While at the same dealership taking a look at the Ford Taurus and Fusion sedans we looked for a suitable Ford Escape as our next vict.., er, contestant. The Escape, in the “small SUV” range, is similar in size to the Jeep Patriot, which we had already seen up the street, and the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, which we will get to shortly. A hybrid variant is available, but this particular dealership didn’t have any. Adding their relative scarcity to the price premium (more than $7,300 for the lowest trim level available with 4WD) to get hybrid technology, we decided to stick with a conventional drive train. The Escape Hybrid also has a continuously-variable automatic transmission instead of a conventional slushbox; given our exposure to CVTs in the Patriot, it’s just as well no hybrid was available to test.
4WD versions of the Escape are available in XLS, XLT, and Limited trim, with either the 2.3 liter I-4 or 3.0 liter V-6 (XLT and Limited only). Since both fuel economy and price are important factors in our contest, we opted for the 2.3 liter four-banger as most comparable with the rest of the group. Our test subject, white with camel interior, in XLS trim, is the textbook definition of “basic transportation.” Since we were doing basic evaluation, things like color were unimportant. Once we get closer to a decision that will be more of an issue, though likely limited (at this point in the model year) to what’s reasonably available on dealership lots nearby.
On our brief test loop the Escape handled easily in moderate mid-afternoon traffic. Getting onto a bypass for a burst of near-highway speed, engine noise was evident (not unlike the Patriot, but without the CVT frenzy), but not excessive or obnoxious. Exterior visibility was good, characteristic of SUVs with their higher seating positions. Interior materials, fit, and finish were good. Textured plastic tempered what were cheaper-looking smooth painted surfaces in the Jeep. The interior design was clean and functional, certainly nothing like luxurious or opulent, but pleasant enough with nothing sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb.
Moving from Taurus to Fusion to Escape, it’s interesting to see how each model has a slightly different interpretation of the standard Ford instrument cluster design:
Having finished up with the FoMoCo entrants we moved on to our next contestant which, as it turns out, is not part of the international field, but an (initially) unexpected entry from Chevrolet, the Equinox.