Subaru’s latest AWD model ups its MPG
The Wheels You Need with the Fuel Economy You Crave
So the scientists announced this last week (ed note: we originally wrote this three years ago–and updated it since–but the climate change news has not gotten any brighter in the intervening years) that the world has hit another milestone. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has hit a concentration not seen for millions of years. While many in the environmental community might see this as the point at which personal transportation should be curtailed–starting with SUVs or Crossovers–it is clear the automotive market is not going to make such a quick shift.
Sport utility vehicles and crossovers (crossovers being sport utility vehicles based on a car rather than truck chassis) are more popular than ever in 2017, even as the general trend toward higher MPG vehicles moves forward. The reason is simple: they are functional. One trip to Costco is enough to convince many families that a Prius won’t cut it. Regular trips up to the mountains in the winter to ski could similarly motivate a car buyer to look for an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle rather than the front-wheel drive found on most high-mileage hybrids. Cars don’t always cut it.
Winging it…on electricity
All of which leaves the environmentally conscious consumer with some tough choices. If your lifestyle points you toward an SUV or crossover, you still want to do what you can to minimize your contribution to further CO2 in the atmosphere. The first electric SUV has appeared (after one short-lived version, the RAV4 EV was on the market for a brief time), but the Tesla Model X is out of most buyers’ price range. Plug-in hybrids are just hitting the market this year and more are promised, but again most are luxury first and SUV second. A few hybrid and clean diesel models are out there, so the key is to check out the most fuel efficient models that fit your needs. Since one of those needs with this class of vehicles usually entails a good amount of distance travel, we’re use the highway fuel economy as the benchmark for our Top 10 list.
While cars, especially smaller ones, appear to be able to top the 40 mpg mark without much difficulty and are pushing even higher with plug-in models, AWD and 4WD models, with extra hardware and usually a larger size, have historically found 30 mpg on the highway a tough mark. No more. We’ve got an EV and several plug-ins that boast sophisticated technology that offers welcome progress on the MPG front. The downside is all this new hardware comes at a serious premium. But not far down the list are gasoline-powered models delivering mid-30s fuel economy.
The numbers are based on the federal fuel economy tests, so of course your mileage will vary. We’ve updated this list and pruned out some of the two-wheel-drive interlopers. We expect this list to keep growing, offering mpg-conscious car buyers even more options.
The Top 10 SUVs/Crossovers
1. 95 MPGe – Tesla Model X EV – So how does almost 100 mpg sound for an SUV? Is that worth $70 or $80,000? Tesla’s foray into the SUV space is an all-wheel-drive, all-electric crossover with seating for seven adults and their luggage. It is based off of Tesla’s Model S sedan (which it now outsells) and features two electric motors (of varying sizes depending on the model) and a variety battery pack sizes and performance levels. Oh, and it also has gull-wing (falcon in Tesla parlance) doors. And loads of tech features, including fairly sophisticated self-driving capability. The car will deliver about 250 miles of range in the high-end model; 220 in the “entry-level” model. When we did a brief test drive, we were impressed. The Toyota RAV4 EV was the first SUV with a plug, but in two iterations it only had a brief run and totaled about 3,000 vehicles. Tesla passed that mark in its first year on the market and continues crank them out of its Fremont plant.
Tesla Model X
2. 56 MPGe BMW X5 xDrive40e PHEV – BMW took its most popular SUV and added a plug. It seems simple, but the process entailed added technology. Thankfully, BMW has not subtracted any of the positive attributes of its all-wheel-drive SUV. Forget to plug in and you’re back to mid-20s fuel economy. It has 14 miles of all-electric range augmented by more than 300 horsepower of gasoline-fueled power, which is helpful if you’ve carrying a full three rows of passengers. We have a review of this model.
3. 53 MPGe – Volvo XC90 AWD PHEV – The first plug-in Volvo has arrived. We saw it some time ago and are pleased that it has been delivered intact with great fuel economy along with all of the usual Volvo safety equipment and great wagon space. Without plugging in the fuel economy drops to the mid-20s. It’s all-electric range is about 14 miles. A week in the wagon reinforced out initial impression.
