New Car Review

1998 FORD ESCORT ZX2

by Tom Hagin

ford

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 13,080
Price As Tested                                    $ 14,665
Engine Type                    DOHC 16V 2.0 Liter I4 w/SFI*
Engine Size                               121.3 cid/1988 cc
Horsepower                                   130 @ 5750 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               127 @ 4250 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                   98.4"/67.4"/175.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     2534 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  12.8 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P185/65R14
Brakes (F/R)                                      Disc/drum
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                        Four-passenger/two-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.33

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            25/33/30
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       17.5 seconds @ 83 mph
Top speed                                           100 mph
     * Sequential fuel injection

After a year's wait, the Ford Escort ZX2 has arrived. The sporty replacement for the highly successful Escort GT that made its debut last spring comes in "Cool" (base) and "Hot" trim levels, with an optional Sport package at the top of the scale.

According to reports, when Ford began work on the newest generation Escort, the company planned to do a simple two-door version of the four- door sedan, the most cost-effective way to go. But Ford's top brass on the project insisted on more performance and uniqueness, which led to the creation of the Escort ZX2.

OUTSIDE - Despite their shared mechanical components, ZX2 uses no sheet metal from the more conservative Escort sedan and wagon, which gives it a distinct personality. It is about a half-inch wider and longer than the sedan, and its side panels are sculpted and curved. The side windows are also frameless. In keeping with the styling theme used by its siblings in the Ford lineup, ZX2 bears a family resemblance to both the Taurus and Contour sedans. Our base model ZX2 wore a set of optional five-spoke alloy wheels mated to P185/65R14 tires.

INSIDE - The ZX2 shares several components with the sedan and wagon, among them its steering wheel, center console and the ovoid-shaped climate/audio panel. Its wedge-shaped dashboard is unique, and carries a full set of pertinent gauges. Nicely bolstered front bucket seats come standard in all ZX2 models, and are covered in a cloth fabric. A memory feature in the driver's seat reclining mechanism returns the seat back to its original position after it's been folded forward. Rear seat room is a tight squeeze, but more than adequate for a sport coupe. A 60/40 split rear seat allows access from the trunk, which comes in handy when more room is needed. Also, the trunk supports use gas struts that don't intrude on valuable cargo space. Standard ZX2 features include an AM/FM stereo, variable speed intermittent wipers, lots of cupholders and rear seat heater ducts. Our tester had an optional cassette system installed.

ON THE ROAD - Under the hood of the ZX2 is a dual overhead cam, 16- valve, 2.0 liter "Zetec" four cylinder engine. It produces 130 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, and gives the car surprisingly impressive zip. What's most interesting about this engine is a device found on its exhaust camshaft. It uses a hydraulically-adjustable variable timing mechanism that gives a smoother idle, a broader powerband and less emissions. The engine is high-strung, which means it likes to be revved, but it's pleasant at those revs, as Ford has done well to reduce noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) to acceptable levels. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and features newly designed, smoother shift linkage. Our test car used an electronically- controlled four-speed automatic, however, but it didn't noticeably alter ZX2's image as a sports sedan.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - ZX2 uses the Escort sedan and wagon's general suspension architecture, which are MacPherson front struts and twin trapezoidal links in the rear. This provided ZX2 designers with a base for its sports-bred underpinnings, while at the same time, kept costs down. By using stiffened spring rates, tighter bushings and more negative camber in the rear suspension, ZX2 turns in much quicker slalom times than the Escort sedan and wagon. Front and rear sway bars, along with quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering made it fun to negotiate the twisting turns of our local two-lane roads. As expected, we found the ride to be stiffer than that of the Escort sedan we tested months earlier, but the payoff comes in the form of more composed handling. Braking duties are handled by front disc and rear drum brakes, with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) available as an option. Four-wheel disc brakes (like those used on the older Escort GT) are not offered.

SAFETY - Dual airbags and side-impact beams are standard; ABS is optional. An integrated child seat is optional as well.

OPTIONS - The automatic transmission added $815, while California emissions are $170. A cassette stereo adds $185, and the destination and delivery charge is $415.

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