Driving Impressions – December 2013

2014 Ford Escape S
A Standout in the Sea of Crossovers

By Greg Cavanaugh

If feel like I’m becoming the crossover king. It seems like they’re the only things I drive these days.  But more than anything, it likely reflects the current consumer and market trends and explains why the segment somehow keeps growing.  The Ford Escape was one of the first crossovers and the hybrid version was actually the first Escape I drove way back in 2007-ish (so long ago I actually can’t find the article.)  This Escape is nothing like that first generation Escape.

Now based on the Ford Focus, the new Escape makes no claims of being a trucklette and I doubt they go off road much. (Although a lifted 2.0 EcoBoost Escape would be rad.)  This makes for a more car-like personality that pays off in the Escape’s strong suits.  The beauty of this test drive was the price.  I was driving the base model Escape, which allows me to really evaluate the true merits of a vehicle.  Regardless of price, the Escape has three compelling traits.

Driving Gallup JourneyFirstly, from base all the way up to Titanium trim, the Escape is arguably the best looking CUV on the market.  (I think the Mini Countryman is super cool too.) While some crossovers are trying too hard to distinguish themselves in the crowded CUV segment, the Escape looks like a jacked-up and muscled-out Focus – and this is a good thing.  The front end and the creasing on the hood in particular help set the Escape apart without being overwrought.  On the inside, the Escape uses the same ergonomics as the Focus and makes for highly easy-to-use controls.  This base model even has a standard backup camera that sits in the dash making it easy to use and see.  My only real gripes mirrored that of the Focus, other than two cupholders, a weird little alcove next to the 12v outlet and under the armrest, there is a distinct lack of storage cubbies in the center stack of the Escape.  Also, the seatbelts in the front go directly over the recline adjustment levers on the seats, making them hard to use.

Secondly, all three powertrains of the Escape have their place in the lineup and all return fuel economy within an MPG or two of each other.  The larger 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo 4 makes the most power and returns the lowest MPGs. The smaller 1.6-liter EcoBoost returns the highest EPA fuel economy and bests this base model’s power by about 10 ponies and 10 lb.-ft.  The base actually has the largest displacement at 2.5 liters, and produces 168 hp and 174 lb.-ft.  Mated to a 6-speed automatic and FWD, it returns an EPA rated 22 mpg city, 31 highway and 25 combined.  While there’s no hiding it’s the base engine and it seems little happens after 4,000 rpm on the tach, the base 2.5 simply does the job most people will need it to. At $3,000 on the sticker to jump up to the SE trim and the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, the 2.5-liter presents a compelling case for sticking with it.

Lastly, in every trim level, you get versatile cargo space.  Compared with the new Toyota RAV4 I drove this summer, the Escape seems very similar.  In the way back, on paper, the RAV4 boasts slightly more cubic feet, 38 vs. the Escape’s 34.  In reality, the Escape’s essentially cubic dimensions mean the cargo area is highly usable, easily holding two full-size coolers or several pieces of luggage.  The second row provides excellent head, leg and tow room for passengers, but is a bit too narrow to regularly meet 5-passenger duties.  While it doesn’t move fore and aft to improve versatility, the 60-40 split allows for longer items to be moved when needed.  As a reminder, crossovers are a compromise for those that can’t bear to see themselves in a wagon or minivan.  If you need real space, those are much better choices.

So given the Escape’s non-price dependent virtues, the price is only something to use in order to get the equipment you need, because you get the best characteristics of the Escape no matter the price. The base model doesn’t attempt to punch above its weight class, but at $23K, as tested, and rebates pushing it down to just above $20K, it represents a real value that real buyers will appreciate.

 

**As always, jump to my YouTube channel (Gallup Journey Test Drives) to see more of the Escape in and around Gallup. **

 

***A special thanks to Sal and Steve at Gurley for the test drive. ***

 

Specifications 

VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front- or 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon

BASE/AS TESTED PRICE:  $23,595

ENGINE: DOHC 16-valve 2.5-liter inline-4, 168 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 170 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode

DIMENSIONS:
Wheelbase: 105.9 in
Length: 178.1 in
Width: 72.4 in Height: 66.3 in
Curb weight: 3600lb.

FUEL ECONOMY:
EPA city/highway driving: 21/31/28 mpg

 

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