4. 50 MPGe – Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e – The latest addition to the plug-in SUV crowd comes from Mercedes-Benz. This five-passenger SUV can shut down its 400+ horsepower V-6 biturbo engine and move on electric power to maximize fuel economy. Its default mode is a hybrid drive that will shift from gas to electric power.
5. 47 MPGe – Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV – To offset some performance models with less-than-stellar fuel economy, Porsche is leading the way by offering plug-in versions that promise enhanced MPG. The company’s SUV adds an electric motor than can give 16 miles of EV range. On gas alone the car is in the low 20s MPG.
2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
6. Tie 34 MPG – Nissan Rogue Hybrid/Toyota RAV4 Hybrid – In case there was any question about the competitive nature of the automotive market, these two models should settle the debate. Locked into a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the hot compact class of crossover, both companies have added hybrid systems to their hot-selling small SUVs. Its working as both effortlessly deliver stellar fuel economy a the no-fuss hybrid system that makes most of the decisions for the driver. The market loves them, too, (in hybrid and non-hybrid mode) as in early 2017 both models are among the top-selling models in the U.S. We tested both here, here and here.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Lexus NX 300h – A new entry takes a top spot as Toyota fields a hybrid version of the RAV4 with a Lexus badge. The fuel economy numbers are for city driving. As is typical of hybrids, it gives you more MPG around town than out on the highway (31 highway and 33 combined). These numbers are for the two-wheel-drive version; moving all four wheels knocks off one or two MPG. We tested it when it first came out and found it a competent machine.
Lexus NX 300h
8. Tie 33 MPG – Honda CR-V – Honda’s best-selling crossover tops 30 MPG with all-wheel-drive on board. We’ve driven this compact utility several times and find it a real winner in its class, coming in only a shade below hybridized versions of its competition. Since it isn’t a hybrid or plug-in hybrid, it also has an edge in affortability.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Jaguar F-Pace – It’s highly unusual for a Jaguar to show up on the best-MPG list, but the F-Pace is something a little different. Jaguar added an efficient clean diesel engine to bump its fuel economy into the range of usually more efficient but smaller crossovers. We’ve experienced the engine in a sedan and believe it should deliver some solid performance for this new entry.
8. Tie 33 MPG – Subaru XV Crosstrek – Subaru continues to test the market with vehicles that depart from its typical cars. The Crosstrek has a 2-liter version of the traditional (for Subaru) horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing 148 horsepower when paired with the CVT automatic. It bumps up the MPG of the popular Crosstrek.
Just missing the Top 10 mpg mark are a half-dozen models
Not that long ago 30 mpg for an all-wheel-drive vehicles was unheard of. As you can see above, it is quickly becoming the ticket of entry in this class of vehicles. The variety of models is astounding and the range of features runs the gamut from affordable small crossovers to SUVs capable of carrying more than a family of four and taking the group well off the highway.
We used the federal fuel economy numbers from the EPA at to rank these models. Lurking just below the Top 10 (which of course is actually 11 models) are a variety of vary capable cars, all of which come in 4WD with a variety of engine options. Ones to check out are the Mazda CX-3, Lexus RX 450h Hybrid, Honda HR-V, Nissan Murano Hybrid, Buick Encore, Subaru Forester, Mercedes-Benz GLA250, Infiniti QX30, Subaru Outback, Audi Q5 Hybrid, Chevrolet Trax, BMW X1 xDrive, Jeep Renegade and Toyota Highlander Hybrid for some other 30+ MPG cars. The variety has never been greater.
And coming soon:
The onslaught of new models focused on fuel efficiency will continue as automakers strive to reach fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets set by governments around the world. Models announced, but not yet introduced include plug-in versions of several more BMW and Mercedes SUVs. We’ve also been waiting for the U.S. introduction of the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, which is already on the market in Japan and Europe. It’s expected to have 20-25 miles of all-electric range and could turn in mpge (mileage factoring in the electric range) well above 50.
