While the release of Ford’s reimagined Bronco utility vehicle sucks all of the oxygen out of the room, the bread-and-butter vehicle that helps to make lifestyle trucks like the Bronco possible makes another appearance Downeast. The all-new compact class Escape reminds all of us why this just might be the best of Ford’s SUV lineup.
Since 2001, there have been countless Escapes that have visited, each making positive impressions. This one is no different; it is swift, with the optional 2.0-liter Ecoboost turbo-engine generating user-friendly power. It is fuel-efficient, returning a solid 30-plus MPG during a week that featured a high-speed drive to Presque Isle and Ashland, plus the normal commuting. And, the new Escape reminds us of the car slogans from the 1950s and 1960s — it is longer, lower, wider and 200 pounds lighter, with notable improvements in interior room. As alluded to, if you don’t need the towing capacity of the Edge or the third-row seating in the Explorer, the Escape is the most well-rounded blue oval-badged crossover.
Since Ford has opted to abandon the majority of the cars in its American lineup (only the Mustang and a Focus-based wagon will remain), Ford believes that the Escape will capably fulfill the role of car-like driving dynamics, combined with crossover/SUV flexibilities.
True to this axiom, the Escape delivers the liberty to handle both chores exceedingly well. Steering feel, path accuracy and general driving composure are surely near the top of the compact segment against such popular rivals named RAV4, CR-V, Equinox, Forester and Tucson. Hope for such a union of ideals is rarely accomplished without other compromises, which are not apparent here.
The revamped interior creates not only greater passenger room, but a wider load deck in the rear. Rear seat occupants gain more legroom, while everyone can renew their friendship and maintain social distancing while in a Jeffersonian discussion in a cabin hushed with more insulating materials. And the seating will surprise many. Add heated and cooled front leather seating with Titanium trim and you’ve got the five Maine seasons covered too.
As hard as the interior works to please everyone, the screens seem like afterthoughts that detract from an otherwise strong effort. The most visual is the center-dash panel affixed to the face of the dashboard. While common in too many vehicles, this display of audio, entertainment and other data just feels like it should be one with the dash, instead of an appendage resting on the surface. The same for the HID-heads-up display, which can hide atop the dash upon request.
In the console rests a rotary shifter for the eight-speed automatic. Paddles rest on the steering wheel, plus selectable modes for the AWD are involved, if you wish to be more engaged in direct operation, which the Escape’s lithe moves seemingly encourage. That electric shifter, however, is slower than preferred on a quick three-point turn on a narrow road, the electronics not responding as quickly as your hand, and the throttle pedal, expect.
Visually, the comments ranged from admiration to not, on the animal-like grille-face, yet the rest of the Escape’s proportions and design execution was completely favorable. With millions sold, Escape fans know what they like.
Base S models with front-wheel drive start at under $25,000 with the 1.5-liter Ecoboost 180-hp three-cylinder engine, while Titanium with AWD pushes $40,000. Ford has brought back two versions of the hybrid Escape this time around, a conventional hybrid ($29,450) using the previous 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a CVT transmission, plus a newer plug-in hybrid version ($34,595) that promises 37 miles of EV operation range. EPA estimates for our 250-hp 2.0-liter Titanium were 23/31/26 mpg, which was easily bested.
Titanium models come with automatic grille shutters to help fuel economy, LED lamps front and rear, heated power mirrors, rear privacy glass and one-touch power windows all around. Dual-zone auto climate, adaptive cruise, active park assist, evasive steering system, Co-Pilot 360 driving assist, plus Ford’s Wi-Fi hotspot connect are also included. Remote starting, reverse sensing alarms, Sync 3, push-button ignition, 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo plus navigation and Advance Trac AWD complete the package, while 19-inch wheels, panoramic roof, Class II tow package and metallic white paint are optional. Escapes are built in Louisville, Ky.
Smooth, quick, quiet, roomy, fuel-efficient and brimming with advances, the latest Escape seems cemented as the number two-selling Ford product no matter what happens with cars, crossovers, viruses or our rural towns.