With features like Active Park Assist and a hands-free liftgate, the 2013 Ford Escape is a high-tech crossover that's easy to live with.
When most people that I know are asked about the Ford Escape, they think of two things. First, they think, "Oh, the little boxy trucky Ford?" Next they ask, "It's a hybrid, right?" Well, the redesigned 2013 Ford Escape Titanium is no longer boxy nor a hybrid.
These days, the Escape is built on Ford's global C-Platform -- the very same platform that underpins the Ford Focus. The truckishness of the previous-generation Escape has been replaced with the carlike handling of a crossover. The vehicle looks smaller, handles better, and has had its boxy design replaced by Ford's new Kinetic design language.
There's also no hybrid variant of the Escape for this generation. Drivers who are interested in getting more miles per gallon than the Escape's three gasoline engine options should look to the new C-Max Hybrid and Energi to fill that need.
But enough about what the new 2013 Ford Escape isn't; let's get into what it is.
A door that opens itself
Our Escape Titanium was equipped with a few interesting convenience features. By far, the most interesting of the standard features is the hands-free liftgate.
For example, if you're approaching the rear of the vehicle and your hands are full -- maybe you're carrying bags of groceries, a bulky box, or an angry toddler -- you can open the rear power liftgate by simply kicking a foot under the rear bumper. There's no need to free a hand to fish keys out of your pocket or to pull a handle. This kicking motion also works to close the liftgate in the event that you're taking something bulky out of the Escape and need to lock the vehicle up. The hands-free liftgate works in tandem with the keyless entry system, so you'll need to have the smart-key transponder on your person, say in a pocket, to activate the system, which prevents strangers or passing cats from just kicking your rear hatch open.
Other convenience features that come alongside the hands-free liftgate as part of the Titanium trim level's technology package include HID headlamps with automatic illumination when it gets dark, rear proximity sensors with audible obstruction alerts, a 110V power outlet, and a few other touches such as a roof rack with crossbars and a retractable and removable Tonneau cover for rear-storage-space privacy.
Automatic parking robot
Things really get interesting when you option the $995 Parking Technology package, which sort of turns the Escape's standard electronic power-steering system into an automatic parking robot. We've seen some bad automatic parking systems in our day (the recently discontinued Lexus system springs to mind), but Ford's system is remarkable in its simplicity. It works only for parallel parking and there's only one button to deal with.
To use the system, simply push the Active Park Assist button on the dashboard and then drive down the street. Ultrasonic sensors located on the side of the vehicle will scan the roadside as you roll, looking for spaces that are long enough to accommodate the Escape. This takes all of the "Do you think it'll fit" guesswork out of looking for a parking space. When the system finds a spot that the vehicle will fit into, you'll receive a message on the vehicle's screen asking you to stop driving and shift into reverse. At this point, you can remove your hands from the wheel and ease off of the brakes and let the Escape handle the steering, guiding the vehicle perfectly into the parking space. Then, just shift into park and get on with your day.
The same ultrasonic sensors that are used to measure parking spaces during Active Park Assist come into play when reversing out of standard, perpendicular parking as part of the cross-traffic alert system, which notifies you of approaching vehicles that you may not be able to see, and the BLIS blind-spot detection system that notifies you of vehicles in the rear-quarter blind spots when changing lanes at highway speeds.
The Parking Technology Package rounds out its list of upgrades with a rearview camera that activates while reversing and features dynamic trajectory line overlay that swings left and right with the steering wheel.
Sync with MyFord Touch
It's no secret that we here at CNET Car Tech have historically been disappointed by the MyFord Touch dashboard interface, and the infotainment system in our Escape Titanium is no exception. The system has had some issues with responsiveness and stability in the past, but I'm happy to report that the optional MyFord Touch with navigation system seems to have gotten a few improvements with this generation.
The home screen, for example, seems less cluttered. The various menus have received redesigns that space their buttons and options more logically for at-a-glance access. A great deal of attention has been paid to typeface size during this revision, so text labels for virtual buttons are larger and easier to read and tap, while text size for song titles isn't as comically large as it used to be and requires less horizontal scrolling. However, there are a few places where work is needed. The audio source selection buttons are somehow still too small to be accurately tapped yet still too large to fit onscreen without hiding half of them behind a scroll button.
The interface itself is divided into four quarters, each of which features a persistent shortcut that lives in one of the four corners of the screen.