Other similar stories you might enjoy:
First Drive: 2017 Tesla Model X
Road Test: 2016 BMW X5 xDrive40e
Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 PHEV
Road Test: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
Road Test: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Road Test: 2015 Lexus NX 300h
Road Test: 2016 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2013 Subaru Crosstrek
Winner By a Foot
A step ahead
Here’s the philosophical question for the week: Is it wrong to love a vehicle because of just one feature? I will be the first to admit I was skeptical when Ford announced it was adding a foot-activated “hands-free liftgate” to its Escape models. Then I spent a week in a 2016 Ford Escape with the feature—and I’m sold. All of the usual tasks, Costco runs, grocery store trips and on and on, suddenly became so much easier. By the end of the week I was wondering why all hatchbacks didn’t have this feature.
But enough about my obsessions. Wasn’t this great technology embedded in a car? It was, and the current version of the Escape probably could stand on its own merits, even without the hands-free liftgate (note sarcastic tone). Seriously, there’s a reason the Ford Escape is the second best-selling (after the untouchable F-Series pickup) model in the truck lineup, running neck-and-neck with the best-selling member of the car line—the Fusion. The 2016 Ford Escape epitomizes the versatile vehicle that appears to be defining this generation:
- thrifty at the pump (30+ mpg),
- capable around the home (able to haul five people and tow up to 3,500 pounds),
- powerful enough to take you where you want to go (with an optional 240 horsepower four-cylinder EcoBoost engine), and
- full of technology (besides the hands-free liftgate, it has blind spot detection and active park assist.
Let’s run through those critical attributes.
Fuel Economy in the 2016 Ford Escape
Years ago, Ford offered a hybrid version of the Escape, but with the advent of the EcoBoost engines the hybrid was dropped. Ford figured out it could get hybrid-like fuel economy by downsizing
Ready to cruise
and turbocharging its engines. The current Escape comes with three four-cylinder engine options—the base 2.5-liter that delivers 168 horsepower, a 1.6-liter EcoBoost that delivers 178 horsepower and the top-of-the-line 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine in our test Escape. With direct injection and turbocharging, the 2L packed 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque in its compact form. In our four-wheel-drive it promised 22 mpg city/ 28 highway/ 23 combined. In the 2WD model it would hit 30 mpg on the highway. The mpg champ of the three engines is the 1.6-liter, which is EPA-rated at 32 mpg highway, but all three engines deliver a good balance of power and economy, all on regular gas.
In my week in the Escape I was able to average about 27 mpg so highway running was definitely in the 30s. Cruising on the highway is something the Escape seems to enjoy.
The transmission that accompanies all three engines is a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic. The power reached the ground via optional 19-inch nickel-painted aluminum wheels and the 235/45-19 tires. Suspension in the Escape is a front independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar and twin-tube hydraulic gas shocks and an independent multi-link rear with stabilizer bar, progressive-rate springs and monotube gas shocks. Stopping power comes from power four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock brake system (ABS).
Why You Buy an SUV
The reason you need an SUV
At this point it should be clear to anyone following the auto industry that sport utility vehicles or crossovers are well-beyond the fad stage. They remain popular whether gas prices are low or high because they’re functional. They work; they do work; they help us live our lives a little more easily. We may not need them every day or even every week, but we do need them. The high-roof Escape plays to all the strengths of this segment. It has 34.3 cubic feet of storage behind its back seat and a whopping 67.8 cubic feet with the second seat folded down. Like most of the inhabitants of this segment, the driver and passengers sit high for a commanding view of the road. Unlike some of its competitors, the 2016 Ford Escape offers excellent visibility, which is augmented with technology such as its optional blind spot detection system, rear view camera, reverse sending system and active park assist, which does all but parallel park the vehicle itself.
Towing with the Escape is exceptional for the smaller end of the crossover segment. With a Class II Trailer Tow Package, the 2L we drove could tow up to 3,500 pounds. Part of that package includes trailer sway control that can keep control by applying the brakes or reducing engine torque.
The technology standard or optional on the Escape is representative of what is becoming more commonplace among models at all levels. The blind spot warning system was subtle (just a small
Loaded with tech; ready to assist
lighted dot in the mirror), but effective. In addition to the ample display screen (which acts as a touchscreen but also will respond to voice commands) in the center console the Escape also shows key information directly in front of the driver between the tachometer and speedometer.
