The radical redesign from a couple of years ago seems tamer now, but the Escape keeps flying out of showrooms thanks to a smart package with excellent (albeit thirsty) performance and comfort on the road, a tech-laden interior and a sizeable cargo area.
I was at the LA Auto Show in November 2011 when Ford took the wraps off of this all-new Escape. Witnessing the unveiling of an all-new vehicle that is very important to an auto manufacturer is very interesting. To call the reveal of the new Escape a big deal to Ford would be an understatement – there was a lot of confidence but some nervousness too. Perhaps the fact that they had redesigned (from the ground up) the best-seller in its class had the Ford folks wondering if they’d done the right thing?
The Escape was a huge seller for Ford in 2011, so at the time it was somewhat surprising that they would take this perennial sales winner and completely redesign it, inside and out.
The in-your-face modern styling of the Escape has become familiar on our roads now, and isn’t as fresh as it once was. You’ll find some common Ford themes, including the corporate snout and 3-hole trapezoidal grille. The body is chiseled and although it’s tall, it appears sleeker than it is. A character crease runs the length of the side, at door handle height – starting at the faux air vent (can we stop using those now?) on the front flank. The roofline has a dramatic slope toward the back, giving the whole thing a somewhat rakish appearance. I thought the rear end got a little busy with a whole whack of indentations, creases and angles. The Titanium has really nice 19″ wheels, shod with some serious 235/45-size rubber.
Interior space is good in the front – there’s plenty of headroom, and considering it’s not a particularly wide vehicle, you never feel cramped. Materials are nice – soft-touch plastics cover many of the inside surfaces, and there are a few glossy trim strips. Overall, I found the interior to be quite dark – I’d love to see a little more contrast. Fit and finish seemed good and the vehicle was rock-solid over bumps and potholes.
The seats are very comfortable and actually provide excellent bolstering. The middle of the dash houses the ubiquitous MyFordTouch touchscreen system and a couple of hard buttons and a rotary knob. I’m starting to get used to the idiosyncrasies of this system, and for the most part, it does what it promises. It handles the stereo (an excellent-sounding Sony-branded system), the navigation system, phone functions and climate control. All this sits in a kind of chin that juts out of the dash and below it is a dual-zone automatic climate control system. Side note – thank you, Ford, for not burying the seat heater controls in the MyFordTouch screen.
Considering how critical the MyFordTouch screen is to some of the vehicle’s major functions, I have to say its placement sucks in the Escape. It’s set too deeply into the plastic “cheeks” and “chin” surrounding it. Unless you’re E.T., it’s a bit tough to touch the outside edges of the screen – which is where some of the most-used soft buttons are.
Speaking of ergonomics, I also don’t like that the controls near the bottom of the center stack – such as the climate control system and the trunk opener – were difficult to reach with the shift lever in Park.
The rear passenger area has three seats. The seat cushions look horribly thin – unsurprisingly, I felt the rear seats were too firm and I found the thigh cushions to be a tad short too. The seatbacks do recline and I found headroom to be fine for me (at 5’10”) and leg room is decent.
We really appreciated the 110V household plug – a convenient addition to the back seating area. Getting kids in the back is no problem – the doors open wide, and there are 2 LATCH anchors for kids seats.
I found the nooks and crannies to be sorely lacking in the Escape – I was always looking for more little spaces to put my stuff. However, the trunk space makes up for some of that – it is large, offering 971 litres of room. Fold the second row of 60/40 split seats (almost) flat, and you’re looking at a cavernous 1,920 litres which can easily swallow a whole lot of stuff. Included is a retractable and removable soft tonneau cover.
Under the Hood/The Drive
Ford offers you three choices for engines – a tepid 2.5 Litre 4-cylinder as well as two EcoBoost engines. This one came with the top-of-the-line 2.0-Litre 4-cylinder EcoBoost. A modern engine, sporting direct injection and turbocharging, it churns out 240 HP at 5500 RPM and more importantly, 270 lb.ft of torque at a low 3000 RPM. The power is sent through a dual-clutch 6-speed automatic to all four wheels.
