- Rakish, sport-wagon look
- Taut ride and handling
- Useful, versatile cargo capacity
- Strong, efficient powertrains
- Technology features
- Awkward front end
- Dash robs front knee room
- Are seats too firm?
- MyFord Touch needs more real buttons
With authentically athletic looks and performance balancing out good passenger space, cargo versatility, and loads of high-tech features, the 2014 Ford Escape is attractive to a wide range of buyers.
Just last year, the Ford Escape fled its boxy, SUV-influenced past and became a rakish, sporty, more carlike crossover with crisp handling, potent engines, and even a little more passenger space. The 2014 Escape latches onto that well-received transformation, carrying into 2014 mostly unchanged, although the Escape SEL trim has been dropped.
And there's certainly no need for any change on this model yet. Americans are just noticing—and getting used to—the look of the new Escape. 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the Escape did its best impression of the first-generation Explorer, down to the grille and window shapes and even the outdated graining of its interior plastics. This current 2014 Escape is everything but that—a rakish profile and aggressive road-going stance on the outside; sporty, almost cockpit-like layout inside.
The new athletic look of the 2014 Ford Escape is authenticated in its road manners. Outside of the Mazda CX-5, we can't think of a compact crossover in this class that handles as well. And there's plenty of choice in what you want under the hood: Ford turns to a trio of four-cylinders to replace its former four- and six-cylinder engines and the much-loved but discontinued Ford Escape Hybrid. The base engine's a carryover 2.5-liter four meant for fleets, while the mainstream choice is a 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo four with straight-line acceleration competitive with its chief rivals, the Honda CR-V and four-cylinder Toyota RAV4. A 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder leads the charge and can dash to 60 mph in less than eight seconds (making the most of the excellent handling, too). All versions come with a six-speed automatic.
You might think that the sleeker look might mean less passenger space, but that's not the case. Front seats are slim and rather firm, and there's just enough space for adults—just two of them, due to width—to sit in back. The cargo hold's larger, and the back seat folds and flips down its own headrests for better storage space. And you can simply swing your foot below the bumper and a hands-free tailgate option opens and closes the hatch.
Ride quality in the Escape is taut, but not too harsh or busy. Cabin appointments rank high in look and feel compared to most other crossovers in this price range, although not everyone will warm to the somewhat plasticky interior, with its cockpit-like instrument panel that robs a bit of space in front and may be seen as overstyled by some.The Escape has been quite impressive for safety, but it's quite class-leading. It's earned Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as four-star overall ratings (with five stars for side impact) from the federal government, but it earned only a 'poor' rating in the new IIHS small overlap test. For 2014 the list of safety features gets better, with a rear backup camera system standard across the Ford Escape lineup.
Last year's SEL is discontinued, but the top Escape Titanium is even more of a top-of-the-line luxury model than before. For 2014, a Titanium Technology Package is now optional and adds HID Headlamps, a blind-spot system, park assist, and rain-sensing wipers. Other noteworthy features offered in the Escape include an improved but still complex MyFord Touch; a navigation system; HD and satellite radio; Bluetooth with audio streaming; pushbutton start; leather seating; all-wheel drive, with or without a 3,500-pound-rated towing package; and a panoramic sunroof.
2014 Ford Escape
The Escape doesn't bother nodding to the past; it forgets about the old SUV look and dashes for a more dynamic look.
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.
2014 Ford Escape
The Escape is one of the best-handling crossovers in its class, and the 240-hp turbo four helps make the most of it.
A quick look at the roster of powertrains for the 2014 Ford Escape can lead to confusion, but let us help you here: While there's nearly a 75-horsepower spread between base versions and top turbo models, it's not as vast a difference as it might seem, and much of the lineup checks in with fuel economy in the same ball park.
When it was redesigned for last year the Escape was offered in four trim levels; but for 2014 that has been whittled down to three (with the loss of the SEL model). The base carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder, coupled to the same six-speed automatic found in all other 2014 Escapes, comes fitted only with front-wheel drive; it makes 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, and an EPA-estimated 22/31 mpg, and it's a perfectly fine, agreeable combination. Only ten percent of Escapes will come with this engine--primarily fleet vehicles--Ford estimates, and the automaker still hasn't provided us with an extended drive of this version.
The Escape SE includes a 1.6-liter turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engine with direct injection. It spools up 178 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Performance is close to that with the base engine, but fuel-efficiency is better; the 1.6 get EPA ratings of 24/33 mpg, trouncing the non-turbo four.
