The 2015 Ford Escape is offered in S, SE and Titanium trims, with three different engines and with most models offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Base S models are only offered with front-wheel drive, and they come with a 168-horsepower, 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. The SE offers a 178-horsepower, 1.6L turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine. SE and Titanium models offer a 2.0L turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine that makes a V6-like output of 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque.
Both EcoBoost 4-cylinder engines have direct injection and twin independent variable camshaft timing, (Ti-VCT), which helps produce more power while also being more fuel-efficient. EPA ratings range up to 23 mpg city, 33 highway with the 1.6L and 22/30 with the 2.0L. An active grille shutter system also helps fuel economy by improving aerodynamics when extra cooling isn't needed.
All models come with a SelectShift 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, and several technologies help the Escape not only tackle slick road conditions but also corner better. Curve Control and Torque Vectoring Control help improve stability, while the new "Intelligent" 4-wheel drive system in 4WD models uses sensor inputs to actively act to maintain stability, utilizing an electromagnetic clutch system to send power to the wheels where traction is needed most.
Although off-roading isn't how most Escape buyers will use the SUV, it can handle gravel roads and modest forest trails just fine; and when properly equipped, it can tow up to 3,500 pounds. On all models, 4-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power, while an electric rack-and-pinion steering system is precise and well-weighted.
The Escape's rakish design doesn't get in the way of interior space either. The model has supportive bucket seats in front with a good view out, as well as space for three across in back. There's a generous 34.3 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the back seat--thanks to a low, 2-position cargo floor--and that can be expanded to 68.1 cubic feet by flipping forward the second row seatbacks.
Escape S models come with a generous list of features for a base model, including air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, MyKey, a 6-speaker audio system and a rearview camera system. The SE model adds upgraded exterior trim, a center console with arm rest, dual chrome exhaust, a keyless entry keypad, Sirius Satellite Radio compatibility, fog lamps, upgraded upholstery, a 10-way driver's seat, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Then on the top-of-the-line Titanium comes with remote start, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, silver roof rails, a 10-speaker Sony stereo, MyFord Touch, a media hub with SD card reader and video inputs, a garage-door opener, 18-inch alloys, rear parking sensors and heated side mirrors.
The available MyFord Touch is a touch-screen-based system for connectivity and infotainment that allows the pairing of a smartphone or media player for phone calls, music, navigation and vehicle settings all through the touch screen, steering wheel controls or voice commands.
An active park assist system will 'see' a parallel parking space and actually steer the vehicle into the spot while the driver modulates the accelerator and brake. The BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert prevents accidents by helping the driver spot other unseen vehicles. An available hands-free tailgate system only requires that the drive 'kick' their foot under the rear bumper.
After initially delaying the plug-in hybrid Escape, Ford is finally selling its electrified compact crossover. And while it might carry all the excitement of filing income taxes in February, this newest Escape proves to be a chill, competent way to zip around on electrons with few -- if any -- downsides.
At the heart of the Escape PHEV is a 14.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery, which combines with an electric motor and a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4 to produce a net 221 horsepower, all of which is sent to the front wheels by way of a continuously variable transmission. That's a little lower than the 250 hp the Escape's EcoBoost-toting sibling produces, and while power delivery can be a little pokey to start, the plug-in has no problem getting up to speed on the highway or zipping through surface-road traffic. It doesn't exactly sound great doing so, either, but that's why the stereo has a volume knob.
The feds estimate that the Escape PHEV's battery can deliver about 37 miles per charge, which aligns with my experience. I'm able to eke even more efficiency out of it while (almost literally) crawling through peak Chicago rush-hour traffic, covering some 23 miles on half a charge, but without any coaching on my part, it'll absolutely chew through its capacity if you let it drain on a long highway drive, where electric motors are less efficient. The slower and steadier, the more blood you can get from that stone. When the charge finally depletes, you're not out of luck -- at that point, the Escape PHEV just acts like a standard gas-electric hybrid, delivering short bursts of electricity as the car deems necessary.
Four hundred and forty pound-feet of torque will help get the SUV's massive 37-inch tires churning with a quickness.
It gets 16 on the highway, though.
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