Ford’s updated Sync 3 communications system and a 10-speaker Sony audio system are standard on the top-of-the-line Platinum model. The car also has the capability of automatic software updates over Wi-Fi and can integrate an iPhone into car’s native software.
And then there’s the foot-activated rear liftgate. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. It’s a $495 option on the SE model and standard on the Titanium.
The 2016 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD we drove was a pre-production model, but the retail prices are as follows:
Escape S – $23,100
Escape SE – $25,300
Escape Titanium – $29,505
Destination charges are $985 on all models.
Safety & Warranties
Small, but upscale
The 2016 Ford Escape we drove had the company’s on-demand all-wheel-drive system. It can react to sudden road surface changes and deliver power to the wheels with the best traction. The Escape also features Curve Control, a system that can reduce the vehicle’s speed whenever it senses its speed is exceeding the conditions. It’s part of the cars AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) and is standard on all 2016 models.
Seven airbags are standard on the Escape, including a driver’s knee airbag and side-curtain airbags in the rear. The 2016 Escape took home four stars in the NHTSA 5-Star safety ratings.
Warranties on the 2016 Ford Escape are:
Basic bumper-to-bumper – Three-year/36,000-mile
Powertrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
Corrosion Perforation – Five-year/Unlimited-mile
Roadside Assistance – Five-year/60,000-mile
Conclusion – 2016 Ford Escape Platinum 4WD
Compact sport utilities sell well because they work well in the real world. The 2016 Ford Escape delivers 30+ mpg, plenty of power from its EcoBoost engine and a liftgate you can open with the
Boosting itself to the top of its class
wave of your foot. Outfitted in Platinum trim it has touches of luxury and abundant technology that can aid driving pleasure and enhance safety. With optional all-wheel-drive, the Escape has go-anywhere capability. The top-line engine package offers great towing for a small, four-cylinder vehicle.
There’s a lot to like in the Escape (and we’ve noted that when we tested the previous year’s models), but it also has some serious competition in this class, including the Chevy Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Mazda CX-5. Check them out below.
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: 2015 Ford Escape
Road Test: 2015 Toyota RAV4
News: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
Road Test: 2015 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2015 Nissan Rogue
Road Test: 2015 Mazda CX-5
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Electric Cars, Fuel Cells; Diverse Paths to Fuel Efficiency Highlighted
Here at Clean Fleet Report we had a great year, seeing and reporting to you on a record number of cars, trucks, SUVs and even some two-wheel fuel-efficient vehicles. We had plenty of stories on electric cars, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, clean diesels and very efficient gas-powered vehicles. Beyond that, we reported on significant news and trends you need to know about to plan your next car purchase—or just keep up on the conversation about what’s happening on the leading edge of the automotive world.
So, here, in reverse order, are our Top 10 stories for the year from among the record 69 we published in 2014.
10. Two Wheels Go Electric. We had a sneak peak at the Tesla of electric motorcycles, the aptly named Energica Ego. It has a price up in the “if you have to ask” territory, reflecting its Formula
Two wheels go electric, too!
1 engineering roots and extensive use of carbon fiber and top-brand components. We also noted that Harley-Davidson showed off an electric Harley concept that could indicate they’re looking at the same territory.
9. Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Ford spent a good portion of the year talking about one of the most revolutionary moves in the truck sector—a weight reduction campaign for its best-selling F-150 pickup that involved a move to an aluminum body and the use of lighter weight high-strength steel. With a lighter pickup, Ford was able to drop in a smaller EcoBoost engine and still maintain expected towing and hauling capacities. The truck has just gone on sale at the end of 2014, but the move boosted fuel economy by almost 30 percent, a move needed to counteract competitors like the Ram, which took the diesel route to the top fuel economy in the sector. Not to be left out, GM introduced a pair of new midsize pickups that also will be adding diesel power in 2015.
8. Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Mark. It was hard to pick just one of new breed of compact SUVs/crossovers. We may need to up the ante for the 30 MPG Club because these guys are making it look easy. This year’s batch was led by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, but you could throw in a Subaru or two and not be disappointed. The combination of fuel economy, interior utility, high-tech features and all-wheel-drive capability should help this class to continue to be popular in 2015.
