Even better, when I hopped in the backseat directly behind my adjusted driver's seat position, my knees had inches of space in front of them. At 36.8 inches of legroom, the Escape trails the CR-V's 38.3, but by referencing photos of both to check my memory, the Escape shows more room for my knees than the Honda. The Equinox has 39.9 inches of rear legroom but that's due to an adjustable second row that can slide backward and forward. Both the Escape and CR-V have a fixed second row.
The cloth seats in the SE tester were incredibly comfortable after nearly 90 minutes of seat time. The leather buckets in the Titanium trim we piloted for the second half of the day felt a tad firm for my partner, but I thought they were more than acceptable for the amount of time we had been driving.
Driver and passengers will find the exceptionally well-fitted cabin adorned with fewer buttons that are more simply laid out than other recent Fords. Both test vehicles were equipped with MyFord Touch and navigation systems, which add a large 8-inch touch-screen in the center of the dashboard.
We have discussed — seemingly endlessly — some of the flaws of this system, but perhaps familiarity breeds some sort of satisfaction. During our trip, with the map screen in use most of the time, it proved to be on par with the competition in clarity and speed between screens. I found using the Home button on the steering wheel to be an aggravation saver, bringing up the familiar screen with four quadrants of info in much larger type than in past versions.
Buttons — whether they turn up the vent speed or lower the windows — feel great to the touch, but they're a bit on the small side for my taste. It's a minor complaint that most shoppers likely won't notice unless their digits are on the large side.
Cargo and towing
A major selling point of any crossover, SUV, wagon, minivan or other utility vehicle is cargo capacity. In small crossovers, you want a fair amount of space and the second-row seats to be easy to fold. The Escape delivers on both.
The outgoing model's two-step folding seats have been replaced with an easy-to-use single-step process. Flip a lever at the bottom of either side of the rear seats and they flip forward quickly. Returning the seats upright is a little more troublesome. There's still one lever to pull, but it takes significant strength to push them back up. The fully extended cargo floor is flat, with a piece of material to cover the gap at the bottom of the seatbacks. This should make loading large cargo hassle-free.
The low cargo floor height also helps. At just above my knee, the cargo floor is easily accessible. That means heaving heavy objects will require less effort as will letting your canine companions in and out of the cargo area.
At 34.3 cubic feet with the second row in place and 68.1 cubic feet with the rear seats down, the Escape is again very competitive in the class. The CR-V is rated at 37.2 and 70.9 cubic feet; the Equinox at 31.5 and 63.7, and Mazda's new CX-5 at 34.1 and 64.8. The surprisingly huge Toyota RAV4 still leads at 36.4 and 73.
No matter the numbers, there should be ample cargo room for shoppers in this class, and the ease of use is a big win.
Ford made cargo access even easier with an optional power liftgate. Not only can the gate open with a key fob button or release of the latch, but also it has a new feature: kick your foot at the air under the rear bumper and the liftgate will open. Supposedly, this is great for people with lots of groceries in their hands who are unable to reach a fob or the latch. I can imagine myself loaded with goods kicking out my foot … and falling on my rump. My yoga-class-attending wife, who saw the feature on a reality TV show promotion, thought it was the greatest idea she'd seen in some time. What do I know?
Towing isn't a top priority for most shoppers in this class, but Ford says current Escape owners wanted some capability. They will have to opt for the 2.0-liter model with an optional tow package to trailer 3,500 pounds. That's identical to the V-6 Equinox.
Features and pricing
When you review a lot of cars, you deal with a lot of numbers, but the most important numbers to any shopper always have dollar signs in front of them. Ford has delivered a terrific vehicle in the Escape, and the base S model with the 2.5-liter engine comes with a competitive starting price of $22,470 before destination charges of $825.
The standard features are enough to get by on and include a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, six-speaker stereo and 17-inch steel wheels with plastic covers. Most important is a standard six-speed automatic transmission. This slate of features isn't as competitive as those found on the Honda's CR-V LX that costs $22,495 and has a more efficient engine. The CR-V comes with Bluetooth connectivity, USB input, a backup camera and steering-wheel controls at that price.
The Escape SE starts at $25,070 and adds a significant amount of features and the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine. It's what you get if you want fog lamps, Ford's Sync system, MyFord system with a 4-inch screen, body-colored door handles and mirrors, a rear-center armrest, automatic headlights, a chrome-accented grille, Sirius Satellite Radio, steering-wheel audio controls and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Move up to the SEL trim at $27,870 and the speaker count goes up to nine; there are more chrome accents outside and the shift knob and steering wheel are wrapped in leather. It also adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, puddle lamps, MyFord Touch, power driver's seat, leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, universal garage door opener and 18-inch wheels. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is an additional $1,095 on both the SE and SEL.
The top-of-the-line Titanium trim comes only with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine at $30,370. It adds HD radio, passive entry and push-button start, remote start, premium leather seats, tonneau cover, roof rails, high-intensity-discharge headlights, a power liftgate, reverse sensing system, Sony stereo system and 19-inch wheels.
All of these prices are for front-wheel-drive models. All-wheel drive adds $1,750 for the 1.6- and 2.0-liter SE and SEL as well as the 2.0 Titanium.
Our front-wheel-drive 1.6 SE tester cost $29,015 and came with options like a large panoramic sunroof — not really a necessity — power liftgate and the MyFord Touch system with navigation. Getting that close to $30,000 for a four-cylinder crossover seemed high to me considering that the CR-V tops out at $28,745 with front-wheel drive. However, the four-cylinder Equinox can climb to $33,960. A fully loaded Escape SEL with the 1.6-liter engine and front-wheel drive comes to $32,950 with add-ons similar to the Equinox but with the larger panoramic roof and kick feature on the tailgate.
The Ford Escape is too new to have been crash-tested by either the federal government or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
It comes standard with the usual assortment of airbags as well as driver's knee airbag.
Optional safety equipment includes blind spot warning system as well as cross-traffic alert that senses traffic passing behind you like in a mall parking lot. A forward collision system and backup camera are optional.
Escape in the market
Ford continues its winning ways in the styling department. The attractive package should help bring in both Escape loyalists and folks driving the competition. There isn't much competition that can top the mileage, performance, comfort or interior size, either.
Like most buying decisions, the Escape's success may likely come down to the sticker price.
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