2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: What Is It
According to Ford, 30 percent of all new car sales come from either mid-size sedans or compact SUVs to the tune of around 4 million units annually, but that isn't about to stop the automaker from redesigning its offerings in these two segments in the same year. Instead of shying away from the pressure and introducing conservatively designed cars, Ford aimed for the fences with the 2013 Ford Fusion and 2013 Ford Escape which are likely to be finalists for the 2013 North American Car and Truck of the Year Award and possibly even give Ford a sweep of both awards like it had in 2010. While we still have some time to wait before we can put any miles on the new Fusion, we recently had the chance to drive the new 2013 Ford Escape in San Francisco, Calif. to test out the latest piece of the puzzle to Ford's global vehicle strategy.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Assembled in Louisville, Ky., the 2013 Ford Escape is offered in four trim levels (S, SE, SEL and Titanium) with a starting price of $22,470. Although the Escape SE will be the high-volume model with Ford expecting it to account for 60 percent of sales, we spent most of our time in the top-of-the-line 2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD. This model of the new Escape has a starting price of $32,120 (about $4,000 more than the range-topping 2012 Escape Limited 4x4), but tack on all the extra goodies and the as-tested price jumped to $35,630... not even fully loaded. Ford has previously stated that its transaction prices will be higher as it focuses on improving quality and technology and being a class leader rather than just being the most affordable vehicle of the bunch. Along with the higher prices, Ford says each of the new Escape trim levels now include more standard equipment, but it still might be a hard pill to swallow for some seeing a fully loaded Escape maxing out at $38,000.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: What It's Up Against
It seems like every year the competition in the compact utility vehicle segment gets even more intense, and the 2013 Ford Escape steps up to the challenge taking on rivals like the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Kia Sportage and Jeep Patriot. In spite of the fact that the 2012 Escape hadn't really changed all that much from the original model that helped pioneer the segment back in 2000, sales of Ford's compact SUV continue to be strong posting its best-ever annual sales of 254,293 in 2011 with and starting off 2012 with a record first quarter selling 58,604 units through March. Of these impressive sales figures, Ford says that 47 percent came from conquest buyers new to the Ford brand, and the 2013 Escape will likely help improve conquest sales with its fuel economy, class-leading technology and features and a stylish, modern exterior design.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Exterior
What's New for 2013:
- modern, global design
- looks and feels bigger than previous model
- wheel sizes range from 17 inches up to 19 inches
How It Looks:
For the first time since the Escape was introduced, buyers in North America, Europe (later this year) and China (next year) will all be looking at the same vehicle in Ford showrooms only with slightly different names: here we'll have the Ford Escape while China and Europe (where compact SUV sales are up 200 percent since 2000) will have the Ford Kuga. It will be interesting to see how typical Escape buyers - those who desire a boxy, rugged-looking compact SUV - will accept this new design, but this new European-inspired styling definitely does a good job of creating a unified global presence for Ford and should do a great job of improving sales around the globe. Since its inception, the Ford Escape has challenged the notion that "compact crossover" really means "cute ute," and while the new design of the 2013 model has given up the boxy SUV-like styling for Ford's global Kinetic design language, at least it does so with a little extra ruggedness to its stance. Parked alongside a current Escape, the size difference of the 2013 model is instantly apparent, and a quick rundown of its specs include a wheelbase that was stretched by 2.8 inches, 3.4 inches added to the overall length, 1.5 inches shorter and a half inch wider including almost an inch added to the front track and about an inch and a half to the rear track width.
Fans of the current Ford Focus should love the 2013 Escape with its rounded body lines and the sharp, intersecting creases capped off with the now-signature front end. This new styling not only helps to improve the Escape's aerodynamics (10 percent better than the previous Escape), it also gives the Escape a more modern look to compete better with other CUVs in both the U.S. and globally. Like the Focus and Flex, opting for the Titanium trim level delivers a sportier look to the new 2013 Ford Escape including 19-inch alloy wheels with a luster nickel painted finish and HID headlights with unique LED running lights. Our Escape Titanium 4WD test vehicle came in Ginger Ale - one of many new exterior colors for the Escape.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review Interior
What's New for 2013:
- stylish, sporty interior
- updated MyFord Touch system
- more cargo volume versus old Escape
- innovative features such as hands-free automatic liftgate
How It Looks and Feels:
Much has changed among compact utility vehicles since the Ford Escape was first launched, and with buyers now expecting more equipment and quality from entry-level vehicles, Ford rose to the occasions giving the 2013 Escape an interior that boasts excellent fit, finish and technology. Upscale features like an innovative hands-free automatic liftgate, Active Park Assist, Vista Roof and the updated MyFord Touch system all help to make the new Ford Escape feel more upscale. Even models without the MyFord Touch system will have a small multifunction display screen at the top of the center stack with a wedge-shaped arrangement of buttons similar to the Focus and Fiesta. A redesigned rear seat now gives more legroom to rear occupants, and it folds flat easily without having to remove the headrests. Despite the curved roofline and D-pillars, the Escape actually offers more cargo volume than the old model and the lower ride height helps to improve ingress and egress while creating a lower liftover height for cargo.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
What's New for 2013:
- two all-new EcoBoost engine options
- updated version of base 2.5-liter
- all models use SelectShift six-speed automatic transmission
- new Intelligent 4WD system
- all three 2013 Escape engines will get at least 30 mpg highway
How Does It Go:
Of all the changes made to the 2013 Ford Escape, it might be the powertrain that got the most attention in this ground-up redesign. Making good on its promise of equipping the EcoBoost engine in 90 percent of its models by next year, the majority of 2013 Ford Escape sales will likely include one of two available EcoBoost engines that help maximize performance and fuel economy. While the base model still comes with a 2.5-liter inline-four and the fuel economy engine is the 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline-four, the Escape Titanium we used for this review comes standard with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder mill. The good news for buyers is that despite which engine they opt for, all three engines used in the 2013 Escape are rated to get at least 30 miles per gallon on the highway, and in the case of our four-wheel drive 2013 Escape Titanium test vehicle, it has EPA fuel economy estimates of 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and a rating of 24 mpg in combined driving; all 2013 Escape models equipped with the base engine and the 1.6-liter EcoBoost come standard with active grille shutters that optimize aerodynamics and fuel economy even further.