7. Tesla on the Battlefield. We didn’t dive too deeply into the almost daily drama emanating from Palo Alto (just up the road from our headquarters) because we like to focus on the hardware and the significant news that affects that hardware. But we couldn’t avoid a couple articles on Elon Musk’s battle to establish a different sales model of direct sales. He had some success, some losses (sort of like the company’s balance sheet). We’ll continue to follow the company’s progress on this front and any developments on product, which will likely be led by the introduction of the Model X late in 2015.
6. Clean Diesel’s Leader—VW Jetta. Let’s be honest, we love great fuel economy, but really don’t want to give up the fun of driving. Diesel engines are one of the best methods of having the best of both worlds. Hundreds of miles of driving on a tank and the power to effortlessly take on anything the road has to offer. We sampled several diesels this year, but have settled on the Volkswagen Jetta as the standard-bearer of this segment. We like the compact size, the power, the upscale appointments and most of all, an easy 40+ mpg out on the road.
5. The Prius Quartet. You can’t know the Prius. It has led the way for a decade and a half and blazed fuel-economy trails that most other cars have not been able to match. So Toyota decided to make it a family and there are now four variants, all four of which Clean Fleet Report road-tested this year. It’s a challenge figured out which might work the best, but ranging from the diminutive c to the wagon-like V with the traditional Liftback and Plug-In sandwiched in-between, Toyota figures to have the market well-covered.
4. Fuel Cell Electric Cars Arrive! Of course we’ve heard this one before. But this time they mean it! Consider this the second coming of the fuel cell car. We’ve had prototypes running around
An aggressive year for fuel cells
for a decade or more, but now you can buy an FCEV. That is, if you live near the just-beginning refueling infrastructure. Hyundai hit the market first, but Toyota is close behind and Honda not long after them. Mercedes already has dozens on the road and VW and Audi showcased potential challengers. We’ll be keeping an eye of these cars, but from what we’ve driven so far, there is no question about the seriousness of the automakers in bringing FCEVs to market. Hyundai’s fuel cell “engine” was even named by WardsAuto as one of the 10 Best of the year.
3. Kia Soul EV. Cue the hamsters! Electric cars are now cool. The Korean automaker is dipping its toes in the all-electric market (they’ve got a hybrid on the market and a plug-in hybrid coming) with its popular little mini-wagon. We had a fun first drive with the Soul EV and expect to spend some more time in it in 2015.
2. BMW i3. We should have seen this one coming as the Bavarian merchants of speed first dropped a cobbled Mini-E on us, followed up by a pedestrian-
Here come the hamsters!
looking but competent performer in the Active-E. Finally, the real deal arrives and it is every bit the BMW we would expect. Except maybe in its looks, which are more squat than BMW’s SUVs.
When it comes to performance and technology, the i3 is ground-breaking and delivers the driving experience you would expect from a BMW, but without the gasoline (unless you get the REX version that carries a small engine and extends the range 50 miles).
1. Top 10 Electric Cars. This is the big story. We have to choose to pick the Top 10 electric cars available today. It’s still a mix of pure electrics and plug-in hybrids, but the list is growing quickly and the variety of vehicles is looking better than ever. Everything from two-seat mini-sedans to six-figure luxury sports cars are now crowding this list, which we keep updated on a regular basis. The progress being made by automakers is encouraging and the response of the public has been likewise. It’s getting easier to find an electric car that works for your lifestyle and pocketbook. The new players like the VW e-Golf, Kia Soul EV and BMW i3 are making a statement that this is a segment destined to hold a growing portion of the market. Clean Fleet Report will continue to be there in 2015 to make sure you have all the latest news on this group and all of the others out there.
Happy New Year!
Here on links to our Top 10 Stories of 2014
- Top 10 Electric Cars.
- BMW i3.
- Kia Soul EV.
- Fuel Cells Cars Arrive!
- The Prius Quartet: The c and V; Liftback and Plug-In.
