2009 Ford Escape Review

2009 Ford Escape - Comfortable compact.


The 2009 Escape features an all-new 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers better power and a notable 171 horsepower. Linked to a new six-speed automatic transmission, there is a distinct improvement in power on demand and improved fuel economy. Having both is hard do these days but nice when you can find it.

It is no secret that Ford's Escape has been a popular choice for consumers in the compact SUV segment. Just look around - these small SUVs are everywhere. Some are occupied by young drivers getting their first SUV, while others are being driven by young families looking for space and fuel economy in something other than a sedan.

Part of the reason for the popularity is the combination of Escape's versatility for hauling people and cargo. The other part can be attributed to a rather dependable vehicle that has good rating on performance over time.

The Escape was one of the first SUVs that I remember showing you that you didn't have to be huge or truck-like, nor did you have to be overbearing on the road, to be an SUV. Escape has just enough utility space to be flexible while still delivering a comfortable people-hauling ability.

The Escape is offered in a front-wheel-drive, gas/electric hybrid model (34 mpg city, 31 mpg highway) that has proven to be popular and competitively priced. The all-wheel-drive version of the hybrid is rated at 29/27 mpg. The Ford Escape is also available in four- and six-cylinder models,

My tester had a black paint scheme with a rich luster than accentuated the curves and exterior styling. The dark color also was a great contrast to the bold two-deck chrome grille and rocker panels. The chrome rims carried this sophisticated look across the entire vehicle.

Truth be told, you really cannot get more than four adults into the cabin comfortably, but three kids in back is pretty easily achieved. The Escape's step-in height is lower than other small SUVs and visibility is high. I found the dash controls to be within easy reach. Seat comfort was marginal in front and back.

The Escape has always had plasticy interior surfaces and this 2009 model is no different. This is a value-oriented SUV and I guess that's the trade-off. Overall this is a moderately sized interior that accommodates large front seat passengers, but second-row riders will be a bit cramped.

There are plenty of storage spots stashed about the cabin, and cargo capacity ranges from 29.2 to 66.3 cubic-feet, depending on the position of the split, folding rear seat. One thing I really hate is that in order to make the load floor completely flat, you must first remove the rear seat head rests.

The Escape offers a combination navigation system and sound system upgrade. An auxiliary input jack is standard equipment. The dash-mounted jack allows you to connect your MP3 player to the sound system. My tester had an AM/FM, 6-disc CD changer with seven speakers and a subwoofer.

The best part of all of this was the SYNC communication/entertainment platform that allows you to control Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and most MP3 players via voice commands.

Speaking of conveniences, the new Ford EasyFuel cap (or lack thereof) is an amazing advancement, effectively eliminating the need for a fuel cap to be turned on and off before fueling. Just flip open the door and press the nozzle through the flexible barrier. Close the door and the opening is sealed tight. Believe me, in winter weather; it takes a few (very cold) seconds off the time to fill up.

The new 2.5-liter has more zip and feels less taxed when pressed compared to the 2.3-liter it replaces. The addition of the six-speed transmission spreads the engine's power over a wider range, which accounts for the less stressed feel and the slight increase in mileage. The inline four-cylinder checks in with an EPA estimated 19 mpg city/25 highway in all-wheel drive models.

Escape's AWD system is fully automatic, requiring no input from the driver to engage or disengage. Effectively a front-wheel drive vehicle under most regular conditions, the system uses sensors in each wheel to detect slip, and channel power to the rear wheels as needed. This Escape is not equipped with a LandRover-esque 4x4 system, though light off-roading is well within its capabilities. My four-cylinder Escape could tow up to 1,500 pounds. Six-cylinder versions can pull up to 3,500 pounds, when equipped with the towing package.

Effectively a front-wheel drive vehicle under normal conditions, the system uses sensors in each wheel to detect slip, and channel power to the rear wheels as needed, to maintain your grip. In keeping with the driving habits of most Escape buyers, this is not a hard core, rock crawling, 4x4 system, though light off-roading is well within its capabilities. Light towing, too: the four-cylinder Escape can be equipped to pull up to 1,500 pounds. Six-cylinder versions can pull up to 3,500 pounds, when equipped with the towing package.

Standard electronic stability control helps the driver maintain composure when driving conditions deteriorate. Both the steering system and the suspension have been revised for 2009. The retuned chassis -- along with a change to Michelin Latitude Tour tires -- combine to provide tighter handling, but sacrifice nothing in terms of ride comfort.

The Escape continues to be one of the most popular small SUVs by combining good looks, reasonable fuel mileage and good power. Hybrid versions are still top-selling models on the market.

John Stein

John Stein grew up in an extended family that valued the art of going fast. Spending plenty of weekends at U.S. 30 Drag Strip and Sante Fe Speedway, he fondly remembers the screaming machines and the flying mud that made those long-gone racing havens such special memories. With plenty of late nights spent ‘tinkering’ with cars throughout high school, he never anticipated his interest cars and his love for writing might find a common ground. After graduating from Eastern Illinois University in 1988, John started writing for the weekly Southtown Economist. So, when the Economist went to a daily in 1994, and needed an auto editor, John took the proverbial steering wheel. Featured weekly in the Sun-Times and its 17 suburban publications, as well as ELITE Magazine, John balances being the Automotive Editor for Sun-Time Media with being a husband and dad in Plainfield, Illinois.