The three top trim levels have the option of Ford's new Intelligent 4WD System that balances on-road handling with off-road performance. To top it all off though, Ford's fuel efficient and refining additions didn't hamper the Escape's ability to get a little work done either as the new 2.0-liter EcoBoost has the same 3,500-pound towing capacity as the old 3.0-liter V-6 meaning that buyers won't have to sacrifice utility for efficiency. While the availability of three four-cylinder engines might seem a little confusing, the base 2.5 will be for fleet customers, the 1.6 will be for those looking for maximum fuel economy and the 2.0 will be for drivers looking to get the most power from this new Escape.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: How It Drives
Sharing its underpinnings with Ford's global C-platform (used on the Ford Focus and upcoming Ford C-Max), we were a bit worried that the 2013 Ford Escape may exhibit too much of the platform's soft, car-like handling, but Ford managed to give the new Escape a more refined ride than the previous model without making it feel like a jacked up Focus. We took the new 2013 Ford Escape out in the bustling highways and rolling roads around San Francisco, and it was hard to find a road condition this SUV didn't get along with. The added wheelbase length has really helped to give the new Escape a more stable ride on bumpy roads (such as interstates with numerous expansion joints) than its predecessor, while the suspension tuning allows the Escape to handle better than most drivers will ever need or desire. Technologies such as Curve Control and Torque Vectoring add to the handling abilities of the 2013 Escape to help the driver maintain control of the vehicle during cornering maneuvers.
Despite weighing almost 200 pounds more than a 2012 Escape Limited V-6, the 2013 Escape Titanium we drove felt very nimble and responsive. Even better, the extensive tuning to the Ford Escape's aerodynamics also helped to reduce the wind noise that made its way into the cabin making for a refreshingly quiet drive. Ford assured us that the new Escape is as equally capable off-road as the previous design, and while we weren't' able to take the new Escape off-road to test out the new Intelligent 4WD System, we did try out some hard acceleration tests in loose gravel for a quick demo. The system does a great job of not only transferring torque where it needs to go, but drivers are able to see this torque transfer in real time via the center display screen in the instrument gauge cluster. If there are any downfalls in the off-road driving abilities of the new Escape, it's that it offers a little less ground clearance (half inch to be exact) than the old model.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Is It Safe
The 2013 Ford Escape has yet to be crash tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but it should earn better marks than the current model did (which includes a three-star overall rating from NHTSA and a Marginal side-impact rating from IIHS). All 2013 Ford Escape models come standard with seven airbags, adjustable active front head restraints, daytime running lights (DRL), electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC) and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Final Thoughts
After almost 12 years and two million sales since it was introduced back in 2000, the Ford Escape continues to be a leader in the compact utility vehicle market in both sales and innovation. Buyers looking for the boxy, rugged SUV-like styling of the old Escape might be a little disappointed by the new European-inspired design at first, but they definitely won't have anything to complain about after putting a few miles on the 2013 Ford Escape. Not only is the interior roomier and filled with more technology than the old model, the new Escape has a smoother, more responsive ride to go along with its two all-new, fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines. Positioned in one of the most popular vehicle segments in North America, the 2013 Ford Escape proves that there doesn't have to be any tradeoffs in styling, fuel economy, comfort or utility when it comes to buying a new suv or crossover.
2013 Ford Escape First Drive Review: Pros and Cons
- modern styling
- some of the best technology in the segment
- excellent fuel economy and performance
- higher model prices
- no 2013 Escape Hybrid
- new styling might scare off typical Escape buyers
Ford provided travel, lodging and vehicle for this review.
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross