The current Ford Escape shares virtually nothing with the previous Ford Escape – except a name and the Blue Oval badge. Conceptually, aesthetically and functionally, it’s a very different vehicle.
Mostly, this is a good thing.
The old Escape was dated, clunky – and slow.
The new one is slick, modern – and quick.
Less thirsty, too.
But, the upticked fuel economy (and performance) has its costs.
Because, of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
The Escape is a compact, two-row crossover in the same general class as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, VW Tiguan and Hyundai Sante Fe. Like them, it is car-based (Focus, in this case) but rides a bit higher off the ground than a standard passenger car.
Also like them, it’s available in either FWD or AWD versions.
Unlike most of its competition, however, the Escape offers mostly turbocharged engines (only the base trim’s engine isn’t turbocharged). Ford has embraced small engines with turbos (“Ecoboost”) as the best way to maintain power/performance while also meeting the government’s ever-increasing fuel efficiency mandates.
Base price for the ’14 is $22,700 for the front-wheel-drive S trim equipped with the non-turbo 2.5 liter four.
The mid-trim SE comes standard with a turbocharged 1.6 liter engine and has an MSRP of $25,550. A top-of-the-line Titanium equipped with the same engine starts at $29,100.
Both these trims can be ordered with a larger/stronger 2.0 turbo engine – and with (or without) AWD.
Unfortunately, the diesel engines that are available in the European Escape (called Kuga over there) are not available over here. Neither is the manual transmission you can order in the European Kuga.
The Escape was totally revised for the ’13 model year so the ’14 is largely unchanged beyond some trim shuffling and the addition of a back-up camera and Ford’s Sync voice-control system to the roster of standard equipment on all trims, including the base S trim.
Optional 1.6 liter engine improves upon the power/performance/mileage of previously standard 2.5 liter engine.
Optional 2.0 engine improves on the power/performance/capability of the formerly available V-6 engine – and gets much better gas mileage.
Roomier inside than old Escape.
Sportier driving than its rivals.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Almost $3k price uptick over base S trim equipped with the not-so-economical 2.5 engine to get the more fuel-efficient 1.6 engine.
2.0 engine is almost a must-have, if you want the economy of a four and the power of a six.
No manual transmission option for us.
No diesel engine option for us.
Not quite as roomy inside as most of the competition.
Some fussy controls – and a super-pushy Belt Minder buzzer that has no “off” switch.
UNDER THE HOOD
Escape offers three engine possibilities – all of them fours. Two of them are turbocharged fours. They replace the old Escape’s formerly available V-6.
The standard engine (in the base S trim) is a 2.5 liter four, same size as the old Escape’s standard 2.5 liter four – but down-powered a bit, to 168 hp vs. 171 previously. It comes only with a six-speed automatic and is only sold with FWD. This package will get you to 60 in about 10 seconds – and give you 22 city, 31 highway – slightly better than the old Escape 2.5’s 23 city, 28 highway but not spectacularly so.
All other Escapes come standard with Ford’s “EcoBoost” 1.6 liter turbo four – with the option to upgrade to a 2.0 liter “EcoBoost” turbo four.
The 1.6 liter engine produces 178 hp and – courtesy of the turbo – 184 lbs.-ft. of torque at just 2,500 RPM (vs. 171 lbs.-ft at 4,500 RPM for the old 2.5 liter non-turbo four). This increased mid-range torque markedly improves part throttle performance; however, the 1.6 liter Ecoboosted Escape isn’t much quicker than the 2.5 liter Escape: 0-60 takes about 9.4 seconds with FWD, a few clicks slower with AWD. You do get better gas mileage out of the deal: 23 city, 33 highway – bit it’s not a huge improvement. Read those stats again. The 1.6 liter turbo four rates exactly the same 23 city as the previous generation Escape’s non-turbo 2.5 liter four – and the highway figure (33 MPG) is only 5 MPG better. Compared with the 2014’s base 2.5 liter engine, the difference is even smaller: 1 MPG better in city driving and 2 MPG on the highway. During my week-long test-drive in a 1.6 Escape, I averaged 25.4 MPG according to the car’s computer.