At the top of the Escape lineup for performance is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo four, putting out 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. Performance here is much stronger than it is in much of the compact-crossover set; we'd liken it to the Kia Sportage SX or the Range Rover Evoque, yet with a little more refinement than either of those models. And it delivers 22/30 mpg.
Escapes shift power to the front or all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. It's mated well to the turbo engines, and the shift points strike a good balance between straight-line acceleration and gas mileage. Shift paddles are one thing that's sorely lacking; instead you get a +/- rocker switch on the shift lever and a sport-shift mode that doesn't quite live up to its name.
The 2014 Escape comes with front-wheel drive in nearly all of its forms, but if you're not in the Snow Belt you shouldn't think of all-wheel drive as necessary. A new layer of cornering sophistication comes with torque vectoring, which uses anti-lock braking to clamp an inside front wheel to tighten corners when slip is detected. With all-wheel drive (AWD) you get some added heft. In the Escape's case, the relatively simple AWD setup splits power between the front and rear wheels to shift power up to 100 percent to the end that still has a grip.
If there's clear evidence of a break from the Escape's boxy, utility-vehicle past, a blast along twisty roads is proof enough that this Escape's almost worthy of a new nameplate. You won't find trucky motions; instead there's a tightly damped ride, and weighty, fast steering that's not too overly blessed with feedback. It can feel too tautly strung at times, since the seats are no longer thickly padded, the Titanium's wheels and tires are big 19-inchers, and since there's almost no body flex to absorb ride impacts in the way the old Escape's doddering body structure used to soak up those things.
2014 Ford Escape
Comfort & Quality
The Escape is small -- compared to other compact crossovers even -- but it makes good use of the space and has great front seats.
With last year's redesign, the Escape grew in overall length, wheelbase, in cargo space, and the interior feels much more carlike, too. The Ford Escape doesn't net much more usable room for passengers, though, which leaves it quite comfortable, if a bit less open and airy, than the benchmark Honda CR-V.
With an overall length of about 178 inches, with a 106-inch wheelbase, the current Escape is up 3.4 inches in length and 2.8 inches in wheelbase versus the previous Escape. Against the just-refreshed CR-V, it's marginally shorter, but it has a wheelbase that's 2.8 inches longer. Versus some other new and noteworthy competitors, the new Escape's roughly the size of the upcoming 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and not much larger than Hyundai's Tucson.
Compared to the previous Escape, the longer wheelbase freed up some space for passengers, moving a little more than an inch of leg room from the front seats to the rear seats. Nevertheless, the Escape is smaller than some key rivals; its 40.4 inches of front leg room measure up against the CR-V's 41.3 inches, and in back, the Escape's 36.8 inches of space line up against the Honda's 38.3 inches.
That said, it's large enough to outdo the smaller side of the compact set, including the Tucson, Sportage and Rogue—more so in the back seats than in the front. We've noticed that in front the dash structure tends to nibble away at knee room in the front seats, and in the front passenger seat; the footwells taper narrowly between the dash and the wheel well. Hold back from opting for the panoramic sunroof and you'll find an overabundance of headroom, front and back.
In the top Titanium model you get firmer leather seats, of the sort that wouldn't feel out of place in a sport sedan. From the side, they have a very slim profile, and clearly were engineered to preserve as much passenger space as possible. Still, some passengers may just think they're too hard. While the driver can option up to 10-way passenger seats, the front passenger seat is manual-adjust only, even on Titanium models.
The rear bench seatbacks recline for a comfortable long-distance riding position. They also split and fold, with a clever mechanism that requires just a tug of a fabric loop to flip down the headrests and allow the seats to fold flat. The arrangement is clever, but not as clever as the Honda CR-V's trick one-touch folding system and its layout that makes best use of every cubic foot of its cargo hold.
As for the cargo space, we appreciate the optional two-position load floor that gives a choice between a flat floor and maximum storage space, as well as the enclosed cargo bin, which has grown taller and squarer—now fitting 34.3 cubic feet of unattended bags and goodies inside. But with tall sides and smaller glass areas, it's not nearly as pet-friendly as before.
In the balance, the new Escape's road manners are a huge departure--in precisely the right direction. Because of the longer wheelbase, and a tauter suspension calibration, there isn't nearly the amount of pitching fore and aft as there was in the past. It's more settled; less busy.
2014 Ford Escape
Good safety ratings and plenty of safety features -- including a new standard rearview camera system -- makes the 2014 Escape a great family pick.
