Avant-Garde Styling, Sporty Handling & AWD 30 mpg
Ford’s Escape is one of the two most popular small crossover sport utility vehicles in America — second most popular at the moment — trailing the Honda CR-V in their perennial battle for the top spot in sales.
All new for 2013, the Escape all-wheel drive equipped with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost four cylinder engine earned membership in Clean Fleet Report’s 30 mpg All-Wheel Drive club.
The 2014 edition was unchanged with the exception of adding a backup camera to the standard feature list. The just-now-arriving 2015 model is a virtual rerun of the 2014 Escape.
For 2015 Ford Escape continues with a tiered lineup that includes the base S, better-equipped SE and top-line Titanium. The latter two are available in either front- or all-wheel drive.
Also continuing is a rarity in the small crossover segment—three engines: the base naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder and two turbocharged fours that Ford calls EcoBoost. The most popular 1.6-liter EcoBoost’s mission is fuel economy, while the 2.0-liter version has the performance of a V-6 while still delivering rather impressive mpg numbers.
Crisp Design Outside and In
I’m a big fan of the Escape’s exterior design. The penned-in-Europe styling is crisp and modern with excellent proportions. And if you think it looks more like a sleek station wagon with a slightly elevated ride height, that’s essentially what
it is: a four-door, five-passenger utility vehicle based on the Ford Focus compact car.
An aggressive front end that’s all grilles and air intakes give the 2015 Ford Escape a look that is more sporty than utilitarian. Sharp lines, muscled-up wheel arches, along with a raked-back and slopping roofline, add to the bold, chiseled look. Dressing up the rump are large angular tail lamps, a small spoiler and dual exhaust tips.
Occupants of the Escape are treated with a nicely designed interior finished with quality looking grained plastics and soft tactile surfaces for the dashboard and door panels. The ambience is one of a modern, normal, substantial, quality car for everyday family use.
Ice blue gauges are large and legible with an LCD information screen between the speedometer and tachometer. The dashboard’s center stack of controls is styled to resemble a mobile phone — one with buttons and keypad, not a touchscreen dominated smartphone. The design is targeted to those familiar with all types of handheld devices. This can be befuddling to some, but there’s little to criticize about the quality of interior materials, which outshines most in the compact crossover class.
Escape has a generous 40 inches of front and rear seat headroom but may not feel as roomy as other compact crossovers such as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, so bring the family with you on a test drive. Cargo volume — 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 68.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded — is also less generous compared with other offerings. The plus is, flipping the rear seats down is simple via a one-touch lever.
Features and High Tech Galore
Ford is quite generous with the Escape’s standard features. Even the base S model gets keyless entry; power locks, windows and mirrors; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; height-adjustable driver’s seat; cruise control; air conditioning; and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
Last year, a rearview camera and Ford’s innovative Sync system become standard. Sync provides hands-free connectivity for communications, navigation, and entertainment services.
No competitor comes close to matching the 2015 Ford Escape when it comes to technology and connectivity or impressing friends and neighbors with novelties.
Optional is the MyFord Touch with navigation. This system builds on Sync, and essentially replaces conventional dashboard buttons and knobs with touchscreen interfaces.
Also available is the Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert to warn of vehicles in the driver’s over-the-shoulder blind spot or those approaching from the sides when backing from a parking-lot space.
In the impress-the-friends-and-neighbors- category is the hands-free power liftgate. It allows an owner carrying the keyless-entry fob in a pocket or purse to unlock and open the power rear hatch by simply waving a foot below the rear bumper.
And then there’s Ford’s Active Park Assist. Wow onlookers as the system identifies a suitable parallel parking space, and literally takes control to steer the Escape into it while you simply modulate the brake pedal.
Offered only on the base model S is the conventional 2.5-liter 168-horsepower engine. Available in front drive only, it returns an EPA-estimated 22 mpg city/30 highway and 25 combined.
