2013 Ford Escape Titanium AWD Review by Carey Russ


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Ford Escape

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

• SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide


By any measure, Ford's compact Escape crossover SUV has been a success. Surprisingly, there were no major changes during the two generations from its model year 2001 introduction through 2012. If technically a unibody crossover, it was styled and marketed like an SUV, the smaller sibling to the Explorer and not to be confused with Ford's newer Edge and Flex crossovers.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Ford Escape

Ford still considers the 2013 Escape to be in its SUV family, but both the definition of SUV and the Escape itself have changed. Considerably. Even the Explorer is now a unibody vehicle. And in styling, the original Escape's boxy shape has been replaced by a sleek look with a strong resemblance to the compact Focus -- appropriate since the new Escape is based on the same "Global C" platform. If our new Escape looks European, that's only because it was developed from, and shares most styling with, the European Ford Kuga.

The 2013 Escape lineup differs more than a little from previous years. Gone are the V6 and hybrid options. All engines offered are four-cylinder, matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. The base powerplant is a 2.5-liter, with 168 horsepower. For slightly more power and fuel economy, a 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbocharged, intercooled, and direct-injected "EcoBoost" (in Ford parlance) engine replaces the old hybrid. A 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower EcoBoost unit replaces the V6. That 240 is the same horsepower as the last V6 Escape I drove, and the Eco Boost engine beats the V6 in torque, 270 lb-ft to 223.

While the 2.5 engine is offered only in front-wheel drive form, a full-time all-wheel drive system is available with the EcoBoost engines. Trim levels are S, SE, and Titanium, powered by the 2.5, 1.6 EcoBoost, and 1.6 or 2.0 EcoBoost engines respectively. Standard equipment levels are high -- even the S gets a backup camera -- and options are available to put an Escape in the near-luxury class, especially if it's a Titanium.

Such as this week's test car, a 2013 Titanium with all-wheel drive with key options including the blind-spot information system (BLIS), active park assist, and leather. A quick perusal of Ford's consumer website shows that current inventory is likely to be 2014 models. Unsurprisingly, standard equipment and options have been rearranged -- but to the buyer's benefit as the backup camera wasn't standard for 2013, and neither was the leather in the Titanium.

Equipment differences are minor details. The vehicle itself is unchanged, and there was no need for change. I suspect most Escapes are S and SE models. But if you want or need power, or plant to tow, the Titanium will do, and very well. I found it comfortable and quiet in ride quality, nimble in handling, allowing for its greater-than-car height, and not at all lacking in power. Need to pass? We just did… yet mileage around town was 18 to 20 mpg, with 25 to 30 on the highway. At one point I saw 40 mpg on the highway -- but that was downhill with a tail wind. Turn around for fair play and it dropped to 28. The foot-activated tailgate is much more than a silly gimmick if you are in the habit of coming up to your car (or SUV) with two hands full of groceries or kids or some combination thereof. 2.0-liter towing capacity is a useful 3500 pounds, more than enough for a small camping trailer, motorcycle or ATV or personal watercraft trailer, or small boat.

APPEARANCE: You could almost be excused for thinking that an Escape is the current Focus wagon. There is much similarity in sculpted shape, especially at the front, but, in the crossover fashion, the Escape's body is chunkier and higher, for a higher seating position. It makes any previous Escape look like the box it came in. It looks aerodynamic, and is. Strong winds, a daily fact of life in my part of the world, perturb it not at all. The silvery plastic "skidplate" in front is less that and more underbody air management, with rubber deflectors at its trailing edge (and one air scoop) and a mostly-flat underbody to ensure clean air management for reduced noise and fuel consumption. Strong wheelarches and rubberized protective cladding surrounding the lower perimeter are as close as the new Escape comes to traditional SUV styling.

COMFORT: To a comfort-oriented seating position, good visibility to the front and sides, enhanced to the rear by the rearview camera, and plenty of headroom, add space. Even the center rear position is reasonable, thanks to a near-flat floor (and dependent on the size of the outboard passengers). There's 34.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seat, or 68 with the rear seat down -- which is easily done via levers on the outboard edges of each 60/40 seat part. Titanium means stitched leather seating and steering wheel rim, front seat heat, and soft-touch textured door and dash panels. It's all very stylish, and more than a little reminiscent of a Focus, but function is not compromised. The electroluminescent main instruments are well-shaded from glare and easily visible, with a useful information display between the tach and speedometer. Controls for the information, cruise control, audio, and phone systems are found on the steering wheel. Those and the MyFordTouch touchscreen interface do have a learning curve, but are no more difficult to decipher than any other current such interface.