- Clean Diesel’s Standard-Bearer—the VW Jetta (2014/2015).
- Tesla’s Battles at the Dealership—two engagements.
- Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Barrier: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5.
- Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Pickups Pick Up MPG. First Drive: Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon.
- Two Wheels Go Electric.
Fuel economy and Zoom-Zoom
How can a small-size car company meet federal fuel economy standards for the next decade if it lacks the resources to develop fuel-efficient hybrids, like larger automakers? If you’re Mazda, you tackle the issue with a holistic approach and
A strong compact SUV contender
innovative engineering that benefits not only fuel economy, but performance, handling and safety as well.
The result? It’s what the little Zoom-Zoom carmaker calls “Skyactiv Technology,” a suite of technological packages in synch with each other that collectively earned the 2015 Mazda CX-5 compact crossover sport utility inclusion in our All-Wheel Drive 30 MPG Club. And not just for the base 2.0-liter four cylinder engine, but also for the larger 2.5-liter four.
Equipped with the smaller 2.0-liter engine, the EPA estimated fuel economy is 31-mpg highway/25 city and 28 combined. There is little fuel economy penalty when choosing the 2.5 as the numbers only drop to 30-mpg highway/24 city and 26 combined.
Three all-wheel drive models are offered: Sport, which starts at $24,395 plus $850 destination charges; Touring priced starting at $26,215; and Grand Touring with a sticker price of $29,220.
Insightful, creative engineering is the core of Skyactiv and the CX-5 was the first Mazda vehicle to feature all of the combined technologies when introduced in 2012 as a 2013 model. At the heart is the Skyactiv-G Engine, a lightweight, efficient four-cylinder that uses direct fuel injection, sequential intake valve timing and a high 13.0:1 compression ratio. These, along with other innovations, achieve excellent power performance while delivering exceptional fuel economy and running on 87-octane fuel.
The little bigger engine that good
The 2.0-liter produces 155 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 150 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The larger 2.5-liter engine pushes the output to 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 pounds-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm.
Connected to the engine is the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission. Lightweight in design, the engineering goal was the best attributes of all automatic transmission types — conventional automatic, continuously variable and dual clutch. Mission accomplished, using a small torque converter that delivers smooth starts and shifts attributed to torque transfer efficiency.
Lightweighting, the use of weight-saving materials to improve fuel economy, plays a major role in Mazda’s program. Skyactiv-body and Skyactiv-chassis are terms used to describe the huge reduction of weight through extensive use of high-tensile strength steel. These construction components provide a rigid body and stiffer chassis to optimize steering and handling control. Plus, it helps protect occupants during an unexpected impact.
Whew! That’s a lot to digest, and I only highlighted the details. It does, however, give some insight why the CX-5 feels so darn good to drive.
Zoom-Zoom Road Test
When introduced, the CX-5’s sole engine was the 2.0-liter four. While it was adequate and smooth running, the performance is best described as a single Zoom.
Mazda added the 2.5-liter last year, giving it the credentials to rightfully claim Zoom-Zoom in its advertising. Our Grand Touring all-wheel drive test vehicle approached life with zest not found in other small crossovers, with the exception of the Ford Escape with the 240 horsepower 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder.
The engine is quiet and you can feel some muscle when accelerating from a stop or punching the pedal when merging or passing. Power is demonstrated in a refined, enthusiastic way rather than a brute force manner. There’s plenty of energy from the mid to the upper ranges of the power band. Launch to 60 mph is a tick under eight seconds, admirable for a vehicle that weighs in at 3,532 pounds.
The six-speed automatic proved to be a smooth partner to the 2.5-liter four. Shifts — up or down — were as smooth and quick as any automatic-equipped small crossover I’ve driven.
Skyactiv comes alive on the road
What made me appreciate the engine and transmission’s performance was the sweet handling, thanks to the Skyactiv’s attention to chassis details. The suspension is divided between MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the back. The latter has been mounted higher than usual to improve damper efficiency.
Our 2015 Mazda CX-5 was composed under hard acceleration and deceleration, stayed flat as it danced through tight, fast corners and kept its poise right up to the limits of tire adhesion. Although the suspension is skewed toward athletic achievement, the little SUV still dispensed a comfortable, well-behaved ride whether it was on the Interstate or city streets.