Keep in mind that to get that slight MPG upgrade, you’ve got to upgrade to the Escape SE – base price $25,550 vs. $22,700 for the S – a difference of $2,850 “up front.” Is it enough to justify the increased cost (as well as complexity) of the turbo engine?
I’ll get into that in a moment … .
At the top of the roster is the 2.0 liter Ecoboosted engine. It makes 240 hp – same as the old V-6 – and much more torque: 270 lbs.-ft. at a more real-world usable 3,000 RPM – vs. 223 lbs.-ft coming in at a much higher (and forcing you to almost floor it to get it) 4,300 RPM for the old V-6.
Though the turbo 2.0 and the old V-6 have the same rated hp, the turbo 2.0 Escape is much quicker: Zero to 60 in about 6.8 seconds vs. more than 8 for the old truckster. This in spite of the fact that the ’14 Escape is a much heavier vehicle than the old (2012) Escape: 3,598 lbs. vs. 3,231 lbs.
That’s what more torque – coming on sooner rather than later – can do. Acceleration-wise, nothing in this class of vehicle touches the 2.0 equipped Escape. The RAV4 and CR-V aren’t even in the ballpark; the turbo Tiguan (200 hp, 7.5 seconds to 60) isn’t much of a threat. Even the more-powerful-on-paper Hyundai Sante Fe is slower (mid-high sevens) despite its advertised 264 turbocharged hp.
Fuel economy with the 2.0 Ecoboosted engine is also improved – this time, significantly so: 22 city, 30 highway – vs. a consumptively unacceptable 19 city, 25 highway for the old V-6 (18 city, 23 highway if you got AWD). Here again, nothing in this class matches it.
The turbo 2.0 also maintains the old V-6 Escape’s 3,500 lb. maximum tow rating.
Three cheers, Ford.
The base-engined (2.5 liter) Escape is adequate for A to B driving, especially in-city driving and commuting. I’d personally choose it over the Ecoboosted 1.6 liter engine, despite the 1.6 liter’s slightly higher mileage – because its much higher price “up front” – almost $3k – is going to take a long time to work off in terms of at-the-pump savings, given a mere 1-2 MPG difference in favor of the 1.6 engine.
I’m also worried about the down-the-road issues with these tiny turbo’d engines. Ford is already dealing with consumer complaints about them (see here). This is not good news. What happens when they are out of warranty, six or seven years down the road from now? Turbos (and related peripherals) are very expensive. The base 2.5 engine may be less than a JATO rocket. But then, the performance of the 1.6 liter engine isn’t exactly neck-snapping, either. It does feel stronger in the mid-range/part-throttle department – because the engine makes more torque, at lower engine RPMs. But mid-nines to 60 (with FWD; AWD versions are slower) is under-par for a car that’s not a basic-transpo economy car. The current par is about 8 seconds.
The 2.0 engine, on the other hand, rocks. This is a turbo engine that behaves like a turbo engine. When you punch it, it punches you. Passing/merging is as effortless as Superman leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Up, up and away! Response is immediate at all RPMs, with a blizzard of torque available at just above idle speed. You get all this – and good gas mileage: 22 city, 30 highway. Read that again. Those stats are only 1-3 MPG below the 1.6 engine’s stats. But the 2.0 Escape gets to 60 about three seconds quicker.
The Ecoboost 2.0 engine, unlike the 1.6 Ecoboost engine, delivers both economy and performance, without compromising either. This justifies its price premium – and is an objectively obvious improvement over the too-thirsty/too-slow V-6 used in the old Escape.
And what’s really cool – if you’re a hooligan – is that Ford allows you to have this engine with FWD. You know what that means, right? Of course, you’ll have to scroll through a few hidden menus to find the traction control “off” button. But it’s there.
You know the rest…
Regardless of engine, the new Escape drives – rides and handles – far better than the old Escape. This is particularly noticeable at today’s higher highway speeds. With many Interstates now posted 70 – and traffic running closer to 80 – things like wind noise and road noise are much more evident . . . if the vehicle has iffy body integrity and less-than-tight insulation. The Escape has neither. It also feels – it is – more stable, probably because of many design changes, but the two most obvious are the more aerodynamically efficient shape of the new model – vs. the aerodynamically inefficient, SUV-esque boxy shape of the old model – and also the new Escape’s lower-to-the-ground stance. Clearance is now 7.9 inches vs. 8.4 for the old model. This may slightly reduce the new Escape’s theoretical off-road potential – but the less top-heavy/lurchy handling on-road reality is well worth the price.