Hands-free calling has been an area where the Ford Sync system has excelled in the past, a tradition that continues with the Escape's MyFord Touch system. When pairing with a phone and during each subsequent reconnection, the full contacts list is uploaded to the car and can be accessed via voice command. Incoming calls display caller ID data from the contact list and, if your phone supports it, a contact photo can be displayed alongside the name.
In addition to hands-free calling, Sync now supports text messaging. When parked, incoming messages can be read aloud with a tap of a button on the steering wheel without taking your eyes off of the road. You can also activate a Do Not Disturb mode that silences all incoming text notifications and automatically sends unimportant calls to voice mail. You can also set up customizable canned responses that can be fired off at the touch of a button to let callers and texters know that you're busy driving and will get back to them shortly.
The Escape accepts nearly the full gamut of car audio sources, including AM/FM terrestrial radio with HD Radio decoding, SirusXM Satellite Radio, two USB ports with iPod compatibility, Bluetooth for audio streaming, an analog auxiliary input, and CD playback. With an iPod device connected and an HD Radio station playing, users gain the option to iTunes tag any song they hear playing for later purchase in the iTunes store. All audio sources, in the case of our test car, were pumped through a Sony-branded audio system that sounds pretty good.
Navigation doesn't come standard on the Escape, even as part of the SEL and Titanium trim levels' MyFord Touch systems. It is available as an option. Ford's navigation system, like the rest of MyFord Touch, has proven to be problematic in the past. Issues have ranged from instability to inaccuracy of positioning. However, none of these problems manifested during our week with the 2013 Ford Escape, so it would seem that the kinks have been, for the most part, worked out.
Power train and performance
At the Titanium trim level, the Escape is powered by a 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine that makes use of turbocharging and direct-injection technology. Power is rated at 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque with a tank full of premium gasoline -- although it will run just fine with 87-octane regular fuel as well. That engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to either the front axle or, if you optioned the 4WD model, the rear. The 2013 model's all-wheel-drive system is completely new and is able to shuffle up to 100 percent of available torque to either end of the vehicle, which is better than the 50/50 maximum split that you get from most crossovers. The system is also smoother and more responsive, supposedly able to react to changes in grip 20 times faster than you can blink.
Fuel economy for our 2.0-liter EcoBoost Titanium is estimated at 24 mpg combined, 21 mpg in the city, and 28 mpg on the highway.
At the lower S, SE, and SEL trim levels, the Escape is also available with a 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine and a 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter naturally aspirated mill.
Regardless of engine and other drivetrain options, the Escape comes standard with AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, which helps to keep the shiny side up when grip gets dicey, and a system called Curve Control, which automatically slows the vehicle down when you go into a corner too fast. There's also a Torque Vectoring system that shifts power from left to right across the driving axle to aid in getting power to the wheel with the best available grip.
To Escape from your local Ford dealership behind the wheel of this 2013 model, you'll need to be ready to part with at least $22,470 for the base S model. However, to get away with a Titanium model like our tester, you'll have to step up to an MSRP of $30,370. At that level, you get smart keyless entry and start, the hands-free liftgate, Sync with MyFord Touch for hands-free calling and digital audio, a power driver's seat, the Sony premium audio system, and a host of other niceties. If you live in a place that's not sunny California and want the 4WD system to deal with changing weather conditions, then you're talking $32,120.
Our tester also came equipped with the $995 Parking Technology Package, which you definitely want for the Active Park Assist (even if you are a pretty good parallel parker) and BLIS with cross traffic alert, and the $795 navigation upgrade, which behaved well during this test, but has proven to be problematic with other MyFord Touch vehicles in the past. We were also treated to the $895 Full Leather Front Bucket Seats option, which you could take or leave. Add an $825 destination charge to reach our as-tested price of $35,630.
|Model||2013 Ford Escape|
|Power train||2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4, turbocharged and direct-injected, 6-speed automatic transmission, optional 4WD system|
|EPA fuel economy||21 city, 28 highway, 24 combined mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||n/a|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes, with voice command, address book sync, and MAP text messaging support|
|Disc player||single-slot CD|
|MP3 player support||Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, 2 USB connections with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming|
|Other digital audio||HD Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio|
|Audio system||Sony premium audio system|
|Driver aids||Standard rear proximity detection|
Optional Active Park Assist, BLIS blind-spot and cross-traffic alert, rear camera
|Price as tested||$35,630|