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2013 Ford Escape: First Drive

  • Stylish new look
  • No more hybrid
  • New fuel-sipping engines

Ford’s Escape has been a solid offering in the small crossover segment since before the term “crossover” was even coined. In fact, the Escape has been one of Ford’s most dependably good vehicles for many years now. Messing with success may seem like a risky move, but that’s exactly what Ford has done; and as it turns out the risk was well worth it.

The 2013 Escape is entirely reworked from the inside out. With prominent and bold lines flowing along a wind-swept body, the new Escape is certainly a bit less masculine, but will likely have much broader appeal. This sporty, classy look continues on the inside, where high quality materials give the feeling of a much more luxurious vehicle.

New Engines, New Attitude

The new Escape is based on the same platform as the all-new Ford Focus-which handles corners near the top of its class. Given that the two vehicles share much of the same suspension and handling technology we were expecting the Escape to be at least a decent performer in this category. What we experienced during a day of driving in the city, on the highway and on twisty back roads was an incredibly well balanced, road hungry handler that surpasses even the Focus’s abilities-especially when paired with Ford’s excellent all-wheel drive.

Offered with three engine choices, the new Escape follows the trend of engine downsizing by ditching the V6 and adopting only four-cylinder engines. But far from making the car less fun to drive, Ford has wisely added their EcoBoost turbocharging technology to the majority of Escape trim levels. In fact, the non-turbocharged, base 2.5-liter engine is only offered on the low-end S trim, which, with its glaring lack of modern amenities and options, is clearly geared towards rental and fleet sales. The consumer-oriented SE, SEL and Titanium trims are only available with turbocharged EcoBoost engines. The SE and SEL can be configured with either a 1.6-liter or a 2.0-liter, while the Titanium is only available with the sportier 2.0-liter.

Even without the conventional power of a V6, the EcoBoost 2.0-liter is incredibly fun and has more than enough power to negotiate everything today’s roads can throw at you. The 1.6-liter is no slouch either, delivering on both fuel economy and fun. Ford expects the 1.6-liter to be the highest volume seller given its decent balance of fun and efficiency. Unofficially the 0-60 mph time for the 2.0-liter with AWD came in at a bit more than 8 seconds when timing by hand, but the Escape’s real secret lies in the torquey turbo’s ability to overtake at speed.

Sips Gas

On the fuel economy front the turbocharged engine options certainly add up to good numbers, with the front wheel drive configuration returning an estimated (official numbers subject to change after EPA rating) 24 city/33 highway mpg on the 1.6-liter and 22 city/30 highway mpg on the 2.0-liter. Adding all-wheel drive drops fuel economy a bit to an estimated 23 city/31 highway mpg on the 1.6-liter and 21 city/28 highway on the 2.0 liter. The non-turbocharged 2.5-liter is only available in front wheel drive and is estimated to return 22 city/31 highway mpg. During a day of driving a fully loaded AWD Titanium trim with the 2.0-liter engine on mostly low speed winding back roads we averaged just about 23 mpg, but that included some aggressive testing.

Those fuel economy numbers are significant improvements over the equivalent drivetrains of the outgoing Escape, but are a bit of a backwards slide compared to the 2012 Escape Hybrid models. Unfortunately for this generation of Escape Ford has killed off the hybrid option, preferring to shift all of their small crossover hybrid love into the new-to-North-America C-Max platform.

While the turbocharged engines offer great fuel economy on the highway, in some cases even surpassing the outgoing hybrid, in the city it is a different story. In both AWD and FWD configurations, the 2012 Escape Hybrid delivered close to 30 mpg, whereas the 1.6-liter option on the new Escape never cracks 24 mpg in the city. Also, although the C-Max looks to be an interesting hybrid crossover option, it isn’t available in AWD-meaning there is currently no AWD small crossover option for the North American market.

Comfortable but Not Cheap

After two hours in the new Escape, the seats felt comfortable and supportive without being stiff. Of all the new Ford dashes and consoles, the Escape’s feels the most balanced with easily reachable and visible buttons and a touchscreen that is adequately shielded from bright sunlight.

With a base price for the S trim coming in at around $23,000, the Escape certainly starts in the affordable ballpark. But as mentioned, the S is really only geared towards spartan high volume fleet sales. Once you enter SE, SEL and Titanium territory the price jumps quickly and, after options, could easily surpass $30,000 topping out at around the $38,000 mark. That’s a lot of money for a compact crossover SUV.

Yes it was a risky move for Ford to mess with success when the outgoing Escape had its best sales year ever, but the new Escape is so much better in almost every way that the risk paid off. With the exception of killing off the only small crossover all-wheel drive hybrid available in North America, the new Escape has improved spectacularly upon the old model’s winning recipe. Now it’s up to consumers to determine if they’re willing to pay the top dollar Ford is asking.


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