The compact SUV sector is growing. An oxymoron, I know, but hear me out. The segment has been dominated by Honda’s CR-V and the Toyota RAV 4. 2013 brought the most significant Ford Escape redesign in history. Believe it or not, the Escape has been around for twelve years. In that time it has matured and now is ready to take the fight to the kings of the proverbial playground.
Outside the Escape has been completely redesigned, moving away from the boxy SUV styling of the original. The great thing about these updates is the new aerodynamics focus in the design. Up front, the streamlined grille and front bumper allow for better fuel economy over the relatively pug-nosed Escape of old. Around the side and back, the high belt-line allow for a more aggressive appearance. Complimenting the restyled exterior is an all-new interior. The dash now incorporates the MyFordTouch screen with an easy to use interface. A few complaints came in during the week, mostly from taller occupants, for front and rear seat comfort. The Escape’s shorter seat cushions in the front and low bench in the rear made legs restless on lengthy drives.
Our tester was the top of the line Titanium trim, coming standard with leather interior, Sony stereo, dual zone climate control and 18″ wheels as well as other standard features. On top of the long list of standard equipment, our Escape came further optioned with panoramic sunroof, navigation, and the Group 401A package which incorporates safety features such as blind spot detection, active park assist, and automatic HID headlamps. The navigation system worked well, allowing us to easily navigate out of Manhattan and back to our base in Albany, NY. Our only issue was with the way the screen was angled. Sitting almost vertically and recessed into the dash, some menus and icons are difficult to select without contorting your hand. Ford’s SYNC system with voice commands alleviates some of this, but only after you’ve learned the nuances of the system.
Not only was our Escape the top trim, it also came with the 2.0L EcoBoost engine, a $1,195 option over the standard 1.6L engine. This mill is good for 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque which, in this package, was quite fun to drive. The ratings of 21 city/28 highway/24 combined were a little higher than what we achieved that week of 23.2 combined. The 2.0L EcoBoost is paired with what Ford calls a SelectShift 6 speed automatic. In other words, it has a + and – on the gear selector to shift manually when in sport mode. I wasn’t particularly fond of the placement of the button, but I appreciate the innovation and cleverness of placing it there. The one thing that the Escape has over its competition is its good handling. When driving it harder than a soccer mom late to practice, the Escape performed beautifully with anticipated body roll and very connected steering. It was more fun to drive than anyone on our staff anticipated. Some of the fun is due to the engine. It is a powerhouse that delivers torque seamlessly and is quick enough to scare some German sedans off the line.
Our time with the Ford Escape was a positive one. The drive was great and the interior was well appointed, but we just couldn’t get completely comfortable in the seats or with the ergonomics of the touchscreen. In a segment where comfort plays a huge factor, it’s something to consider. Overall though, I see no reason for the Escape to not take the crown of the segment. The fun-to-drive factor and copious customization options allow the Ford to be packaged to the nines, something the competition just can’t do.
|2014 Ford Escape Titanium 2.0L 4WD
|Equipment Group 401A||$1,295|
|Power Panorama Roof||$1,495|
|Sony Audio with Navigation||$795|
|As Tested MSRP||$36,525|