The popularity of SUVs is fading fast – such that even vehicles that aren’t really (and never were) SUVs but only tried to look like SUVs are no longer even trying to look like them. The unpleasant association in many people’s minds with clumsy handling and atrocious mileage probably accounts for the aesthetic morphing of “crossovers” like the Escape back toward the car-ish side of the spectrum. It looks like an enlarged Focus (just like the Porsche Cayenne looks like a beefed-out 911) which it ought to given it is an enlarged (and higher-riding Focus). This is a compliment, incidentally. The Focus is a good-looking, proportionate car – and the Escape is a good-looking, proportionate crossover.
It is also a more spacious crossover than the old Escape. A bit longer (178.1 inches vs. 174.7) and with a longer wheelbase (105.9 inches vs. 103.1), the new model has a lot more legroom up front (43.1 inches vs. 41.6) and in the second row (36.8 inches vs. 35.6) and more cargo room behind the second row (34.3 cubic feet vs. 29.2).
The Ford’s backseat is, however, tight when compared with the backseat legroom of competitors such as the Honda CR-V (38.3 inches) which also has 37.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. There is also the Toyota RAV-4, which has 42.6 inches of legroom up front, 37.2 in the second row – and 38.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second. Another problem for the Ford is the Hyundai Sante Fe – which is now offered in five and seven passenger (long wheelbase) versions.
On the other hand, the Escape out-rooms the VW Tiguan – which is a slightly smaller vehicle overall (174.5 inches long; 102.5 inch wheelbase) and thus has less front seat legroom (40.1 inches), second row legroom (35.8 inches) and a much smaller cargo area (23.8 cubic feet).
The biggest difference between the Escape and most of these competitors, though, is the Ford’s sportier demeanor. The only one that’s comparable on that score that also provides comparable (or more) room inside is the new Sante Fe. It is arguably the model Ford should be most worried about. Unlike the CR-V and RAV4 – neither of which offer more than 185 hp and 9-plus seconds to 60 or more than 31 MPG – the Hyundai offers comparably slick looks, a standard 190 hp engine – and an optional 264 hp turbo engine. The one thing it doesn’t offer is great gas mileage. The turbo Sante Fe rates 20 city, 27 highway with FWD and 19 city, 24 with AWD – far below the Ford 2.0’s outstanding (for this class/power/performance level) numbers.
Ford sells the Escape in Europe as the Kuga – and over there, it’s available with high-torque/high-mileage diesel engines (see here) that are also available with – wait for it – six-speed manual transmissions. The European Kuga’s 2.0 liter Duratorque diesel engine delivers 45-50 MPG – slightly better than than the C-Max hybrid I reviewed a week or so ago (see here) and massively superior to the 1.6 liter Ecoboost gas engine we’re stuck with here as the “economy” engine.
It’s vicious, evil and downright mean-spirited that we don’t have access to these diesel (and manual transmission) options here. But don’t blame Ford. Blame the suits in DC who have made it too cumbersome and too expensive for most manufacturers to export their diesel powertrains to the land of the formerly free. While they lecture us about the need to conserve energy – and impose ever-more-onerous fuel-efficiency standards (35.5 MPG average by 2016) they limit – through counterproductive regulation – our access to vehicles that are exceptionally fuel efficient – more efficient, in some cases, than hybrid vehicles. Because they’re diesel vehicles – and U.S. (federal and state) diesel emissions requirements differ from those in effect in Europe. It’s not that European diesels are smog-spewers – or that European diesel emissions standards are lax. They’re just … different. These bureaucratic-regulatory differences (and the obstacles they present to economically viable importation) are the sole reason for the dearth of diesel-powered passenger vehicles here.
