First Drive- 2013 Ford Escape – Top Dog among Small SUVs

by Tony West and Jamar Lee
2013 Ford Escape
2013 Ford Escape

For 2013 Ford gave the Escape a partial makeover that includes 11 new features, a futuristic exterior design and 3 efficient engine options. As one of America’s bestselling SUV’s Ford had a lot on the line when designing the 2013 model. The Honda CR-V and Toyota’s Rav 4 are hot on its heels, but couldn’t outsell the Escape. This year, the Escape became the first small SUV to break 150,000 sales in the first 6 months of 2013.

 

Family Look with Efficient Powertrain

The Ford Escape has always been a stylish masculine looking SUV with functionality outweighing luxury components. The 2013 model capitalized on this with a surprising exterior design. I prefer the Ford Escape from 2012, stout and rectangular, which allowed for more trunk space. This new Ford Escape has a more curvaceous oval shaped body with sloping windshields and ultimately more interior space. But it does look more feminine. Instead of a sporty utility truck, the Escape now looks like a family spaceship, but it’s actually 10% more aerodynamic.

Though I’m not a fan of the overall look of the Escape, some of the design cues are very useful. The 2013 Escape is the world’s first SUV with a power liftgate. Now all drivers need to do is sweep a foot under the center of the bumper to activate the liftgate. Sweet! Another useful feature is the ecoboost technology. Ford now offers two 4-cylinder ecoboost engine options for the 2013 Escape: a 1.6 liter and a 2.0 liter along with a super-efficient 2.5 liter with independent variable camshaft timing.

2013 Ford Escape
2013 Ford Escape

The 1.6 liter ecoboot 4-cylinder has an output of 178 horsepower and 184lb-ft of torque. While the 2.0 liter ecoboost we tested has 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. The 2.5 liter has 168 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. All 3 engine options come matted to a 6-speed automatic transmission. A manual shifter on the left side of the gearshift gives it a sporty edge. Ecoboost technology saves on fuel costs by combining direct fuel injection and a turbocharged engine with twin independent variable camshaft timing for a 4.5% improvement of mpgs.Intelligent 4-wheel-drive is a fairly new component that uses sensors to assess driver behavior and road conditions then adds or subtracts torque as needed through the electromagnetic clutch. And new active grille shutters further improve efficiency by opening at low speeds or city driving and closing at cruise speeds on the highway. With all these new energy saving features, I was hoping for better fuel economy. But 22-24 combined mpgs for a small SUV isn’t bad.

 

Sweet on the Road but Interior slightly Dysfunctional

We tested the 2.0 liter 4-cylinder ecoboost Escape and the ride was very nice. The 2013 Ford Escape handles very well on the road even in rough terrain because of the Intelligent 4WD system and independent Macpherson front struts. Torque Vectoring Control helped me accelerate through turns and Curve Control slowed the SUV at hard corners. The Escape accelerates very well, especially in manual mode. Seamless shifting to manual or sport mode makes for an exciting ride.

2013 Ford Escape interior
2013 Ford Escape interior

Some of the interior design elements were impractical though. Like the disc player centered on the dashboard where 6”1’ Auto Correspondent Jamar couldn’t reach. And the vents face the ceiling. Also, many of the buttons for climate, navigation, and media are positioned in a dysfunctional way. The climate control buttons sit behind the shifter, park assist button next to the trunk release, and there are too many controls at the steering wheel.Yet the 2013 Escape is more spacious with 40.4 inches of legroom in the front, 36.8 inches in the 2nd row, and 34.3 cubic feet of storage behind the 2nd row. Storage in the new escape is plentiful. The center storage compartment is deep enough to hold a 1 liter bottle.  And there’s additional cup/ bottle holders in the front and rear doors, the front and rear consoles, and there’s optional storage in the 2nd row in a secret compartment in the floor. Seats fold in the Escape with the touch of a button. And the new Escape even has umbrella holders in the seats. All that storage raised my expectations for every other SUV. Ford found a way to maximize discreet storage space. The 2013 Escape also has a tow rating of 3,500 lbs.

The 2013 Ford Escape delivers an exceptional drive with supreme comfort. And it has some tech savvy features that will likely keep it in the top spot. But Ford’s design cues ride a fine line between luxury and functionality, wading in both, but at times canceling each other out. For example, the Escape has leather seating, but the interior has a plastic dashboard and rubbery trim. Features like the programmable power lift gate are useful, but a sunroof would’ve been great. And why put power seats only in the driver’s seat? Moreover, the heated front seats are very cool, but with a manual passenger seat- no bueno. Lastly the steering wheel has a plethora of controls for media, instrument panel display, and infotainment, yet controls for ambient lighting are far back on the roof, and the child lock button sits in the media control area.

 

Still Top Seller / Best Valued

With all its contradictions, I see hundreds of 2013 Escapes on the road every day. That means Ford is getting a lot of things right with this mini big-body. Cool features like the programmable liftgate, heated side mirrors, remote start, Park Assist, Voice Command, Ecoboost options, and MyFord Touch are great selling points for youthful and mature customers. MyFord Touch is Ford’s software for controlling media, navigation, and infotainment via voice command, steering wheel buttons, with knobs, or the 8-inch touchscreen. Sirius XM Satellite Radio and Navigation are optional, as is the rearview camera, active park assist, and blind spot detection.

2013 Ford Escape
2013 Ford Escape

Rearview cameras are an essential safety feature these days. But there’s a lag in the Escape’s rearview camera that’s annoying. It stays on minutes after I’ve shifted from reverse to drive. Not only does the rearview camera turn down my radio volume, when I pull forward, my touchscreen will display my rear view for a while. Other safety features include Advancetrac and the Blind Spot Information System. The Blind Spot monitor works best when the driver can adjust the radius settings. The Escape’s Blind Spot detector paired with Cross Traffic Alert uses sensors around the SUV to detect potential crash situations. Specifically anything mobile or immobile within 3 feet of the Escape will activate a warning. This is great for backing up, but not so great in the drive-thru or parallel parked on the street. Scaling it back a little or adjusting the setting would make the Blind Spot Information System more useful.

Is the new $33,000 Ford Escape the best value for a small SUV? Probably. The Toyota Rav 4 and the Honda CR-V don’t have as many new tech and safety features. The 2013 Escape is selling faster than most predicted. I hope the 2014 Escape will be a little more masculine looking with more luxury hints inside.

Auto Correspondent Jamar Lee with the 2013 Ford Escape
Auto Correspondent Jamar Lee with the 2013 Ford Escape

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