I was fortunate enough to be in Los Angeles at the LA Auto Show in November 2011 when Ford took the wraps off of this brand-new model. Witnessing the unveiling of an all-new car that is clearly very important to an auto manufacturer is a very interesting thing. To call the reveal of the new Escape a big deal would be a huge understatement. Let’s have a look at what all the fuss was about.
The Escape is a huge seller for Ford, and so it was somewhat surprising that they would take this perennial sales winner and completely redesign it, inside and out. Escapes start at a mere CDN $21,499, but if you want yours loaded up like the one I’ve been driving, the 2.0 L EcoBoost Titanium 4WD model, you’ll be asked to part with a substantial $43,349. Ouch.
Under the Hood
Ford offers you three choices for engines – a tepid 2.5 Liter 4-cylinder as well as both of the smaller EcoBoost engines. This one came with the top-of-the-line 2.0-Liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost. It’s a thoroughly 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. The caveat is that you’ll never actually achieve numbers like that. In my week of driving it, the Escape returned 14.3 L/100 km (16 mpg) during nearly all city driving, with a couple of freeway sprints thrown in. I never made an effort to save gas, but I also wasn’t driving with a heavy foot. That mileage isn’t completely miserable considering this vehicle’s size, weight, all-wheel drive, etc – but it’s a significant step down from the advertised numbers. Of course, that’s nothing unusual when it comes to reality vs. advertised numbers. The fuel tank holds 57 Liters and this loaded Escape tips the scales at a rather portly 3732 pounds.
The change here is so significant from the three-box style of the previous generation of Escape, that one would be forgiven for not recognizing it. There are few, if any, clues as to its heritage.
The new styling is modern, and includes a number of Ford’s common themes, including the fresh corporate face and 3-hole trapezoidal grille.
The body is chiseled and appears much sleeker than in the past. The HID headlamp pods are swept back, and include an attractive strip of LED driving lights at the bottom of the lens.
A character crease runs the length of the side, at door handle height – starting at the goofy faux air vent on the front flank. Fenders are mildly flared and the roofline has a dramatic slope toward the back, giving it a rakish appearance.
The rear end gets a little busy, with some big wrap-around tail lights and a number of indentations, creases and angles.
The Titanium has handsome 19″ wheels, shod with 235/45-size rubber.
I quite like the looks of the new Escape. Interestingly, at the unveiling last year, the styling was quite polarizing with some (like me) liking it a lot and some strongly disliking it. As always, a vehicle’s looks are subjective – I’ll leave it up to you if it’s to your taste or not.
Ford interiors have made waves for being well done in the last few years, and they’ve done a pretty good job in the Escape as well. Space is good in the front – there’s plenty of headroom, and considering it’s not a super wide vehicle, you never feel cramped.
Materials are nice – soft-touch plastics cover almost every surface in the interior. There are a few glossy trim strips but overall, I found the interior to be quite dark and a little too business-like – I’d love to see a little more contrast in there. Live it up a little, Ford! Fit and finish seemed good, but there were a few shimmies and jiggly sounds over bigger bumps.
Everything is powered, of course – doors, windows, mirrors, the sliding sunshade and the front section of the massive panoramic sunroof and the trunk lid. I liked the keyless entry and the push-start ignition.
The heated, power-adjustable seats are very comfortable and actually provide excellent bolstering for this class of vehicle. They’re trimmed in a leather/cloth combination – the driver’s side offers 3 memory settings. There’s Ford’s standard manually-adjustable steering wheel, fitted with a ton of controls handling the driver information screen, the media system, phone, handsfree and cruise. Behind it sits a nice, clear set of gauges, separated by Ford’s fantastic driver information screen.
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 feeding off of any imaginable source of audio), the navigation system, phone functions and climate control. All this sits in a kind of chin that juts out of the dash. Below that is a dual-zone automatic climate control system.
You can get some fantastic tech toys with this vehicle. You’ve got the awesome Active Park Assist, which will parallel park your ride quicker and more accurately than most of us could ever do it. This is coupled with a rear-view camera, and front and rear distance sensors with audible alarms. You also get cross-traffic sensors (very helpful when backing up in a parking lot) and a blind-spot monitoring system.
One of the coolest features is the hands-free power tailgate. If the vehicle is locked and you’ve got your hands full of stuff, you just need to walk up to it (with the fob in your pocket or on your person somewhere) and swing your foot up underneath the rear bumper. Within a second, the tailgate opens. Now THAT’S convenience!
The center console houses a parking brake lever on the left, the seat heater controls and a 12V plug, and the shift lever. There are 2 cupholders and a upholstered armrest.
There are three seats, three headrests and three seatbelts. The seat cushions look horribly thin – accordingly, I felt the rear seats to be a bit too firm and I found the thigh cushions to be a tad short too. The seatbacks do recline but the seats don’t slide forward or back. Headroom is OK, and leg room is decent.
There are adjustable air vents, 2 seatback map pockets, LED map lights on either side, and an awesome 110V household plug. The middle seatback folds down to become an armrest with two cupholders in it.
Getting kids in the back is no problem – the doors open nice and wide, and there are 2 LATCH anchors for kids’ seats.
