A Kinetic Change

2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD 3
2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD. All Photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2013 Ford Escape

What was your first reaction when you saw the new Ford Escape?

I cried. No, seriously, I did.

You see, the Escape and I go back plenty of years. My first encounter with Ford's compact SUV/crossover came as a rental in 2003 from Chicago onto a shopping spree at IKEA in Schaumburg with a stop in Beloit for a baseball game. On that trip, I saw Prince Fielder as a minor leaguer. No lie.

As exciting as it may have sound, I was mixed about the Escape. It was bouncy, felt too high from the ground and somewhat uncomfortable. Then again, I began to get used to SUV/crossovers by that time.

It got better when the second generation came out about 2007. The Escape simply felt much better all around. In fact, it became one my chosen distance runners and a fragile goods mover for friends up in Duluth.

I should have been more prepared for what was to come in the past year. Yes, the One Ford program did include the Kinetic architecture for the new compact crossover/SUV to replace both the Escape and Kuga worldwide. Yes, it was supposed to be "softer" than before. Yet, I will admit being up in arms when it was decided the new Escape would concentrate on EcoBoost engines rather than a Hybrid or FlexFuel V6.

Then, you all began to buy them. The new model's early arrival created a huge buzz amongst crossover consumers that Ford dealers scrambled to get newly minted units in for wanting customers. I saw them on the streets, either flying rental car barcodes or dealer stickers. Some of you who bought its competitors began kicking your vehicles when one pulled up near by you.

You asked me when I would get one to review. Well…here it is. And, I have one question: Will this be as enjoyable as the previous Escapes I have driven over the past nine years?

It begins with the exterior. The overall look of the new Escape broadcasts a willingness to change the landscape through the Kinetic design language. Gone is the squat, tall and boxy shape of the old model. We are indeed treated to something completely different and contemporary.

You are greeted with a huge lower grille with Ford’s new trademark narrow upper grille, stylized headlamps and a sleeker silhouette. Think of the new Escape as an enlarged Focus with all of is Kinetic-ness embodied with every fold, curve and angle. The slightly shorter height is balanced with a right-sized ground clearance for better step-up into the cabin. In this Titanium model, there is a subtle amount of chrome to announce it as the top shelf model. There is nothing "over-the-top" about the new Escape.

2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD 9

The Kinetic design language and the inspiration from the newest Focus continued inside. A stylized dashboard greets you, with a basic gauge set and two TFT screens. The smaller one its in front of the driver giving essential information across a series of screens from fuel economy to the amount of torque going to each wheel through its four-wheel drive system. Screen surfing is done through a switch on the steering wheel.

Another series of switches on the steering wheel are a part of the Escape's MyFord Touch infotainment system, powered by SYNC. The main part of the MyFord Touch resides in the larger screen dab smack in the middle of the dashboard. Ford suggests you use the voice commands while you are driving. On some levels, MyFord Touch/SYNC worked quite well. Voice recognition is still close to perfect, however. Managing the distance between the main touch screen and the driver was quite a challenge, especially when having to use the screen for needed adjustments and fine tuning of the MyFord Touch/SYNC experience.

Seating for this Titanium model is a leather/cloth ensemble in a black/gray tone. Once you get settled into the driver’s seat, they are pretty comfortable. Bolstering is good for both the seat and backrest. The driver side is powered, while the front passenger only gets manually operation for rake and recline. The room is fine up front, giving both driver and front passenger a taller position against traffic. Rear seat passengers can also get comfortable with plenty of leg and head room for almost everyone.

MyFord Touch and SYNC offers up 18 presets for SiriusXM and an additional 12 for AM and 18 for FM – both including HD Radio stations. Bluetooth connects both the phone and your music files through the Sony audio system with sound channeled through ten strategically positioned speakers.

There is one more interesting feature to mention here. If you are burdened with shopping bags or anything that prevents you from getting out the keys, use your foot to open the liftgate. This feature is enabled when you move your foot underneath the bumper – without kicking the back of the Escape. It works, actually! Be patient with your foot when you do so.

2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD 7

Under the hood is one of several EcoBoost turbocharged engines Ford had been touting for the past couple of years. The Titanium model offers only the 2.0litre EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, good for 240 horsepower. Though the EcoBoost is designed for maximum efficiency and higher fuel economy, there is absolutely no lag in power with the turbocharger kicking in immediately. With the lack of turbo lag, the 270 pounds-feet of torque came on rather quickly – even with a light throttle response.

Power from the EcoBoost is channeled through a six-speed SelectShift transmission. Gear changes were responsive, smooth and unobtrusive. Four-wheel drive operation is simplified and fluid through a torque vectoring system. Combined with the traction control system, the Escape made sure it stayed on course. You can feel this system work overtime on iced and caked road surfaces. The Continental ContiProContact tires provided good grip on any surface and condition – a good choice for Ford on the Escape.

Elder Escapes were always known to be nimble with fine road manners. This new Escape sharpens up on the great attributes of its predecessors in almost every way. The ride was smooth, but reactive to lumpy roads. Though the Escape was competent in absorbing the bumps and potholes along the way. Handling is quite solid with minimal roll through the curves. There was a true feeling of control in this rendition of the Escape than even the previous generation.

Steering the Escape has always been quite good. The new version is even better with sharper steering response and a tighter turning radius. On-center feel is exacting, something that is refreshing with electric power steering systems. Braking is not bad overall. Panic stops seem to take some distance to achieve, but regular stopping power is just fine. When the ABS kicks in, the wheels are grabbed without much drama and within the control of the vehicle and driver – just as intended. Braking action is direct for all stops.

One point needs to be made about fuel economy with the EcoBoost. Understand what Ford had intentioned through their line of turbocharged engines was to combine power, torque and efficiency. The EcoBoost's power was too delicious to drive efficiently, even when trying to keep a light throttle. In the end, the Escape Titanium turned in a 21.7 MPG average. A pro tip for EcoBoost owners – use Premium fuel instead of regular as recommended in the owner's manual. Your turbocharger will thank you.

2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD 5

Pricing for the Escape is set in line with its direct competitors. Starting at around $23,000, the Escape lineup offers a broad range of equipment levels and power options along the way. The top shelf Titanium tester was priced at $34,735. This price included the Parking Technology Package with the Active Park Assist – a feature especially made for those of us who are not great at parallel parking.

I have to admit taking a liking to the new Escape. The best way to describe the newer model is "right sized," though I feel there were some dimensions I already miss from previous generations. I will miss the headroom – front and back. I will miss the ability to fuel it up with E85. I will also miss not having a Hybrid version to discuss with environmentally-friendly friends and acquaintances.

However, I welcome Ford's willingness to create a global crossover again. The Escape has become the Kuga for other markets around the world – though some content and power differences will be evident in certain markets. For our market, the Escape is positioned right in the middle of a highly competitive segment. In November of 2012, Ford sold over 20,000 Escapes that month – second only to the Honda CR-V.

But, does it really replace the old boxy warhorse as the so-called "go-to" small crossover? Perhaps, for now, but there is still more to come in this segment. The new Escape is worth a look.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by the Ford Motor Company.

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