As is becoming the norm in this class and others, the steering rack is an electrically assisted system that has a feel close to the Miata roadster. It is communicative, quick and precise at higher speeds, yet light when parking.
The only demerit I gave the CX-5 was a sensitive, slightly grabby brake pedal. I did become used to it, and, sensitive or not, during an urgently needed panic stop, the brakes came through as required.
“Soul of Motion” Design
In addition to Skyactiv, the CX-5 was the first Mazda to introduce its new Kodo, or “Soul of Motion” design direction, which introduced a wide mouth grille. The black, shield-shaped grille and angular wraparound headlights give the front a distinctive and classy look.
In profile, the shape has a swept-back SUV look, with the raked front A-pillar matching the fastback design of the rear C-pillar. In back the style is simple but tasteful, featuring high-mounted taillights that wrap around to sides and a small rear window. Hinting at the CX-5’s performance bent is a pair of chrome exhaust tips.
Mazda carried the smart exterior over to the interior, where I found everything solidly built and smartly designed, if slightly lacking in visual sparkle. Materials and assembly quality are equal to the best-in-class, and there is an abundance of
Pleasing, if unremarkable surfaces great you
soft touch surfaces in the right places.
The prevailing sight from the driver’s seat, save a clear and sensibly laid-out instrument cluster, is a streamlined swathe of dashboard that tapers over a setback multimedia center, with touchscreen functions that operate intuitively. Below the screen, climate control switchgear turns with a gratifyingly solid soft click.
With a 106.3-inch wheelbase, the 2015 Mazda CX-5 has one of the roomiest cabins in the small crossover segment. Driver and front passenger have a generous 40.1-inch headroom and 41.0 inches of legroom. Six- or eight-way power-adjustable driver seats are offered on all but the Sport trim.
Comfort extends to rear seat passengers who have a plentiful 39.3-inches of legroom and 39.0-inches of headroom. Thoughtfully, second row occupants have plenty of foot space beneath the front seats.
A cavernous interior awaits
Touring and Grand Touring models come standard with 40/20/40-split rear seats. When folded flat, they extend the cargo space from 34.1 cubic feet to a cavernous 65.4 cubic feet.
A surprising standard feature on all 2015 Mazda CX-5 models is push button start. Also standard are the expected power accessories, a tilt-telescoping steering wheel with mounted audio and cruise control functions, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and ports for an auxiliary audio jack and USB.
Both Touring models add a rearview camera and a blind-spot monitoring system and the Grand Touring includes niceties like leather upholstery and heated front seats.
Our Grand Touring test driver added the optional Technology Package that includes the Smart City Brake Support system. At speeds up to 19 mph, if you’re coming up behind a slowed vehicle too quickly, the system sounds an alert and preps the brakes for a faster stop. React too slowly and it can automatically apply the brakes to prevent or reduce the severity of a frontal collision.
Is The 2015 Mazda CX-5 For You?
The compact crossover SUV segment is flowing over with some of the best-selling vehicles in the country, which starts with the Honda CR-V, the leader in the sales category. Then there’s the number two-selling Ford Escape. Others fighting for a piece of the market include Toyota’s RAV4, the Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson.
With the exception of the Escape, none of the above comes close to the CX-5’s fun-to-drive personality. The Ford has seductive European styling, but isn’t as roomy as the Mazda. Also, options can push its price close to $40,000.
As for the Honda, well, repeat CR-V owners are not likely to even consider another make. As for new-to-the-segment buyers, they will be tempted by its number-one sales ranking, as they should be.
Where the 2015 Mazda CX-5 stands out from the crowd is its combination of fuel economy, Zoom-Zoom driving behavior, and a competitive price with good value for the dollar spent. That makes it a relative bargain among the compact class.
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Road Test: 2015 Ford Escape
Road Test: 2014 Honda CR-V
Road Test: 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander
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
Sharp looks and well-rounded capabilities
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.
An interior full of tech and comfort
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.
An impressive feat
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.
Riding in comfort is easy
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