Recently I had the opportunity to spend 4 hours test driving the new 2013 Ford Escape small SUV through Northern California’s wine country. Ford has come a long way since the first Ford I bought, a 1956 Fairlane. The Escape is quiet, solidly built, fuel efficient and loaded with tech and convenience features, none of which attributes could be used with the ’56. Then again, my 1956 Fairlane cost me $200 used and the Escape starts at $23K new. Is it worth the price? I was looking forward to the test drive to find out.Firstly, I am not a professional car reviewer, although I met several during the Ford program for the test drive and picked their brains for some pointers. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I have owned several Ford products so far, including a 1958 convertible, 1960 Fairlane, 1979 Turbo Mustang, 1982 Escort, a 2000 Taurus, the 1956 Fairlane already mentioned, and one of my current vehicles is a 2010 Fusion Hybrid.
After about 12 sleep-deprived hours, I arrived at the old Ford Plant in Richmond California to take my turn at driving one of the test vehicles Ford had provided. Because I arrived late, I missed the presentations on the engines available, so I wasn’t sure which vehicle I wanted to drive. I had heard about the EcoBoost option, so I picked a vehicle with the 2.0 liter engine. Happily, this was the Titanium model where the only missing option was a built-in blender.
The 2013 Escape is easy on the eyes. Somewhere in the grill there are louvers that open and close. Ford calls it Active Grille Shutter System, helping aerodynamics and fuel economy. I couldn’t really check it out at speed, so I’ll have to believe it works.
Here’s a shot from the rear. A feature on these cars, as I have on my Fusion, is the capless gas filler. You just have to open the gas door and stick the nozzle in. No losing a gas cap or forgetting to put it on.
The front seating area and drivers position have leather seats and a soft material for the dashboard and other surfaces. The steering column is adjustable in and out plus up and down. I found the driving position comfortable and easily adjustable. After the 4 hour test drive, my backside was no worse for wear.
In the center of the dash is a touch screen that controls the cellphone, entertainment, climate and navigation systems. I was able to play with most features of the touch system with the exception of the voice control interface. However, I do have the Ford Sync on my Fusion, and over the past 2 years I’ve had mixed results. When we first purchased the Fusion new, it would recognize my and my wife’s voice commands 9 out of 10 times. Today it’s getting dumber, and I’m lucky if it recognizes either of us 4 out of 10 times. Hopefully my case is an isolated one, because when it works, it’s great. I’ll be bringing it in to the dealer soon to have it looked at.
And when you’re lost, the navigation system comes in handy. On my 4 hour test drive, the NAV was on for the whole trip. The spoken directions were spot on and the only time it was wrong was when we hit San Francisco during a time when certain roads did not allow left hand turns, which I’m sure would have confounded any navigation device.
Here I’m all ready to go. There is no ignition key in this trim level. You carry a fob that is recognized by the vehicle. As you walk up to the door, it unlocks. Once in the vehicle, you put your foot on the brake and hit the start/stop button and the engine comes to life. I adjusted the mirrors, familiarized myself with the controls, and put on my seat belt. We were off. The learning curve for operation of the Escape was very short.
The course that was laid out by Ford was 140 miles of mixed roads. Some was city, some was Freeway and some was scenic twisty hill road. I liked the latter the most, but I don’t think my riding companion from Ford felt the same as evidenced by the white knuckles. However, the curving roads demonstrated to me the road-holding capability of the Escape. I felt very comfortable attacking the turns and feedback from the steering was positive.
We also drove over potholed roads and the Escape did an excellent job of soaking them up. Which brings me to road and wind noise. There wasn’t any to speak of. I was amazed being used to the noise of my 2005 PT Cruiser where I have to turn the radio volume to max to overcome the wind noise at highway speeds.
Power in the Escape was plentiful for our road trip. Although it’s only a 2.0 Liter 4 cylinder engine with the EcoBoost technology, it puts out 240 hp @ 5,550 rpm. This is better than the 168 hp for the non-EcoBoost 2.5l four and 178 hp for the EcoBoost 1.6l four. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to drive the 2.5 or 1.6 liter variations, so I can’t personally compare.
Ford’s EcoBoost uses several techniques to get more horsepower and better fuel economy from a 2.0 liter engine, the main component being turbocharging. I’m very familiar with turbocharging, having had it in my 1979 Mustang. At that time, a turbo was plagued with something called turbo lag; you would punch the accelerator and power wouldn’t kick in until the turbo spun up to a certain speed. The EcoBoost in the Escape exhibited none of the turbo lag and whining noise of turbos from the past. I punched the accelerator and the power was delivered instantly and smoothly. Also, it delivers the power at an EPA-certified 30 mpg highway.
In my opinion the 2013 Ford Escape is a solid, fashionable, and practical vehicle. It can be the family sedan and the weekend utility vehicle. Personally, I would opt for one of the EcoBoost engines to realize both moderate power and reasonable fuel economy. As for the gadgets (options), I’d be inclined to load it up and, as a matter of fact, I’ll be in the market for a new vehicle in a couple of years. If the Escape at that time is as good as this, I’ll buy it. The 2013 Escape comes in several models with the S: starting at $23,295, the SE: starting at $25,895, the SEL: starting at $28,695 and the Titanium starting at $31,195.