2010 Ford Escape Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
August 13, 2009

Don’t let the 2010 Ford Escape’s boxy, old-school appearance turn you off; the Escape is a solid, fuel-efficient choice for city-dwelling families.

In order to bring you the most useful hands-on road test, TheCarConnection.com has driven several different variations of the Escape and report on it here in this Bottom Line. Then TheCarConnection.com’s team of experts read reviews pertaining to the 2010 Escape, bringing you additional pros and cons, as well as opposing viewpoints.

The 2010 Ford Escape is proof that shoppers shouldn’t always go with first impressions. Although many might be turned off by the Escape’s boxy, traditional design that looks a bit like a 7/8-scale Ford Explorer, the Escape includes car-based underpinnings and Ford has in recent years done a good job in keeping the Escape’s feature set and driving experience quite modern.

For 2008, Ford gave the Escape a modest facelift that vastly improved the interior look and feel, while just last year the Escape got a new lineup of powertrains—including a more powerful and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine and a much mightier optional V-6. Both engines are carried through to 2010. Most drivers will do just fine with the base 171-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, provided they don’t often haul heavy loads or plan to tow; it’s smoother than the previous four-cylinder. The V-6 Escape has more than adequate pep, though the engine doesn’t feel as refined as most rival V-6s.

Either engine responds well with the six-speed automatic transmission; four-cylinder buyers also have a five-speed manual gearbox to choose from. The four-cylinder with the five-speed returns 22 mpg city, 28 highway, while the V-6 rates up to 18 mpg city, 26 highway, though TheCarConnection.com’s editors have observed lower figures with the V-6.

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For those who place fuel economy or petroleum independence as one of their highest shopping priorities, there’s the 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid, which returns fuel economy figures of up to 34 mpg city, 31 highway. The Hybrid is covered by a separate review.

Again, while the 2010 Ford Escape looks like a traditional, truck-based SUV from a distance, the Escape isn’t quite up to the task of real off-roading. On-demand four-wheel drive is offered, which makes the Escape capable enough for gravel roads, deep snow, and such. With either drive system, the Escape’s on-road handling manners are superb, thanks to a completely retuned suspension featuring new struts, shock absorbers, and sway bars.

Inside, the 2010 Ford Escape offers a higher seating position all around compared to other more modern-looking crossover vehicles—a feature some shorter drivers might appreciate. The front seats are comfortable, but the back seats are a bit hard, with short cushions that most adults won’t love for long trips. Folding the backseats for cargo is also way more complicated than it should be, and it involves individually pulling out each headrest. Overall packaging is the one area where the 2010 Escape shows its age; despite the fact that the Escape is such a tall vehicle, the cabin might feel a bit short on headroom for taller drivers, while the floor is higher than that of more modern designs. The Escape's materials look good up close—they were updated for '08—and the blue-green instrument lighting is extremely easy to read.

The Ford Escape performs well in crash tests and is anticipated to be a Top Safety Pick from the Institute for Highway Safety again for 2010. The SUV also earns five stars for front and side impacts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Dual-stage front airbags and side airbags are included, along with anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Integrated Spotter Mirrors are a new feature for 2010 and aid visibility in the driver's blind spot. Also available is a new Rear View Camera system, along with a new Active Park System that helps guide the driver into a feasible space. Active Park Assist includes a new feature called Pull-Drift Compensation, which helps adapt to crosswinds or odd road curvature. Parents with teen drivers might also appreciate the new programmable MyKey system, which allows limits to top speed and radio volume, also adding speed alert chimes.

The 2010 Ford Escape, along with the rest of the Ford lineup, still offers one of the best interface systems for hands-free phones; the so-called SYNC system connects easily to almost any Bluetooth-enabled or USB device and is driven via simple voice commands. Sirius Travel Link, another option, provides navigation, plus real-time traffic, weather, and fuel prices among other features, and can be easily controlled by voice commands. The 2010 Escape still doesn't offer a backseat DVD player, an extra often sought by busy families, but it offers a host of other extras like upgraded audio with steering-wheel controls, upgraded leather upholstery, and an ambient lighting system.

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2010 Ford Escape

Styling

Even though it's been kept current, the 2010 Ford Escape looks like a boxy, old-style SUV.

From a styling standpoint, the 2010 Ford Escape is one of the last of a dying breed: a vehicle that has the chunky, boxy, look of a traditional SUV. And depending on what you're seeking, that might make it feel obsolete or desirable. Instead of trying to rebody the Escape as a sleeker, more rakish vehicle, Ford keeps the Escape's conservative look and focuses on broadening the Escape's appeal with more upscale details and features.

Although the Escape gets new engines and transmissions for 2009, its appearance hasn't changed significantly since 2008. Even when Ford improved many of the Escape's details, Car and Driver wasn't a fan, remarking, “Not even a thorough interior and exterior refresh could save the 2008 iteration from a seventh-place finish out of nine in our latest small-ute roundup.”

Automobile Magazine points out that some of the changes serve a purpose: “Small aerodynamic modifications also contribute to fuel efficiency and reduce interior noise levels,” they observe, adding, “A deeper front spoiler and small spoilers in front of the rear wheels improve under-body airflow for decreased drag to slightly improve mileage.” Popular Mechanics concludes that the exterior changes "are subtle, and include a front spoiler for slicker aerodynamics and new low rolling resistance Michelin tires for improved fuel economy.”

