After years of soldiering along with an outdated platform and blocky, old-fashioned styling, Ford’s popular Escape has received a complete makeover for 2013. In the process, it leaps into the top tier of compact CUVs.
All-new is an often-overused slogan in the auto industry. For the new Escape, it’s simply true: Edgy and advanced design is on display inside and out as well as underneath.
Most obvious is the Escape’s sleek, modern look. Boxiness is banned, replaced by smooth, wind-cheating contours that contribute to the vehicle’s near-silent passage through the air at highway speeds.
Step inside and be greeted by high-grade materials, nicely assembled into eye-catching shapes consisting of padded surfaces on dash and door panels, highlighted with metallic and piano-black accents. Most switches and knobs are conveniently located, but the climate controls are rather hard to read, set low down on the dash behind the shifter, and the CD slot is atop the dash on a nearly flat shelf, making it virtually impossible to remove a disc without grabbing it with thumb and forefinger.
The sport-type front buckets in our top-line Titanium 4WD model, upholstered in a leather-cloth combo, are superbly comfortable with excellent side bolstering and just the right amount of firmness. The elevated seating and large windshield offer an excellent view of the road ahead, at least for those up front.
The rear seats are fine for two, a bit tight for three; legroom is adequate for most, but this is, after all, a compact vehicle.
The 2013 Escape offers a choice of three four-cylinder engines, all mated to six-speed automatic transmissions. The holdover base 2.5-liter has been updated, but the turbocharged 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter twin-cam EcoBoost
engines are the motivators of choice. Our tester’s 2.0 delivered surprising pep, with 240 eager horsepower providing excellent acceleration and passing power. Fuel economy is rated at a palatable 21 mpg in town and 28 on the highway, but premium-grade fuel is recommended.
The Escape, like a number of new Ford vehicles, drives with a decidedly European feel, with solid handling and a well-planted highway ride. Steering and brakes contribute to the sporty demeanor, making this the go-to selection for performance-oriented buyers that find premium brands out of their league.
No review of the new Escape would be complete without mentioning its coolest feature: the automatic rear hatch. As long as the key fob is in your pocket, a simple swipe of a foot under the rear bumper lifts the tailgate for access to the cargo hold. It’s such a nifty idea, it makes you wonder why nobody thought of it before.