Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book
KBB.com 2001 Ford Escape Overview
Combining the Best Attributes The Ford Escape and its sister vehicle, the Mazda Tribute, combine the best attributes of an off-road vehicle, minivan and car. Mechanically, the two are identicalonly some subtle personality differences set them apartso most of what we say about the Escape can also be applied to the Tribute.
It needs to be acknowledged that the Escape's launch did not go as smoothly as Ford would have liked. The Escape and Tribute have both suffered from numerous recalls and long delivery delays. What happened is still a mystery, but it's probably not too far off the mark to assume the troubles had more to do with the suppliers than with the workers who assembled the vehicles. A broken washer ring in the steering column and flawed rear brakes were but a few of the bugs Ford did not shake out before bringing the vehicles to market. All these problems came right in the middle of the Firestone tire debacle, further taxing the automaker's resources. Ford has since remedied the problems and Escapes and Tributes are now rolling into showrooms defect free-or so Ford hopes.
Unimpressive introduction aside, the Ford/Mazda duo are remarkable well-designed vehicles. Bigger than a RAV4 but smaller than an Explorer, the Escape isn't another clone in an already crowded segment, it's a whole new animal. From the outside, there is no mistaking the Escape as anything but a Ford. The familiar styling cues so prominently found on big brother's Excursion, Expedition and Explorer fit comfortably on the Escape, just like a good hand-me-down should. While some might find the styling on the vanilla side, looks are subjective, and we suspect that most people will probably be happy with the Escape's conservative looks. If not, there is always the upmarket Tribute, whose angular front fascia and side body cladding contribute to making it the better looking of the two (in our humble opinion of course).
The true beauty of the Escape platform is displayed in its excellent use of space. The interior is leaps and bounds above the others in this class in just about every category. Seats are composed of sturdy, sculpted foam that does not leave the body fatigued after long hours on the road. Rear passengers will be equally happy with their accommodations, especially with the ample legroom created by the unit body's flat floor design. If there is one complaint, it is the front seat's integrated headrest design. These one-size-fits all seats do not have adjustable head restraints and occupants over 6-foot may find that their heads have little or no support.
The dash layout is easy on the eye, with full gauges, radio and heating controls within easy reach. Again, Mazda's subtle treatment-such as the five-point shape of the center dash plate-give the Tribute a slightly upscale feel absent from the more pedestrian Escape. Both interiors could do with a bit more color-gray, beige and black can only go so far. One annoying aspect shared by both SUVs is the automatic transmission's column mounted shift lever. When in drive, the lever sticks out across the center dash controls, partially blocking them. The oddity here is that when ordered with the manual transmission, alterations are made to accommodate the floor mounted shifter, so it makes little sense for Ford not to have placed the automatic in the same place.
The Escape/Tribute share identical engine and drivetrains. Base models come standard with a 2.0-liter, 130-horsepower 4-cylinder engine mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The optional 3.0-liter V6 is the engine of choice, producing a hardy 200-horsepower. This engine is available only with the automatic transmission and is standard on the top trim level models and optional on all others. Both vehicles employ front-wheel drive but can be equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that engages only when it detects wheel slippage. Suspension upgrades to the Tribute are designed to impart sports-car-like handling, but the difference in ride and handling between the two is marginal. That's not to say that the Escape/Tribute handle badly, they actually perform quite well. The secret lies in the tires, which are wonderful for highway driving, but woefully inadequate for off-roading. For those that plan to off-road with some frequency, a tire upgrade is about the only non-factory option we recommend.