Bonus points to Ford for also having good old-fashioned knobs and buttons for climate control. All current audio choices are available, including AM, FM, and Sirius/XM radio, CD, and USB and A/V jack inputs. The touchscreen is also interface for the navigation system, and displays the backup camera view in reverse. A space-saver spare is found under the rear cargo floor, and liftover is lower than in many comparably-sized crossovers. Ford's SecuriCode™ external keypad may be ancient technology, but it's still useful. Going swimming and need a place to store the car "key"? Keep it in the car and use the SecuriCode combination lock.

SAFETY: All Escapes have Ford's Personal Safety System™ of airbags and sensors, the Safety Canopy® System of full-length side curtain airbags, AdvanceTrac® with RSC® (Roll Stability Control™) electronic stability control, integrated blind spot mirrors and more as standard safety equipment. The BLIS blind spot monitoring system, which displays warning lights in the outside rear-view mirror if a vehicle is in the blind spot, is optional.

RIDE AND HANDLING: The 2013 Escape's long-travel, fully-independent suspension is tuned moderately softly for a smooth, comfortable ride, even on less-than-wonderful road surfaces. A high center of gravity and the softish suspension mitigate any sport driving, but for that there's always the Focus ST. An Escape is quieter and carries more stuff, and people. With 7.9 inches of clearance, it should work well on forest and fire roads, even if they are slightly rutted. The all-wheel drive system can help there -- or anywhere, wet or dry. It automatically apportions torque to the wheels that can use it, varying from pure front-wheel drive in most conditions to all four wheels. This also eliminates torque steer, which with 270 lb-ft of torque going through the front wheels could be more than noticeable.

PERFORMANCE: There's no need for a V6 when direct fuel injection, turbocharging, and independent cam phasing on both input and exhaust camshafts results in the same horsepower -- 240 (at 5500 rpm) and more torque -- 270 lb-ft vs. the 3.0 Duratec's 223. As the old saying goes, horsepower is what you brag about but torque is what you feel. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine's strong, broad torque curve means that gear selection is rarely an issue, and the six speed automatic shifts smoothly and quickly in D. It is programmed to maximize fuel economy, so can hunt sometimes on grades. A shift to "S" ("Sport") mode cures that by holding gears, with minimal effect on fuel use. Manual shifting, by means of a rocker switch on the shift lever, can be done in S mode, but I found it to rarely be necessary. As mentioned previously, fuel economy is good, especially considering the available power. But more so with a turbo than naturally-aspirated engine, driving style will influence mileage. Quick acceleration is fun, but will make for a thirsty engine.

CONCLUSIONS: With good looks, performance, and fuel economy, the Ford Escape continues as a class benchmark.

SPECIFICATIONS

2013 Ford Escape Titanium AWD

Base Price $ 32,120

Price As Tested $ 35,630

Engine Type turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection and variable cam phasing

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 240 @ 5500 rpm (on premium fuel)

Torque (lb-ft) 270 @ 3000 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode

Wheelbase / Length 105.9 in. / 178.1 in.

Curb Weight 3732 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 15.6

Fuel Capacity 15.1 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P235/45R19 95H Continental Conti Pro Contact

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS and ESC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent Control Blade™ multilink

Ground Clearance 7.9 inches

Drivetrain transverse front engine, full-time automatic all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 28 / 22

0 to 60 mph 7.0 sec

Towing Capacity 3500 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

Equipment Group 401A -- includes: Titanium Technology Package, tonneau cover, silver roof rails with horizontal crossbars, HID automatic headlamps, power liftgate, rear parking aid sensors $ included

MyFordTouch with Sirius radio and navigation $ 795

Parking Technology Package -- includes: Blind Spot Detection System (BLIS), Active Park Assist, rear-view camera system $ 995

Full leather bucket seats $ 895

Destination & Delivery $ 825


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