First debuted in 2000 as a 2001 model, the Ford Escape became a sales phenomenon and remains the best-selling SUV in America. Having been through two generations, the 2013 model year introduces a third and all-new generation for the Escape. The 2013 Escape, slated to launch in April 2012, opens the compact SUV market to advanced technological elements and superior fuel efficiency.

The first difference customers will notice between the new Escape and the old is its body design. Since its inception, the Escape has been a short, boxy compact SUV, reminiscent of other Ford SUV offerings like the Explorer. With a broad, powerful, and often chrome-clad front grille, the old Escape looked stout and off-road capable. The new Escape carries itself differently. Mimicking the new "One Ford" front fascia, the 2013 Escape's lines are more fluid, sleek and aerodynamic. Ford boasts the new Escape is 10 percent more aerodynamic than the previous model.

Sharing a platform with the new Ford Focus, the 2013 Escape will be built in Louisville, Kentucky. Unlike the Focus, the Escape will be available with a new intelligent four-wheel drive system that employs input from 25 external data points including wheel speed, accelerator position and steering wheel angle. This new four-wheel drive system makes-in spite of its sleek looks-more off-road capable than ever before.

The new Escape shares its underpinnings and the majority of its suspension components with the new Focus. Accordingly, the new Escape handles even more smoothly than the previous generation. In fact, the new Escape handles nearly just as well as its little brother, the Focus.

The technological wonders don't end with the intelligent four-wheel drive system. Making use of newly mainstreamed motion technology-like that found in modern video game consoles-the Escape has an automatically opening rear hatch activated by waving ones foot under the rear bumper. While a hands-free opening liftgate might seem excessive, it makes loading groceries that much simpler. Beyond ease of access for owners, the hands-free liftgate exemplifies the care and consideration Ford took when designing the new Escape. Ford has also included an upgraded MyFord Touch system in the new Escape, making pairing and interacting with digital devices even easier.

Boasting more interior space than the previous model, the new Escape features 68.1 cubic feet of space behind the first row of seats and 34.3 cubic feet behind the second row.

Counter-intuitively, Ford has done away with its popular Hybrid version of the Escape for 2013. Surprisingly, the new Escape is more efficient than ever-even without a Hybrid variant. In place of the Hybrid, customers will be able to choose between two EcoBoost engines: a 1.6-liter and a 2-liter featuring direct injection and turbochargers. The standard Escape engine will be normally aspirated 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine.

Ford estimates fuel economy numbers to be 24 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway for the 1.6-liter and 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway for the 2.0-liter. Adding all-wheel drive to either engine drops fuel economy down to an estimated 23 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway for the 1.6-liter and 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for the 2.0 liter. The non-turbocharged 2.5-liter is only available in front wheel drive and is estimated to return 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. No matter which engine customers choose, Ford has offered only one transmission choice for the 2013 Escape: a six-speed "SelectShift" automatic.

With a base price for the S trim near the $23,000, the Escape starts off competitively. Once customers step up to the SE, SEL and Titanium models, however, the price jumps quickly and-after adding options-could easily surpass $30,000 and top out around $38,000.

With the 2013 Escape, Ford hopes to continue its SUV sales domination. The 2013 Escape not only achieves class-leading fuel economy, but it also features improved interior space, technology and accessibility that tops the previous model and the competition.

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Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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