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Car Tech Video: 2014 Ford Escape proves that less can be more

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Car Tech Video: 2014 Ford Escape proves that less can be more

6:27 /

Even with a diminutive engine and no optional packages, the mid-tier 2014 Ford Escape SE boasts good turbocharged, performance and dashboard tech.

-The Ford Escape is actually been through a number of iterations over its lifetime. It started out as a simple, boxy little truck, then it became one of Ford's first hybrids and now we've got in front of us the 2014 model. Now the '14 Escape can actually be had with a lot of tech, but this FE model we've got in front of us is what I think in the sweet spot. Let's take a look at it and see what I mean. Now our FE model isn't equipped with the top of the line MyFord Touch System. It's actually got the basic. Deceptively simple, actually, let me take that back-- it's not very deceptively simple because, I mean, well look at all these buttons. But don't worry, you won't actually spend a lot of time touching these buttons and that's because this Ford Escape is equipped with Ford SYNC with app link and what that means is that it'll do a lot of your interactions with the infotainment via voice. You install the app, you turn on your car and you're done. It's just that simple. You don't even actually have to touch the phone in most of the situations. Sync-- -Sync. Please say your command. -Mobile apps. -Mobile apps. Please say your command. -Pandora. -Pandora. Please say your command. -Play the Hive Radio. Not what I asked for, but it is close. Listen to the Hive Radio. There you go. So, Ford actually list about 22 or more apps between the platforms android, Blackberry and iOS. I've got a couple of them installed on my phone-- a lot of them kind of overlap though. If you've got Mug for example, or Rhapsody, maybe you don't wanna install Spotify. You've got a lot of different choices here and when you're talking about apps, choice is good. Interestingly, the Bluetooth audio stream doesn't seem to show album information when connected to my android phone. Some of the other cars that I've tested have. The rest of the audio sources are gonna include your standard sort of CD slot here, USB port for connectivity to iPod devices or your mass storage, you've got an auxiliary input, you've got AM and FM radio and Sirius XM Satellite Radio with a really neat trick. When you're listening to satellite radio, you can actually access this feature called replay and what that allows you to do is very briefly pause live radio and then get out of your car. You can pause for about 30 minutes and when you get back into your car and hit play, it will pick up right where it left off. And then of course you can jump back to direct play. So, if you're in your car and you're listening to a baseball game and you've got to get out to fill-up or pick-up something from the store, you don't have to worry about missing the play. Further down the console, you've actually got your dashboard mounted shifter right here for the six-speed automatic transmission. You do have a Sport mode at the bottom of the shifter which is gonna actually change those shift point and give you better access to the 170 somewhat horsepower that you have. It does feel a little better, a little bit more responsive for performance driving, if you wanna put that in quotes than the standard Drive mode. And when you put in Reverse you'll see that the 4.3-inch screen in the dashboard also serves as a rear view camera. If you've got the truck open like we do, you get a nice exclamation point and letting you know maybe it's not the best time to start moving. Here's where things get a little bit weird. Now all week, I've been driving right here where it looks like the logical place to open the lift gate and getting nothing. Actually, the grab point's down here, this little button, where you open up the old fashion way. It's a little bit confusing and I think it's one of those things that's left over from that stretched out vertical focus design where they just slapped that on there really neatly. Now, the Ford Escape can actually be had as an Es-model with a 2.5-liter Duratec engine. That's a work a day engine, it's naturally aspirated, it's got forward injection, it's good for about 168 horsepower, but our FE model is actually stepping down in displacement, stepping up in power. This is 178 horsepower, 1.6-Liter EcoBoost engine, that's good for about 184 pound feet of torque so you're getting a little bit more efficiency, 23 miles-per-gallon in the city, 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway and that's one mile-per-gallon more than the Duratec by everyone of those metrics. And the power is actually a little bit more usable. Now, that power is gonna go through a six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift manual shift mode, that's the only option that you're gonna get on the Escape. You do have the choice in the FE model between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. This is the front-wheel drive model, so you get better efficiency, the all-wheel drive is gonna give you a little bit more traction when the weather gets a little slippery. Ford and then a lot of auto makers have been doing a lot of talking about downsizing engines and adding turbos to get big displacement power with small engine efficiency. So, we've got the 1.6 liter under the hood instead of the 2 or 2.5 like you would expect in a vehicle of this size, augmented, of course, by that turbocharger and by George, I think they've got it. But the power is good particularly in the Sport mode where the transmission seems really happy to stay in a lower gear and kinda give you better access to those high revs to power. You do kind of, at low speeds and around the city, kinda get that good planted Ford Focus feel that European tune steering and handling that Ford's been promising us with this new generation of their seat platform vehicles. But the problem is that when you get up to highway speeds, it just kinda feels like it's moving around a lot, the whole vehicle's just kind of moving around a lot underneath you. Not the most planted vehicle that I've driven this month. Now, the 2014 Escape can actually be had at the base Es- model for 22,700 and that's a pretty good car with the Duratec engine. It's perfectly serviceable and reasonable amount of tech. You can also go CNET style, as Brian Cooley likes to say, and jump up to the titanium model with the turbo charged engine and lots of power. You can go crazy with the tech and make this thing parallel park itself and open the trunk automatically. But then you're gonna be pushing the price close to $35,000. Now, this FE model which starts at 25,550, it's right there in the middle. Add $895 for your destination charge and I think you're gonna fine that less is more in this case.

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