The Ford Escape has undergone a serious revision for the 2013 model year, both in styling (adopting Ford's Kinetic design language) and beneath the surface (where it's now based on the same Ford C-platform that underpins the Focus).
The Ford Escape has a slightly larger footprint than the Focus hatchback with which it shares its underpinnings. However, it's only about 1 inch wider and 6 inches longer from nose to tail. The biggest growth is vertically, with the 66.3-inch Escape being 8.6 inches taller overall.
The Escape's 2.0-liter engine has a lower compression ratio than the Focus, a necessity because the crossover's mill is turbocharged. The addition of forced induction boosts the Escape's output to 231 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque, which keeps the over-3,700-pound crossover feeling reasonably sprightly.
Unique to the Escape is Ford's available all-wheel-drive system. This new system debuted on the 2013 Escape and can shuffle up to 100 percent of available torque to either the front or rear axle as necessary.
The Escape has much more cargo capacity than its Focus or C-Max cousins, so it also has a cool feature that helps you to get your junk into the trunk. When approaching the rear of the vehicle with the smart-key transponder in your pocket, simply kick your foot beneath the rear bumper to trigger the motorized lift gate.
Though not visible in this photo and difficult to observe in action, the Escape is equipped with Active Grille Shutters that close when full cooling capacity isn't needed (such as during steady-speed freeway cruising) to reduce drag and improve efficiency.
The Escape's interior is reasonably well-appointed, particularly at the Titanium trim level. Soft materials cover the upper surface of the dashboard, while areas below are highlighted here and there with glossy black plastic. Ford's selectable MyColor ambient illumination makes an appearance here.
Other drivetrain options for the Escape include a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine. Regardless of your choice, the Escape comes standard with a six-speed automatic transmission -- although the gear ratios are different for each of the three engine options.
The four-gauge instrument cluster has large dials for the speedometer and tachometer. In the center of the cluster is a small color LCD that is used to display fuel economy, trip computer, and even all-wheel-drive system information.
Our Escape featured heated seats with physical control dials, which is great for those who like to set and forget their seat heaters all winter long. Between them is an easily accessible 12-volt power point.
One of the best parts about the Ford Sync system is its seamless interactions with your phone's hands-free calling system via Bluetooth and voice commands. Address book and contact data is synced every time you pair your phone.
The Ford Sync system can also download and display incoming text messages via the Bluetooth MAP. Messages can only be displayed while parked. If a message comes in while you're driving, you can tap a steering-wheel button to have the message read aloud via a text-to-speech engine.
The system also features a number of canned responses that you can fire off to let others know that you're too busy to text or that you're running late. These responses can be edited and personalized while parked.
Ford's maps are well-rendered with available traffic overlays and incident and construction icons. Spoken turn-by-turn directions are clear and easy to understand. It also seems as if Ford has fixed the positioning and stability problems present in previous models -- at least, they didn't manifest during my testing.
Climate controls are largely automatic (simply set a temperature and let the computer work out the details), but users can customize the experience on this climate screen. This is just one example of the improved organization and presentation of options versus previous MyFord Touch generations.
One place that a fully loaded Ford Escape excels is in choice of audio sources. Nearly the full gamut of popular automotive inputs is represented here, including AM/FM radio, Sirius XM, CD, USB, Bluetooth audio, and analog auxiliary audio.
We've historically not been fans of the MyFord Touch system and, although this system has been tremendously improved since its first appearance, this one is no exception. One of the biggest issues that I ran into was the sluggish response to touch-screen inputs.
Part of the Escape's trip computer is this Eco Driving Coach. As you drive, the system evaluates your acceleration, anticipation, and speed and assigns a green driving Eco Score to let you know where you can improve your miles per gallon.
The Escape can be had with an array of parking safety features, including a rearview camera with dynamic trajectory lines, a rear proximity sensor, and cross-traffic alerts that let you know if another vehicle is approaching as you reverse out of your parking spot.
One of the coolest options available on the Escape is Ford's Active Park Assist system. This automatic parallel-parking program will watch the roadside for a space that the Escape can fit into and then automatically twist the steering wheel to park perfectly. For safety, the driver retains control of the brakes and accelerator.