Instead, we get small displacement turbocharged gas engines which aren’t nearly as fuel efficient as diesel engines, but which cost a lot up front (nearly $3k in this case, for the 1.6 engine vs. the base 2.5) and which may cost us a lot down the road, too. The owners of non-turbo cars don’t have this worry. Ford has probably done extensive durability testing – and maybe these Ecoboost engines will prove to be durable, long-lived and trouble-free. But the fact is we won’t know – either way – until hundreds of thousands of them have been in service out in the real world for at least eight or nine years.
And I’d still rather have a 45 MPG diesel – teamed up with a six-speed manual.
Other stuff: The Escape’s belt-minder buzzer is much too aggressive. It will belligerently beep at you as soon as you close the door and begin to drive away – even if all you’re doing is trundling the 20 yards down the driveway to the mailbox. These belt-minder buzzers are not – yet – mandatory by law. Vehicle owners should be able to easily turn them off if they wish to do so.
The hands-free liftgate opener is brilliant. Just swipe your foot under the bumper and it automatically opens up. Amazing no one thought to add this extremely helpful feature until now. Ditto the keypad entry system – something Ford (Lincoln) pioneered back in the ’80s and which (so far) no one else has been smart enough to emulate. I also dig the capless fuel fill system. Just insert the nozzle, top off – and that’s it. No dirty cap to handle and get grime all over hands – or your clothes.
Overall, a really nice vehicle. Well done, Ford. My only substantive complaint is the missing – and much needed – diesel.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Escape is a sportier alternative to the others in this segment – and higher efficiency alternative to the one other in this segment that’s comparably sporty.
If only it were available with that euro-spec 45 MPG diesel.
Go ask your “representatives” about that.
Throw it in the Woods?
Anyone know if the Kuga diesel is available in Canada? I’m looking to get something new but everything out there is crap. My Jetta Sportwagon TDI has 122257 miles on it and is barely broken in. Chg oil very 10,000 mi and just changed the timing belt and had the tranny flushed. Very low maintenance, high mpg vehicle. Might as well keep it.
A better comparison would have been to compare the Escape to the Forester.
You mean the oil burning, head gasket blowing subaru?
Just more proof positive that our fucked up government screws us daily.
… and in every orifice.
Can you just imagine the absolute shit that is going to be produced in MY 2017 with the 35.4376453 MPG “law”?
It’s already having its effect. For example, many of the ’13 (and even more of the ’14) models I’ve tested come with Auto Stop. The engine turns itself off whenever the car is stationary – as at a red light. The fuel savings is fractional. But these stop-start cycles can’t be healthy for the engine (or the starter). No oil pressure, for one. Most engine wear occurs at start-up for exactly this reason.
Under-stressed six cylinder engines are being replaced by highly stressed turbo fours. The entire BMW 3 line, for example. And the just-reviewed Ford Escape. Expect to see more such.
The 1.6L engine has a timing belt that requires an expensive service. The 2.5L is reliable and much cheaper but can only be had in the lowest trim level. Just go buy a RAV4 and call it a day!
I agree on the 2.5 vs. 1.6 Ecoboost.
The RAV’s (and CR-V’s) weakness is there’s no upgrade engine – and their base engines are weak.
In the Escape, you can get the 2.0 turbo – and get to 60 almost three seconds sooner than you could in the RAV and CR-V. That’s a pretty significant difference.
I sat in one a few months ago. I liked the view from the inside much more than looking at it from the outside. I guess I like my SUVs boxy looking, and more geared towards the Utility end of the scale.
We really should be getting the Duratorque motor, even if it means that we have to top up a urea tank every 10k miles. I don’t care – the Civic I’m in has *zero* torque until you’re at 4k+ rpm and I’m having to rev the shit out of it (meaning: my fuel economy is also shit) to get going in traffic.
A diesel is arguably the proper/ideal engine for a vehicle of this type. Excellent torque, pulling power/part-throttle response. The “Ecoboosted” gas engines also have good torque, but can’t approach the fuel efficiency of the diesel.
