The 2013 Ford Escape is a complete makeover that will impress even the most critical car enthusiasts. It is packed with features and drives significantly better than its predecessor, not to mention it is more fuel efficient too.
A unibody platform shared with a European Ford called "Kuga" underpins the new Escape. All three engine choices have four cylinders; the V6 Escape is history. There's also a host of technology upgrades to improve performance, safety, multi-media features and reduce its environmental impact.
A 2.0-litre Ecoboost engine that offers more power plus 30 per cent better fuel economy replaces the 3.0-litre V6. Lighter and more compact, the turbocharged Ecoboost engine comes with direct fuel injection and twin independent variable camshaft timing.
A smaller 1.6-litre Ecoboost engine comes in the mid trim range SE version of the Escape and the base S trim comes with a conventional, tried and true 2.5-litre, which is a holdover engine from the previous generation Escape. All engines are mated with a new six-speed automatic transmission with both sport and manual addition modes of operation.
The new Escape also offers a uniquely different kind of hands-free technology. A kicking action by the key-fob holder, under the rear bumper, can open or close the power operated rear door.
It's a handy way to access the cargo area when you`re carrying something. The door opening is triggered by motion-sensing technology similar to that used in video games.
Discarded plastic bottles are a major environmental pollution issue and Ford has found a way to use them in the manufacture of carpets inside the new Escape. This initiative alone is expected to recycle four million plastic bottles annually, according to Ford. In addition, all the sound dampening and seat cushion materials are also made from recycled materials.
Advanced tech features available include an active park assist system that can detect and then automatically steer the Escape into a parallel parking space.
There's also a blind spot vehicle detection system that comes with cross-traffic alert, which is a valuable aid when reversing blindly out of a parking stall.
The last generation Escape was the most popular compact SUV sold in all of North America and a hybrid engine version was also available. Ford has not yet announced a hybrid successor, which is a little disappointing.
Style: Quite a change from the straightforward two-box shape of the previous Escape. The new model is almost 10 per cent more aerodynamic and has an aggressive frontal appearance with shape angles, a steeply raked windshield and gaping lower grille openings.
The Ecoboost engine versions also conceal an innovation behind the blacked-out lower grille. Sensor-controlled shutters regulate air entering the engine bay to improve its aero efficiency and achieve optimum fuel mileage.
The new Escape's body is lighter yet 40 per cent more rigid than its predecessor.
Dual exhaust pipes are standard, the large rear door is a wrap-over design that allows a lower lift-in height, but the rear-end styling is an overly busy one to my eyes.
Inside: A wrap-around cockpit greets the driver and the centre stack of the dash houses a new layout MyFordTouch. I've had issues with the sensitivity and function of MyFord Touch in the past, but this is arrangement is much better and looks somewhat similar to Nissan's multi-media set-up.
Rear seat legroom is pretty good and climate control in the rear is also standard in all but the base S model.
Cargo space is also excellent with 97 litres (34.3 cu ft) behind the 60/40 split rear seat. It folds completely flat at the pull of a lever by the seat cushion and increases cargo space to 193 litres (68.1 cu ft). The rake of the rear seatback is also adjustable.
Secure: Escape now comes with seven (instead of six) air bags. There's an additional knee air bag to protect and position the driver better. The side air bags on the front seats also have a unique feature that allows them to adapt to the size of a seat occupant.
Drive: I drove an Escape with the 1.6-litre and another with the 2.0-litre engine. Most buyers will be completely satisfied with the smaller engine, unless they pack a lot of heavy stuff or people around on a regular basis, or tow a trailer. That said, the difference in fuel economy is not huge.
Transmission operation is busier with the smaller engine, but the overall noise level is impressively quiet. In fact, cabin quietness is akin to the low level of hush that you'll only find in far more expensive vehicles.
Both of my Escapes also came with the all-wheel-drive system. Although it possesses some off-road capabilities, this vehicle is more at home on a paved road. It's where the Escape's Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control systems stand out.
Basically these are active, more advanced and quicker acting forms of stability control and they even use the same module to monitor performance.
The transmission's manual mode is a thumb operated toggle switch on the side of the shift lever, instead of those sporty paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The toggle switch is surprisingly good and easy to operate, and better suits this type of vehicle.
Apparently the all-wheel-drive system can analyze data 20 times faster than you can blink an eye and the transmission's torque converter comes with a new and improved electromagnetic clutch.
Sum-up: Dramatically different yet perfect for this point in time, the trimmer and more fuel efficient new Ford Escape is packed with advanced technologies and without doubt another winner.
Trim levels: S, SE, SEL & Titanium
Sticker Price: $21,499 to $37,499
Power: 2.5-litre I4, 168 horsepower.
1.6-litre I4 turbo, 173 horsepower.
2.0-litre I4 turbo, 231 horsepower.
Fuel consumption (2.5L): 9.5/6.3 L/100 km (city/highway)
Fuel consumption (1.6L turbo): 9.1/6.0 L/100 km (city/highway)
Fuel consumption (2.0 L turbo): 9.8/6.9 L/100 km (city/highway)
Basic Warranty: Three years/60,000 kilometres
Powertrain Warranty: Five years/100,000 kilometres
Rust Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres
Honda CR-V: $25,090 to $35,090
Hyundai Tucson: $19,999 to $34,349
Kia Sportage: $21,995 to $36,995
Mazda CX-5: $22,995 to $32,495
Nissan Rouge: $23,778 to $34,278
Toyota RAV4: $24,865 to $37,300
Volkswagen Tiguan: $27,875 to $38,375
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