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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Ford Escape Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Ford Escape Overview

Son of Explorer

The Escape is Ford's smallest SUV offering and yet it is big on room, economy and value. This year, Ford has added a new trim level, the Limited, as well as increasing the content and quality level of the already existing XLS and XLT models. To simplify the ordering process, Ford has grouped the most popular Escape options into three packages-value, sport and premium.

The Ford Escape is bigger than a RAV4, but smaller than an Explorer. This design makes the Escape easy to park and maneuver while affording class-leading rear seat legroom and ample cargo space. The boxy design also gives the Escape a tall roofline that translates into plenty of passenger headroom as well as a high interior rear ceiling favorable for loading tall, bulky items. To make loading and unloading easy, the Escape's large flip-up hatch features a smaller glass flip-up window, perfect for quickly tossing in small packages or fitting in long unwieldy items like lumber or a surfboard.

As for the fit and finish—not to mention the choice of materials—the Escape is leaps and bounds above its closest rivals in just about every category. Interior fabrics have a rich feel with new colors and stitch patterns for 2003. The 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. All Escape models now feature low-back bucket seats with two-way adjustable head restraints and rear-seat head restraints at all outboard positions; XLT and Limited models come standard with a 60/40 split folding-rear seat. Thoughtful luxury touches have been added, such as backlit power window switches and matching door and dash appliqus. Offering a level of luxury unheard of in this class, the Limited model includes leather seats with heated bottoms, front-side impact airbags, dual-illuminated vanity mirrors, Ford's Reverse Sensing System and the Mach audio unit with 6-disc in-dash CD changer. On the XLT Sport, you can opt for an ingenious dual-roof rack system. The rack features a sliding rear bar that pulls out and flips down vertically to attach to the top of the bumper. The rack can be used to carry additional luggage or as a bike rack.

From the driver's seat, you'll find that the Escape's dash layout is easy on the eye, with full gauges, radio and heating controls within easy reach. You may find that when in gear, the automatic's long, column-mounted shift 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. One reason may have been that when you order the automatic, Ford places a large center console between the two front seats, giving you added storage space and a comfortable place to rest your arm.

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 and produces a hardy 200-horsepower. This engine is available only with the automatic transmission and is standard on XLT and Limited and optional on the XLS. The Escape is powered by its front wheels, but offers an on-demand 4-wheel-drive system designed to engage only when it detects wheel slippage. The Escape's suspension is engineered to give it a car-like ride and handling characteristics, but still be tough enough to go off-road; we think you'll agree that the Escape performs comfortably in almost all driving situations. Part of the secret to getting such a smooth, quiet ride lies in the choice of tires. In the case of the Escape, the standard tires are wonderful for highway driving, but may be lacking when it comes to going off-road. For those that plan to off-road with some frequency, a tire upgrade is about the only non-factory option we recommend.

Even entry-level Escapes are well equipped vehicles and come standard with such items as power windows, air conditioning, rear-wiper with washer, 5 cup holders, rear-window defroster, engine immobilizer, auto-off headlamps, dual power mirrors, AM/FM CD audio, tilt steering column and 5-spoke steel wheels. Popular options include a new AM/FM stereo with CD/MP3 player, anti-lock brakes, speed control and side-impact airbags.

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