It’s ridiculous that we don’t have access to such vehicles here.
eric, they lost me with the price. We’re speaking of a Focus station wagon. Nothing magical or great happening here since you pay for the bit of gas you might save and a more reasonable acceleration with a minimum $3,000 and even more for a more “robust” engine. I’ll take a V-8 Pinto thanks. No, they weren’t worth a damn but they didn’t cost crap either. Four years ago living in Odessa, Tx. where EVERYONE has to do something to their vehicle to make it unique, I saw a Focus one day with the little chrome script on the rear that said Fucus. I couldn’t see it well due to rain and nasty Focus but it looked just right. I later noticed many of them with this moniker and finally looked at one up close and it wasn’t a cut out pasted in but what appeared to be cast and chromed that way. I did notice most of these vehicles didn’t get much care and that told me what the owners were really trying to say. I doubt any of them are running today.
Agreed, Eight –
I honed in on the price premium for the Escape’s optional 1.6 engine precisely because you don’t get much of an MPG uptick – but you do pay a lot more. Not only up front, either.
I suspect that, down the road, these turbo-Ecoboost engines are going to cost more to keep and not live as long.
Give me a cheap four cylinder Pinto any day…
eric, I think you have to ask yourself when considering a turbo engine, what the vehicle and engine are made for. Obviously this car isn’t meant to be a hand me down or something you expect to live a long, long life so how many technological hoops are they going to jump through, esp. at their price, to make that a “forever” engine with turbo to match. There’s one really good reason I have for liking the old 6.5L Turbo diesel GM made and that’s the pre-computer models have very few problems and rarely a turbo problem. Once you get very far into the 90’s and everybody is playing serious HP games, reliability on all those vehicles is lessened and that’s a lesson you can take to buying a new turbo’d gas engine from anyone. Also the new turbos are being made to “do it all” and that means they have many more features to break down such as variable vanes, variable exhaust inlet/outlet, etc. If I were to buy a gasoline car with a turbo, I’d put a cooler immediately preceding the turbo as well as a turbo minder and probably increase my engine oil capacity as well. I know the makers “test” in Death Valley but some long term road pounding in the southwest will make that seem light duty. Why? A vehicle being driven hard in the heat needs all the cooling it can get and as it ages and heat exchangers become dirty(not just washing will make them like new again either)and the grit builds everywhere there is less and less cooling. Another thing to consider is will people keep the air cleaner serviced as they should. A turbo will drag stuff through a clogged air filter and that magic light doesn’t always come on and if it does, and I’ve seen plenty of Ford pickups that did this, it always doesn’t mean what it says and doesn’t always come on when it should. A decade or so ago Ford pickups(diesel turbo)would have the light come on for a stopped up air cleaner when nothing would be wrong. That’s when people begin to ignore them and forget when they were last serviced. I never saw Dodge or GM have these issues. The little things will eat you alive when they ruin the big things.
For an everyday “A to B” car (which when you think about it defines – or ought to define – two-thirds of the cars on the road) turbocharging is a very bad idea. For all the reasons you mention.
A simpler, understressed six would be a much better choice – even if its rated MPGs when brand-new are lower. Because when the turbo’s no longer brand-new, it probably won’t deliver its rated MPGs anymore. It will also be more prone to expensive failures.
Meanwhile, the slightly thirstier six will keep on going, without giving you trouble, for 15-plus years and maybe 200k or more if you take reasonable car of it.
I very much doubt these “Ecoboosted” fours are going to make the cut.
As you said…”The popularity of SUVs is fading fast – such that even vehicles that aren’t really (and never were) SUVs but only tried to look like SUVs are no longer even trying to look like them.”
And that is wonderful! The 2014 Escape has virtually shed the CUV’s “dork mobile” image. It looks to me like a nifty little station wagon. Very appealing.
Although I understand your enthusiasm for diesels, this car just seems too sporty for a “Kuga” oil burner.
Make mine a 2.0 Ecoboost with FWD!
Gee Eric. If you really wanted a Diesel Kuga, you could get one – It would be a bit of a hassle but I certainly won’t tell you how except face-to-face. Maybe if you’re at SEMA this year…….
A friend who was in the German Mustang club quite a few years ago told me the ’79-’81 Ford Mustangs with the 2,3 Liter Turbo had a 100% failure rate in Germany. Since the 2 Liter gasoline Turbo is not offered in Germany, I don’t know if I could trust it – even 30 years later.