There’s a decent glove compartment, smallish door bins with integrated bottle holders, and hilariously, an “umbrella holder” divot beside the driver’s seat. OK.
The armrest lid opens to a small but deep bin, containing another 12V plug, 2 USB plugs and a set of RCA plugs. There are a couple of shallow storage compartments under a hard cover under the floormat in the right rear footwell. Not sure what you’d put in there as they’re quite small.
If you’re a regular reader, you know I take my storage spaces very seriously – enough to dedicate a section to them in my reviews. I found the nooks and crannies to be sorely lacking in the Escape – as in there are none. I wanted more little spaces to put my stuff, and I found none other than what I listed here.
The trunk space is large, offering 971 Liters (34.3 cu.ft.) of room. Fold the second row of 60/40 split seats (almost) flat, and you’re looking at a cavernous 1,920 Liters (67.8 cu.ft.) which can swallow a whole lotta stuff. There’s a retractable soft tonneau cover, which is removable as well.
The 2.0 Liter EcoBoost is no slouch, and provides exceptional albeit thirsty performance. There’s a moment’s worth of turbo lag, and then it’s just a turbine-smooth delivery of power, all the way to redline. There’s no shortage of jam, and passing in the city and on the highway are never an issue.
In a further indicator of this engine’s flexibility, I drove a much larger, heavier Explorer with the same engine, and it was plenty powerful in that vehicle as well.
The transmission is very smooth and refined. It can be shifted manually, using Ford’s stupid manual thumb toggle on the shift lever. I hate that thing, and the transmission is good enough to leave to its own devices anyway.
The ride is firm, but very comfortable, and never left me wanting something more cushy. It is very well-done and always feels controlled, and especially in consideration of what you get in the handling department. Though you’ll find some body roll around corners, it’s actually very minimal for a vehicle like this, and the Escape impressed me in every situation where its handling was tested. It grips the pavement tenaciously, and doesn’t shy away from corners or curves at all.
I was able to drive the Escape on a test track, and its electronic stability control is also very well done, bringing a vehicle that has been pushed beyond its limits back into shape very quickly and without ever letting you feel as though you’ve gone too far.
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. The traction control kicks in a bit quickly, but you can turn it off and have fun with it too.
The brakes were powerful enough to handle any situation I threw at it, and were easy to control and modulate.
Sound levels are very well dampened. Road, wind and engine noise are all very low.
Visibility out of the Escape is very good. You sit high, and even though the rear haunches sneak up and make for a thicker rear section, it doesn’t really intrude in your shoulder-checking zone.
I took issue with some of the ergonomics in the Escape. Considering how critical the MyFordTouch screen is to the major tech functions in the vehicle, I have to say the placement of it sucks here in the Escape. It’s set too deeply into the dash surface. That alone would be a tad irritating. But on top of that, I found that the plastic “cheeks” and “chin” surrounding the screen stick out too far. What this does is makes it tough to touch the outside edges of the screen, especially the bottom of it – which is not cool, because many of the soft buttons are situated there. E.T. would do well with it though.
I also didn’t like that the controls near the bottom of the center stack such as the climate control system and the trunk opener, etc were difficult to reach with the shift lever in Park. You have reach around the lever and that’s an oversight that I didn’t appreciate.
The Bluetooth phone link didn’t stay consistently paired to my phone, and there were a few occasions where I had to manually reconnect it. That drives me crazy.
I don’t always use a vehicle’s voice recognition system, because each one works differently and not all of them work well. I am consistently impressed with Ford’s system, however, and the Escape’s was no exception. Making things happen is as easy as saying it – the recognition was 100% accurate, and without being too layered. I hate asking a car to call someone, only to have to go through 3 or 4 layers of further questioning or confirming that I want to do that before it actually happens. In the Escape, I said “Call home” and 2 seconds later, it’s dialing my home. That’s the way it should work.
I was really 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.
Although the 2.0 Liter EcoBoost provides tremendous performance, it is thirsty. I had the opportunity to put the 1.6-Liter EcoBoost Escape through its paces a couple of weeks ago at the AJAC Test Fest, and frankly, I thought it provided plenty of performance for a vehicle like this. It was smooth, powerful enough and will definitely give you better fuel economy. Something to consider.
I give the Ford Escape a 7 out of 10. If I could get this level of trim with the 1.6-Liter EcoBoost (you can’t right now – it’s only available in lower trim levels) and if the whole package came in at a price that wasn’t quite so shocking, I’d happily boost that to an 8 out of 10.
On a side note, every single person that asked about the price of this vehicle was completely taken aback at how high it was. Mind you, I’ve seen more upper trim level new Escapes driving around than lower trim ones. Go figure.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high for the Escape. She loved the driving position, and how smoothly it drives. She actually liked the color on the test vehicle, which I didn’t, and considering she needs to shop like you and I need oxygen, she was head-over-heels in love with the hands-free liftgate.
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 would stick to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” train of thought. Kudos to Ford for taking a risk here, and for coming up with a vehicle that manages to step into the future.
As far as I’m concerned, the Escape should 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 more of them under my vehicle reviews tab at the top of my blog.