2013 Ford Escape Road Test Review
2013 Ford Escape sets standard in technology, performance and fuel efficiency
Scores High: Array of high-tech features, exceptional driving dynamics, attractive design, roomy interior
Scores Low: Stiff ride with larger wheels, some controls not intuitive, the technology doesn’t come cheap
Total Car Score Analysis
The Ford Escape finds itself in an enviable position. It’s long overdue for a full redesign, yet it remains one of the best-selling compact SUVs on the market. That means Ford will likely maintain its sales crown with the new Escape in what is a critical vehicle segment, as all-new models inevitably include all-new marketing budgets to increase awareness and juice sales.
This of course assumes the replacement 2013 Ford Escape is at least as good as the outgoing model. It’s not – it’s substantially better. In fact, between the new Escape’s compelling style, confident handling and class-leading fuel efficiency it’s likely the 2013 model would have been a sales leader even without an all-new marketing push from Ford. Of course the new Escape gets that too, and not just in the form of traditional advertising but through modern social media and broadcast marketing designed to target the Escape’s demographics. These include a reality TV show, a YouTube video contest and all the associated Facebook and Twitter activity you’d expect from such efforts.
This means the 2013 Ford Escape will have some powerful backing when it goes on sale this month (May 2012). We expect the new Escape’s sales, and its Total Car Score, to be in one in the same: high.
Dropping the boxy look and feel of the current Escape has allowed Ford the make the new version far more sleek and aggressive. Ford knows that once upon a time people bought SUVs because of the “rugged” look they offered. People still want the utility of a crossover, but today they also want it to look slick and sporty. The 2013 Escape does. It’s rising beltline and compressed roofline come together over the rear wheels to give it a “fastback” effect in profile. A large black grille in the lower half offsets a small upper grille and headlights. An integrated rear spoiler and available active grille shutters let the Escape slice through the air 10 percent more effectively than the outgoing model, cutting wind noise and improving fuel efficiency.
Fuel efficiency was a primary concern for Ford engineers when redesigning the Escape. We fully excepcted EcoBoost technology in the new crossover, but Ford is offering two versions of EcoBoost in the Escape for 2013. The primary engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder making 178 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, but an upgraded EcoBoost four-cylinder, displacing 2.0-liters and offering 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, is available as well. Both engines utilize direct fuel injection, turbocharging and variable valve timing to increase performance and fuel efficiency, with the 1.6-liter rated at 23 city and 33 highway (the best in the segment) while the 2.0-liter gets 22/30 mpg (still quite good, particularly given its power).
There’s also a base 2.5-liter engine (168 hp, 170 lb-ft) that’s carried over from the previous Escape. This base engine costs less, is only available in front-wheel drive, and offers none of Ecoboost’s advanced technology, but at 22/31 mpg it’s still pretty fuel efficient. All engines are attached to a six-speed automatic with manual control, called SelectShift. We found the transmission effective at utilizing the wide torque band offered by both Ecoboost engines.
We didn’t get to drive the base 2.5-liter model, but the mid-grade 1.6-liter EcoBoost is more than capable of moving the Escape with authority. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost is extremely potent, almost to the point of silliness. When combined with Ford’s active 4WD system and available 19-inch wheels the new Escape drives more like a “hot hatch” than a compact SUV. This, unfortunately, includes the somewhat jarring ride quality often found in those pocket rockets. Non-enthusiast drivers will want to stick with the smaller (18- or 17-inch) wheels to smooth things out.
The Escape’s steering is rack-and-pinion with electric power assist, while the front suspension uses MacPherson struts and the rear suspension is a multi-link design. Much like the Ford Focus (with which it shares a global platform), the new Escape proves sharp and responsive on twisty roads with minimal body roll. All models include Ford’s Curve Control technology to help steer the crossover through corners (via independent rear brake application) if it senses a loss of control. Despite the Escape’s sporty handling Ford also gets credit for keeping the crossover’s functionality intact, as it can tow up the 3,500 pounds when equipped with the 2.0-liter engine.
Interior Design and Function
The 2013 Ford Escape’s tighter, cleaner exterior dimensions suggest a tighter interior, but that’s not the case. The new model offers increased cargo space and rear legroom, thanks in part to a longer wheelbase. There’s now 34.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row and a maximum of 68.1 cubic feet behind the first row after folding the second row down.
Keep both rows up and there’s room for four fill-sized adults, with rear legroom aided by strategic cuts in the front seatbacks. The rear seats were also mildly bolstered to provide lateral support, a detail usually missing in backseat accommodations but one that’s appreciated in a vehicle as nimble at the 2013 Escape.
The overall design of the interior shows the same level of attention to detail. Nearly every surface has a high-quality feel and the tasteful use of chrome or metallic-like surfaces around the vents and between the upper and lower dash give the cabin an upscale appearance. We appreciated the streamlined MyFord Touch controls that make accessing different functions quicker and easier, but on lower-end models, with the smaller central screen, it can be hard to figure out what the non-labeled buttons (below the screen) do.
Primary Features and Options
Ford knows its target audience (Milennials and Generation X) appreciates technology, so the 2013 Escape comes loaded with advanced features. Many of these are safety oriented, like the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Cross-traffic Alert (the latter keeps drivers from backing into an oncoming vehicle they can’t see). Others are convenience oriented, such as MyFord Touch, the capless fuel filter system, active park assist (makes the Escape practically parallel park itself), HD radio with iTunes tagging and SYNC’s audio streaming and voice control.
A new feature not seen on any previous Ford is the hands-free power liftgate that open at the swipe of a foot. The idea is to keep owners from scrambling for their keyfob when they are ready to load the cargo area. Instead, a simple swipe of your foot beneath the rear bumper activates the power rear liftgate. That same cargo area offers a two-position load floor to either increase maximum space or create a flat load floor when the second-row seats are folded down.
It’s Perfect For…
With so many of today’s car buyers considering a small SUV/crossover (1 in 6), Ford understood the critical role the 2013 Escape would play in its future product line-up. The company had to address not only styling and functionality, but also fuel efficiency, performance, safety and technology.
The new Escape confirms Ford’s attention to all of these areas. There’s little to complain about, though all that engine, safety and convenience technology doesn’t come cheap. Loading up a high-end 2013 Escape Titanium (starts at $34,735 with destination charge) can push the MSRP into luxury crossover pricing, but the base Escape S starts at a reasonable $23,295. Given the worthy capabilities of the mid-grade engine (along with the smoother ride quality from the smaller wheels) buyers should carefully consider which boxes they check on the options list.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Ford Escape SEL AWD
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $29,620
Options on Test Vehicle: 2.0-liter EcoBoost Engine ($1,095), Parking Technology Package (includes automatic parking system, BLIS, cross traffic alert, rain-sensing windshield wipers, front and rear parking sensors, rearview camera -- $995), Navigation System (includes 8.0-inch LCD color touchscreen, MyFord Touch, HD radio, 2 USB ports, SYNC voice control, SD card reader, steering wheel controls -- $795), Destination Charge ($825)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $33,330
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The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.