Inside, the 2010 Ford Escape isn't particularly stylish, but it's been updated for ergonomics. Regarding the 2009 Escape, which is nearly identical to the '10 inside, Automobile Magazine says it “receives a redesigned center stack, featuring an updated version of Ford's excellent navigation and infotainment system-and, of course, SYNC. The new high-resolution screen is extraordinarily clear, and the menu structures are easy to use.”

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2010 Ford Escape

Performance

The 2010 Ford Escape accelerates and handles well on the road, and is quite fuel-efficient, even if it looks like it's compromised for off-roading.

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.

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2010 Ford Escape

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Ford Escape just doesn't meet the standards of its peers inside; its cabin look and feel is hampered by inferior materials and trim.

Even though Ford has made modest improvements to the interior of the 2010 Ford Escape in recent model years, the interior remains a weakness; compared to rival models, it has a cut-rate feel, and materials still aren't quite up to the standards of segment leaders. The Escape is also less roomy or space-efficient than you might think, given the very boxy shape.

Inside the 2010 Ford Escape, there’s ample room for four adults. ConsumerGuide says that “while the optional sunroof cuts into headroom a bit, most adults should find more than adequate headroom. Legroom is good for most adults, though taller riders would benefit from longer seat tracks.”

Popular Mechanics reports that “ride quality is impressive in all models, and the suspension's compliance soaks up big potholes and surface irregularities surprisingly well.” ConsumerGuide also says the Escape's ride is “pleasant, given the age of its basic design. Bumps are heard more than they're felt. Some float is noticeable at highway speeds, but it's not bothersome.”

Several reviewers point out the Escape's inferior cabin materials. "Disappointing overall,” comments ConsumerGuide. “Escape's interior imparts a low-buck atmosphere with lots of hard plastic trim and odd panel textures.” Automobile Magazine, in testing a simple four-cylinder model, reports, "The fan made a bit too much noise when I sent the heat toward the floorboards instead of my face, but that isn't a deal breaker." The Automobile Magazine reviewer comments, "The very basic interior looks and feels better than those of earlier Escapes, but you won't be fooled into thinking you're in a $40,000 vehicle."

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2010 Ford Escape

Safety

Even though the 2010 Ford Escape's underlying design is about a decade old, Ford has done a great job keeping this model up to snuff—especially with this year's additional safety-related options.

In terms of safety, the 2010 Ford Escape is not only a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but the SUV also earns five stars for front and side impacts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2009 Escape does, however, have a few drawbacks: drum brakes in the rear and a lower-than-typical rollover rating.

The Escape comes equipped with what Ford calls a Personal Safety System—basically, it includes all popular airbag systems (front side and side-curtain), plus anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. The curtain bags include a rollover sensor as well.

While Ford Escape used to come with four-wheel disc brakes, Edmunds points out that for the Escape and nearly identical Mercury Mariner, rear brakes were "downgraded to inferior drums in 2009." Added weight and less secure high-speed braking prowess make this purely a cost-cutting change.

Several new safety-related options are offered in the 2010 Escape. ConsumerGuide says the new MyKey system "allows owners to program a key that can limit the vehicle's top speed and audio volume." Also available is a new Rear View Camera system, along with a new Active Park System that helps guide the driver into a feasible space. Active Park Assist includes a new feature called Pull-Drift Compensation, which helps adapt to crosswinds or odd road curvature.

ConsumerGuide proclaims that the Ford Escape offers "fine all-around visibility," thanks to its commanding driving position and large windows—a departure from most utility vehicles, in which rearward vision is often impaired.

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2010 Ford Escape

Features

The 2010 Ford Escape has a very attractive entry price, but to get the most desirable options, you'll have to pay a lot more.

Just as Ford ups the ante for safety by offering more high-tech safety gear, the automaker doesn't disappoint in its list of entertainment and convenience options. The 2010 Ford Escape includes some very exciting tech features, but most are either somewhat pricey options or not available on the base models.

The SYNC interface in the 2010 Ford Escape is still likely the coolest entertainment and communications-related feature in the compact-crossover class. “Sync comes standard on Escape Limited and Escape Hybrid Limited models, and is optional on all other models," says Popular Mechanics, adding that the voice-activated nav system “uses Sirius Travel Link, which includes such goodies as weather maps, movie listings and a fuel-finder system that locates and sorts nearby gas stations by price, location and brand.”

“Travel Link also does a whole bunch of other cool stuff such as locating the cheapest and closest gas stations and linking with the nav system to get you there, or hooking up with your cell phone to make restaurant reservations," reports Car and Driver. "The system will let you watch a DVD (while parked, of course), rip MP3s to the 10-gig hard drive, and upload family photos to use as wallpaper." But they caution, “Expect to pay a bigger monthly premium for this level of on-the-road connectivity.”

ConsumerGuide warns that while the navigation system absorbs most audio controls, “it complicates some functions by requiring multiple button and/or touch-screen presses for some simple tasks. Redundant steering-wheel buttons and voice programming via Ford's Sync system help.”

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Styling 8
Performance 7
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Features 8
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