The Ford Escape was all new last model year, and its safety ratings reflect the better protection that's inherent in its modern body structure. And for 2014 it gets better, with a rear backup camera system standard across the Ford Escape lineup.
Standard features include dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; and Ford's MyKey system, which lets drivers place limits on speed, volume, and other functions, for younger drivers. Standard curve control limits power to all four wheels to help the Escape stay on a safer path if the driver approaches a corner too quickly, and for 2014, a backup camera system is included. Additionally, Titanium models now include rear parking sensors as standard.
Elsewhere in the lineup, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are available, as well as blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts. The Escape's electric power steering also makes active park assist possible. As on some other Fords, this system judges parallel-parking spots, and steers the Escape into them when it will fit, with the driver operating the pedals.
Then there's all-wheel drive; it's optional throughout the lineup. And with the towing package, it comes with HID headlamps and trailer-sway control, which uses stability control to compensate for the rocking motion induced by a trailer.
As for those crash-test ratings, they're top-notch or nearly so all around. It's earned mostly 'good' scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), as well as four-star overall ratings (with five stars for side impact) from the federal government.
The one serious blemish looming over those otherwise-great safety ratings is the new IIHS small-overlap frontal test: The Escape was given a 'poor' rating (the lowest) in that.
2014 Ford Escape
Leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and Sony sound boost the Escape past other bargain crossovers -- but the price goes up accordingly.
The 2014 Ford Escape has a base price that's in the same range as most compact crossovers, although it may come as a shock to find out that a fully loaded Titanium model commands around $38k. To compare, a base Land Rover Range Rover Evoque starts at around $45k.
The base Escape S includes air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD player with six speakers; an auxiliary jack; power windows; cloth seats; and the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the six-speed automatic. A step up from that is the Escape SE, which adds on standard satellite radio; a ten-way power driver's seat; 17-inch wheels; keypad entry on the door frame; and Ford's Bluetooth-driven SYNC controller, which uses voice commands to run phone and audio systems, with information displayed on a 4.0-inch color screen.
Last year's SEL is discontinued, but the top Escape Titanium is even more of a top-of-the-line luxury model than before. The Titanium gets leather seats, heated front seats, ambient lighting, a power converter, and dual-zone climate control, along with a media hub with two USB ports, RCA jacks, and an SD slot. In addition to the top 240-hp four-cylinder engine, the Titanium also steps up to heated mirrors, 19-inch wheels, pushbutton start, and fog lamps. You'll also get a hands-free tailgate, which lets you wave a foot under the bumper to open or close the tailgate automatically.
Major options on various Escape models include a panoramic sunroof; pushbutton start; navigation system; Sony sound system; HD radio; remote start; hands-free liftgate; active park assist; 18-inch wheels; and a towing package. For 2014, a Titanium Technology Package is now optional and adds HID Headlamps, a blind-spot system, park assist, and rain-sensing wipers.
MyFord Touch, the touchscreen-and-voice system that takes over operation of audio,, media, and other features, is available on the SE and included in the Titanium. We did notice that the Escape has a volume knob and a simpler climate-control interface with knobs and buttons--whereas, first-gen MyFord Touch crossovers like the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX had swipe-sensitive strips for those functions that rarely responded quickly or evenly to the touch. Here's to those small steps of retreat—although things tend to take a few more steps than they would with dedicated buttons.
2014 Ford Escape
Some models of the 2014 Ford Escape will top 30 mpg on the highway.
The 2014 Ford Escape isn't the most fuel-efficient model among compact crossovers—although with several models in the lineup that top 30 mpg on the highway, it's one of the more efficient picks.
With the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder, earns EPA ratings of 22 miles per gallon city, 31 miles per gallon highway. It's offered only with an automatic transmission, as are the other powerplants, but it's not offered with all-wheel drive.
The rest of the lineup gets a couple of smaller-displacement, turbocharged engines, sporting direct injection. Improved aerodynamics and active grille shutters help improve fuel economy on 2.0-liter models.
The smaller 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is pegged at 23/33 mpg, again with the six-speed automatic transmission. The most powerful model, the 2.0-liter turbo four, is listed at 22/30 mpg, and it's effectively a replacement for the old V-6 engine option.All-wheel drive lowers combined fuel economy by 1 mpg in both cases where it's offered.
We haven't quite managed to meet the EPA ratings for 1.6- and 2.0-liter EcoBoost models, but with a light throttle foot and tall top gear these powertrains are likely to pay dividends on long highway trips.