Ford’s EcoBoost engines use a turbocharger for an added “boost” of power. To extract the best fuel economy they incorporate direct fuel injection to optimize combustion, and have variable camshaft timing for intake and exhaust efficiencies.
Most buyers opt for the EcoBoost 1.6-liter that puts out 178 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque. It offers the best fuel economy: 23/32/25 [City/Highway/Combined] mpg with front drive and 22/30/25 with all-wheel drive (AWD).
Performance-minded buyers choose the 2.0-liter EcoBoost rated at 240 horsepower and 270 pounds-feet of torque. For its output this engine has surprisingly good fuel efficiency: 22/30/25 with front drive, and 21/28/24 with AWD.
All three engines are connected to a six-speed automatic transmission that directs power to the front wheels.
Escape’s AWD system works via an electronically controlled clutch. Normal operation is front drive, but when a front tire slips it can move power to the rear wheels 20 times faster than the blink of an eye. Working in concert with Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control, it improves handling on dry pavement, as well as wet, snowy or icy roads.
Our test driver was a well-equipped Titanium AWD model that included leather upholstery, 10-way adjustable and heated driver’s seat, an excellent Sony audio system and dual zone climate control. The added options — 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, blind spot detection, Active Park Assist, MyFord Touch with navigation and HID headlamps — added $3,725 to the $31,260 sticker price.
I found the ride comfortable even after a few hours behind the wheel, thanks in part to the soft, supportive seat cushion. I particularly appreciated the adjustable steering column and extensively adjustable driver’s seat, which allowed me to find the right driving position and maximize visibility.
If you are like me, and taut, responsive driving is to your liking, you won’t feel shortchanged by the decision to buy a small crossover sport utility. That’s because the 2015 Ford Escape uses the automaker’s “Global C” platform as its basis. It’s the same as the third-generation Focus, which means the mechanicals under the sheetmetal come from one of Europe’s best-handling hatchbacks.
On rural curvy roads, the Escape manages to tread the line between comfort and handling that many small crossovers seem to struggle with. With a suspension tuning that combines quite firm spring and damping rates, there was no nasty crashing or shuddering over rough road surfaces.
It’s much the same story around town. The suspension ironed out the worst of urban lumps and dispatched neglected potholes with ease.
Steering felt well-engineered and corners could be approached with confidence, and, although there was some initial body roll, I never felt like the Escape was unsettled.
There was a polished efficiency to city driving and a decisiveness and willingness to work on freeways and two-lane highways. When I wanted the powertrain to hold a gear, invariably it did so. Consequently, the Escape always felt quick and responsive.
Elsewhere, engineering efforts regarding rolling refinement — stiff body structure, insulation, thick glazing — were evident. Wind noise is controlled well, and the engine is mechanically refined.
As for fuel economy, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost was a little shy of the 27.7 combined mpg of the smaller 1.6-liter we drove last year, but it was still commendable considering the 240 horses. After 289 miles of running around in town and on the freeway, and 40-some miles of frisky driving, the fuel economy readout indicated 26.1 mpg. That’s 2.1 mpg more than the EPA’s estimated 24 mpg combined city/highway.
Starting at $22,610, plus $895 destination charges, the 2015 Ford Escape base model S is competitively priced. The step-up SE is stickered at $25,550 for front drive, $27,300 for AWD. Again competitive, but start adding those nifty options and it can become an expensive proposition
Then there’s the flagship Titanium. Front drive editions are priced starting at $29,510, AWD at $31,260. There are a host of available options that weren’t included on our test drive Escape, and in total can push the price close to $40,000.
Yes, there are less expensive compact crossovers and there are some with more interior room. What you get with the 2015 Ford Escape is an SUV that is secure, confidence inspiring and pleasing to hustle along a back road. It also has a sexy appearance, a top-notch interior along with more connectivity and high-tech features than any competitor.
As an added incentive, the fuel economy is damn good.
2015 Ford Escape | FindTheBest