Ford’s little SUV gets an overdue boost in power
What’s New: With subtle styling changes addressed for the 2008 model year, Ford is using 2009 to take on the Escape’s powertrains. The four-cylinder and Hybrid models see a nice bump in output, and the V-6 gets a bit more potent with 40 extra ponies. A six-speed automatic transmission is now available, as is a voice-activated and touch-screen navigation system with Sirius Travel Link and a 10-gig hard drive.
What We Think: From its compact size to available technology including a hybrid powertrain and in-dash DVD player, there’s plenty to like about the 2009 Ford Escape. Heck, we can’t even complain about a relative lack of power anymore. Higher-quality materials and modern styling would be nice, but what’s delivered is acceptable in a trucklet that starts at about $20,000. Unfortunately, keeping the price reasonable means you’ll have to skip some of the Escape’s cooler options.
Ford Escape – 2009 Review: If you aim to be best-in-class, there’s only one way to get there: Improve.
We all know that, with the exception of lottery winners and trust fund kids, getting more out of life means putting a lot more into it – longer hours, added sacrifices, greater expenses, and so on. It’s a simple concept that applies equally to the young basketball player who practices free throws everyday, rain or shine, and the single parent who puts the kids to bed before spending the night finishing an assignment for an online college course. These are singular instances of the “will to improve” at work, but it’s a mentality that’s also alive and well elsewhere, including within the offices of Ford Motor Company, maker of the 2009 Escape and Escape Hybrid.
With small SUV sales up about 20 percent over the past five years, Ford realized that the market was growing, and to take advantage would require improving the Escape. The transformation started for the 2008 model year with updates of the exterior and interior. But what drivers will really appreciate, what might lead you to purchase an Escape, comes in the form of added power for 2009 and the availability of desirable options, such as SYNC and a voice-activated touch-screen navigation system. Put it all together and you’ve got a small SUV that’s solidly positioned mid-pack instead of bringing up the rear. However, in order to attain that best-in-class ranking, improvements need to continue – namely in the areas of materials quality and driving dynamics.
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Models and Pricing
Ford offers the 2009 Escape in a wide variety of trim levels and configurations to satisfy a wide swath of potential buyers. For those who like the look and functionality of a small, traditional SUV, there’s the XLS, which provides the Escape’s utility backed by a four-cylinder engine, a five-speed manual transmission, and a base price of just $20,410. With that come some surprising standard features, such as side-curtain airbags, stability control, cruise control, keyless entry, an auxiliary audio jack, and 16-inch alloy wheels. The XLS even includes antilock brakes, though the front discs are offset by rear drums. To get your XLS with four-wheel-drive, you’ll need to select the optional six-speed automatic transmission.
Adding a bit more content to the mix is the Escape XLT, which in addition to an optional 240-horsepower V-6 boasts a standard six-way power driver’s seat, automatic headlights, six months of complimentary Sirius satellite radio service, and a fancy keyless entry keypad. If that’s still doesn’t quite measure up, you might want to consider the Limited version. That top-of-the-line Ford Escape tacks on bright alloy wheels, a six-disc CD changer, SYNC, leather upholstery, and additional body-color and chrome exterior accents. When equipped with the V-6 and four-wheel drive, the Limited carries a sticker price of $27,640.
Based on the XLT and priced from $29,000 is the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid. Promising up to 34 mpg on the highway in front-wheel-drive guise, this gas/electric SUV is distinguished not only by its powertrain but also by unique 16-inch alloy wheels, a 110-volt power outlet in the front center console, and a dual-zone climate control system.
With gas prices continuing to rise, the Escape Hybrid should remain a popular choice; otherwise, the XLT is the trim most will zero in on. Buyers focused on fuel economy can select a four-cylinder model, hot rodders interested in power can opt for the V-6, and shoppers of all mindsets will likely see lots to like on the options list – leather upholstery, SYNC, a power moonroof, a 320-watt sound system, and more. But for the technophiles out there, the voice-activated navigation system, available on the Escape Limited, will be hard to pass up with its Travel Link feature that offers current weather reports and gas prices, as well as the 10-gig hard drive that stores uploaded photos and more.
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Under the Hood
If the number of Escape trims has you thinking variety, the selection of powerplants will do nothing to change that mindset. Gone for 2009 is the 2.3-liter four-cylinder, replaced by a 2.5-liter version with variable-valve timing that’s good for 171 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 171 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. Fuel economy is EPA-rated as high as 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway on front-wheel-drive models equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. That same configuration with the new six-speed automatic drops the ratings to 21 mpg and 27 mpg, respectively, or 20 mpg/25 mpg with four-wheel drive.
This year’s Escape Hybrid also draws power from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, yet pairs it with an electric motor to generate 153 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 136 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. Fuel economy peaks at 34 mpg in the city for front-driver versions of the Escape Hybrid. A continuously-variable transmission (CVT) delivers output to the front or all four 16-inch wheels wrapped in 235/70 low-rolling-resistance Michelin Latitude Tour tires.
That’s the same rubber you’ll find standard on all 2009 Escapes, including those fitted with the more robust 3.0-liter V-6. With the help of a new compression ratio, this engine now ponies up 240 horsepower at 6,550 rpm and 223 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,300 rpm. Every V-6 Escape features a six-speed automatic transmission and can be equipped as a front-wheel- or four-wheel-drive model. Depending on configuration, fuel economy ranges from 18 mpg in the city to 24 mpg on the highway.
Backing this all up is an independent MacPherson strut front suspension, a lateral rear suspension with semi-trailing arms, a rack-and-pinion steering assembly (with electric assist on the Escape Hybrid), and antilock brakes with discs up front and drums covering the rear.