Fuel economy ratings are quite impressive at 9.8 L/100 km (24 mpg) in the city and 6.9 L/100 km (34 mpg) on the highway. As always, the caveat is that you’ll never actually achieve numbers like that. In my week of driving it, the Escape guzzled 12.1 L/100 km (19 mpg) during nearly all city driving, with a couple of freeway sprints thrown in. While that mileage isn’t completely miserable considering this vehicle’s size, weight, all-wheel drive, etc., I do have to note that I was trying to drive it economically. The smallish fuel tank only holds 57 litres and the surprisingly portly Escape tips the scales at 3732 pounds.
Even so, the 2.0-litre EcoBoost is no slouch and provides sizzling performance. It’s very responsive – there’s a negligible moment of turbo lag, and then it’s just a turbine-smooth delivery of power. Hammer on it and this thing absolutely sling-shots itself off the line. It runs out of breath before you hit redline, but I can’t imagine there will be many instances when an Escape is being redlined, especially with this prodigious amount of torque available at low RPMs. There’s no shortage of jam, and passing in the city or on the highway are never an issue.
The transmission is very smooth and refined. It can be shifted manually, using a goofy manual thumb toggle on the shift lever. I hate that thing, and the transmission is programmed well enough for a vehicle that doesn’t have sporting pretenses – I’d rather leave the autobox to do its own work here.
Ford sorted the Escape’s suspension out well. The ride is firm, but very comfortable and always feels controlled. The handling department is also impressive. Of course you’ll find some body roll around corners, but it’s kept to a minimum. Push the Escape, and you’ll find it eagerly grips the pavement and doesn’t shy away from corners or curves at all. The all-wheel drive system was transparent on dry roads, and did very well in the fresh snow we saw during my week with it. There’s even room for fun, allowing you to slide the rear end a tad before the electronic systems kick in.
Sound levels are very well dampened. Road, wind and engine noise are all very low. Visibility out of the Escape is good. You sit high with a nice view of the road through that huge windshield, but the rear headrests are intrusive when you’re trying to see out of the back. Luckily they can be folded down.
If you need to do some towing, the Escape can pull up to 3500 pounds. That’s impressive in this segment and leaves some of the competition in the dust.
On the whole, I was impressed with the Escape. It’s a vehicle that is easy to own and live with, and provides a substantial amount of tech, luxury, utility, safety and performance. I give the Escape a 7 out of 10.
Although the 2.0-litre EcoBoost provides tremendous performance, it is, as mentioned, thirsty. I’ve driven the Escape with the 1.6-litre EcoBoost – it’s equally smooth, still provides plenty of performance for this vehicle and will definitely yield somewhat better fuel economy. I’d be happy if I could get this Titanium trim with the 1.6 EcoBoost (it’s only available in the lower SE trim).
On a side note, every single person that asked about the price of this vehicle was completely taken aback at how expensive it was. Escapes start at a mere $23,999, but if you want yours loaded up like my review sample, you’ll be asked to part with an additional 20 grand. Ouch. Mind you, I’ve seen more Titanium-trim Escapes driving around in the real world than any other trim. Go figure.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high for the Escape. She loved the driving position, and how smoothly it drives. Considering she needs to shop like you and I need oxygen, she was head-over-heels in love with the hands-free liftgate. Ironically, it always worked for her.
It was a gamble for Ford to completely revise a vehicle that had been the class leader in sales for a number of years. Some manufacturers would stick with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” train of thought, but clearly Ford has done something right with the new Escape. I don’t think they missed a step in terms of the Escape’s sales figures – in Canada in February 2014, the Escape outsold the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion combined. As far as I’m concerned, the Escape will continue to be a winner on showroom floors.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Ford Canada.
If you enjoyed this review, feel free to check out my other vehicle reviews under the car reviews tab at the top of my blog.
Pricing: 2014 Ford Escape Titanium
Base price (Titanium trim): $35,699
Options: $400 White platinum tri-coat paint; $1750 Titanium Technology; $1750 Panorama Roof; $800 MyFordTouch/Nav; $150 all-weather floor mats; $150 cargo area protector; $500 Towing package; $650 19” wheels; -$550 Canadian Touring package discount
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $43,014
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, VW Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander