBoost options to account for 90 percent of all 2013 Escape sales. Both engines come with an active grille shutter that blocks airflow through the grille if it's not needed to cool the engine. That reduces drag at speed, further improving fuel economy.
Front-wheel drive is standard, and an all-new intelligent all-wheel drive system is optional with either EcoBoost engine. It continuously varies torque both front to rear and between the two front drive wheels, to maximize stability during accelerating and cornering.
The Curve Control system also contributes to stability and safe driving, by detecting when the vehicle is entering a turn too fast, and braking the inside wheels as needed to slow the car to a safer speed.
Clever features that customers want
Among the new features that Ford believes will convince buyers to opt for the new Escape are an optional hands-free power liftgate that's operated by waving a foot under the center of the rear bumper. The person doing so must keep the key fob in a pocket to trigger the system, however.
2013 Ford Escape
Sensors see the motion--and are said to be able to distinguish it from, say, an animal running under the bumper--and open the power liftgate, after a pause to allow the person to step back safely.
The 2013 Ford Escape will be fitted with the latest version of the MyFordTouch system, which lets drivers operate the climate control, navigation, mobile phone, and sound systems with voice commands, steering wheel controls, or a mixture of both.
Parking Assist, Blind Spot warning
Ford's well-reviewed Active Park Assist system is another optional convenience feature. Pressing a button directs the system to evaluate an empty parking space, and steer the Escape into the space automatically if it's large enough--with the driver only having to accelerate and brake as it does so.
Also available is a Blind-Spot Information System, which alerts drivers when another vehicle is within the Escape's blind spot--potentially preventing dangerous lane changes into a vehicle the driver can't see.
It's paired with cross-traffic alert, which scans for vehicles coming toward the Escape from the side--while the driver is reversing out of a parking space, for instance--and signals the driver if so.
The 2013 Ford Escape will go on sale next year. Ford has not released trim levels, option packages, or any pricing. Meanwhile, the outgoing 2012 Escape will remain at dealers--so if you want an Escape Hybrid, now's the time to buy one.