We've wanted to drive the Escape ever since Ford made over the compact crossover in 2013. What was once boxy is now sleek and technology-laden, with features that include a unique foot-activated lift gate that has been the centerpiece of TV commercials.
Appearance: The Escape is more stylish sport wagon than SUV, with a dynamic look accented by bold body lines, elongated head lamps and a raised, creased hood. In the top-level Titanium trim like our tester, the Escape's somewhat generic-looking split grille is enhanced with chrome accents. Our tester came with the optional 19-inch luster nickel-painted aluminum wheels, but we split on the design. Lyra said the design looked like wrenches welded together, while Peter liked the industrial look and thought it made for a nice contrast with the Escape's athletic stance and stunning Sunset Metallic paint. Overall, the whole package makes for what may be the most stylish small crossover on the market
Performance: Our tester had the optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo. It's an impressive 4-cylinder, one that feels more like it's packing a few extra cylinders when you floor it. That's because the EcoBoost produces 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. That power inspires confidence no matter the driving situation. All that, and the estimated mpg is 23 city and 32 highway for the front-wheel-drive model (our optional four-wheel-drive model's estimated mpg is slightly lower at 21 and 28). We found the Escape fun to drive, with lively handling that's agile even on curvy roads. The 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly. The suspension is taut, yet the ride is comfortable.
Interior: The Escape's cabin is attractive, with a contrast of faux metallic trim and soft-touch surfaces. The seats are comfortable, if on the narrow side, but head- and legroom are decent. The rear seats fold flat, and there's up to 67.8 cubic feet of cargo space. The much-maligned MyFord Touch infotainment system has been updated but it's still more convoluted than other automakers' systems. The center stack is at a driver-friendly angle, including some of the Sony audio controls with a center knob and buttons that sit flat. On the screen, the corner touchscreen buttons are small and difficult to "push," especially if, like Lyra, you keep your fingernails long. There are no storage nooks other than the cup holders. The foot-activated rear hatch is a real help when you are loading groceries. The park assist feature (part of a Titanium technology package) will parallel park for you. It's disconcerting to let go of the steering wheel, but the system works fairly well.
Our 3 favorites
Stunning paint: Sunset Metallic may be my new favorite.
Easy lift gate: Just place your foot underneath the bumper and it opens.
Driver's gauges: They're backlit, attractive and easy to read.
EcoBoost fun: Zippy and energetic, good handling even on curves.
Lots of light: Optional Panoramic Sunroof takes up most of the roof.
Added stability: Intelligent 4WD keeps the car planted.
The bottom line: If the interior design were more practical, we would find little not to like about the Escape. As it is, we like it a lot: It's stylish, fun to drive and has some great available features.