Quick, what's the best-selling SUV in America? Give Up? The answer, as you might expect from the headline of this review, the Ford Escape. In March of 2014 the blue oval brand moved nearly 29,000 of the cute little compact SUVs. It's no wonder why, Escape is freshly styled, fuel efficient and loaded with features.
|2014 Ford Escape SE|
Base Price: $25,550
As-Tested Price: $29,075
Built in Kentucky.
SE Convenience Package
Reverse Sensing Syste,
Engine: Turbocharged 1.6-liter I4, 178 horsepower
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Drive Wheels: Front-Wheel Drive
Escape was restyled in 2013. It's five-passenger, four-door wagon bodystyle was retained, but Ford gave it swoopy exterior and interior lines, freshened powertrains and a slightly larger footprint. Front- or all-wheel drive remains, however, the hybrid powertrain has been discontinued. Key competitors include the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.
For 2014 Escape comes in three trim levels: S, SE and Titanium. The S comes with 17-inch steel wheels, an integrated blind-spot mirror, MyKey parental controls, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a rearview camera, the Sync voice command electronics interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
Upgrading to the SE nets you 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, a keyless entry keypad, privacy tinted glass, an eight-way power adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar), reclining rear seats and satellite radio.
Topping the line, the Titanium adds 18-inch wheels, remote start, keyless ignition/entry, power liftgate, ambient interior lighting and a Sony 10-speaker sound system. Also standard on the Titanium and optional as packages on the SE are the Convenience with adds roof rails, rear parking sensors, dual-zone climate control, a 110-volt household-style power outlet, an 8-inch touchscreen with the MyFord Touch electronics interface, upgraded Sync services (including smartphone app integration) and a nine-speaker sound system and the Leather Comfort with heated mirrors, leather upholstery and heated front seats. Also available as individual options are 18-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate and a navigation system.
Escape's MSRP ranges from $ 22,610 to $28,610 depending on model. Destination charge is $895. Standard and offered only on the S is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 168 horsepower. SE and Titanium models get a turbocharged Ecoboost 1.6-liter four that makes 178 horsepower. Optional on those models is a Ecoboost 2.0-liter turbo four that cranks out 240 horsepower. Towing ratings max out at 3500 pounds on models that have the 2.0-liter engine.
Options include a Titanium Technology package (xenon headlights, blind-spot monitoring/cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers and an automated parallel-parking system), 19-inch alloy wheels and the panoramic sunroof and navigation system.
The Escape is built in Louisville, Kentucky, on Ford's global C platform. It shares chassis and components with the Mazda 3, Lincoln MKC and Ford C-Max and Focus.
Get Up and Go Offering three engines was a wise choice and allows Escape to appeal to more compact SUV buyers. Though we haven't had the opportunity to evaluate the base 2.5-liter engine, in the past it hasn't proven to be the smoothest or most powerful in the class, but it gets the job done. It's only offered in the price-leading S and likely won't find many buyers.
The two turbo motors are much more entertaining. The 1.6-liter in the SE and SEL will push Escape from 0 to 60 mph in about nine seconds. That's par for the class and probably all of the performance that most buyers will need -- though it does feel a little slow off the line and gets winded in highway passing opportunities.
The 2.0-liter turbo feels substantially more powerful, and it should as it's also used in the significantly larger and heavier Ford Edge and Explorer. When prodded, the engine will push the Escape from 0 to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. That's downright fast for the class. Like the 1.6, the 2.0 feels a little sleepy off the line, but once moving acceleration is impressive. It's obviously the engine of choice for the leadfoot crowd.
EPA ratings for the two turbo motors are surprisingly good. When equipped with all-wheel drive, the 1.6 comes in at 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway and the 2.0 nets 22/30. Both sets of numbers are impressive for the class. Regular-grade gasoline is OK for either motor, but best fuel economy and performance will be achieved with premium-grade fuel.
Driven with a light throttle foot, the 1.6-liter equipped SE averages about 27 mpg overall. Throw in a heavy dose of highway driving and you'll push that average close to 30 mpg. If you spend all of your time commuting around the city, expect economy to drop into the mid to low 20s.
On the Road The previous-generation Escape looked like an but drove like a car and the 2013 model is no different. The suspension does an excellent job of absorbing bumps -- big or small. Step up to the Titanium and its larger wheels and tires and stiffer suspension and the ride grows firmer, but never unsettling. Perhaps the biggest difference between the Titanium and lessor models is the way Escape rides on bumpy roads, where the Titanium remains composed and SEs and SELs bounce and bob a bit.
When the road grows twisty, the new Escape, despite its size and weight increase, feels slightly more nimble and agile than the model it replaces. The steering is still devoid of road feel and has a sloppy on-center characteristics, but at least it firms up in quick changes of direction. Body lean is most noticeable in S and SE models, and fairly controlled in Titanium. The brake pedal is easy to modulate and the brakes have good stopping power.
Escape is surprisingly quiet on the highway. Around down, you mostly hear the engine run through the gears in acceleration but will also be pleasantly surprised by Escape's hushed interior. At times the sport-tuned tires on the Titanium kick up a racket, but that's only on rough and grooved concrete pavement.
Behind the Wheel Ford's designers have upped the ante with a handsome and functional interior that features high-grade materials that are a notch above most others in the class. Drivers face two large and handsome gauges for engine and vehicle speed with a nice color video screen in between.
The center console houses radio and climate controls. In models so equipped, MyFordTouch dominates the center console. It blends Sync, radio, climate and vehicle controls it a large voice- and touch-activated video-screen. In theory, MyFordTouch is designed to simplify operation of audio, navigation and climate control systems but it takes a lot of training until operation becomes natural. Since MyFordTouch is essentially a software package, Ford has been constantly updating its operation based on consumer feedback.
Front buckets are adult size and quite comfortable. Headroom is generous and leg room acceptable. As in the previous Escape, the seating position is upright and chair like. Visibility is good to all directions and electronic aids like blind-spot and cross traffic alert are quite helpful. Also available is Ford's parallel park assist. It works as advertised and produces a perfect parallel park every time. A worthwhile feature if you live in an urban area.
Rear seats have adult head space, but fall short on knee and foot space. If you move the front-seats up a bit, knee and foot room become acceptable. This is typical among compact SUVs and crossovers. Escape's Seats are flat but comfortable.
Cargo space is impressive for the class and the rear seatbacks fold quite easily. Another nice feature is the bumper-sensor that will open or close the rear hatch with a pass of the foot. A feature that no one asked for comes in handy when loading or unloading. Interior storage is great with lots of cubbies and bins throughout.
Bottom Line Escape is remarkable for its combination of comfort, features and economy. The 1.6-liter turbo engine offers good acceleration and fantastic fuel economy. Opting for the Titanium brings real performance and gobs of features, but also a hefty price tag.
There are quite a few great choices in the compact crossover field and the Escape is a worthy competitor that offers a choice of very fuel-efficient engines. Don't be dissuaded by MyFordTouch. The idea behind it is quite sound and Ford will eventually get the software right. Plus, if you want you can avoid the system all together and opt for the base climate control and sound system -- and save a few bucks in the trade.