Clever Functionality: 2015 Ford Escape SUV

You can spend a big, fat pile of cash on a 2014 Ford Escape simply by choosing the top-of-the-line trim level and throwing on all the options. The result is a technologically advanced and luxurious little crossover SUV. And when viewed from the perspective of my Escape Titanium test vehicle’s $36,065 sticker price, this Ford sport-utility could be considered a genuine value.

Say what now? I understand the incredulous expression on your face, and yes, that’s a steep price to pay for a small SUV wearing a mainstream Ford badge. But that figure is also in the same neighborhood as what Acura wants for an RDX, or Infiniti wants for a QX50, without any sort of upgrades. And forget about touching an Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, or Mercedes-Benz GLK for this amount of money.

I’m not suggesting a loaded Escape competes head-on with luxury crossovers. That’s technically the job of the new 2015 Lincoln MKC, which is based on the Escape. What I’m suggesting is that even when priced head-scratchingly high, the Escape still offers value, partly because it is available with a number of cutting-edge features and technologies that direct competitors don’t provide. There is genuine substance behind the Escape’s dramatic styling.

Unfortunately, no amount of money changes the fact that the 2014 Escape receives a “Poor” rating in the small overlap offset frontal-impact crash-test conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This test is designed to measure how well a vehicle protects a driver in the event that the front left corner of the vehicle strikes oncoming traffic or an immovable object (such as a tree or lamp-post) on the left-most portion of the front end. The test has proven to be a particularly difficult one, as many top-selling small SUVs have scored similar ratings. That’s too bad, because otherwise the Escape gets impressive marks in other crash tests.

The 2014 Ford Escape is an undeniably attractive small SUV.

The 2014 Ford Escape is an undeniably attractive small SUV.

(Christian Wardlaw)
The Ford Escape returns an official EPA average of 24 mpg during a mix of city and highway driving.

The Ford Escape returns an official EPA average of 24 mpg during a mix of city and highway driving.

(Christian Wardlaw)

The Escape is good-looking, too, with the exception of the fake, oversized rear skid plate. My test vehicle’s optional Luster Nickel 19-inch aluminum wheels looked terrific, and I liked the Deep Impact Blue paint job, which is more impressive in person than it is in pictures.

Inside, the Escape’s interior is bold and busy, definitely over-styled in some respects. In terms of how things work, though, everything is fairly easy to use with the exception of the infotainment and climate controls.

In the Escape Titanium, the MyFord Touch technology is paired with a Sony premium audio system, and features simple controls located right beneath the touchscreen display, surrounded by aesthetically pleasing piano-black plastic. Here’s the problem, though. That black plastic gets really hot on a summer day, and throws a bunch of glare onto the display screen, making it hard to read and reference.

Our Escape was powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, coupled to an optional all-wheel-drive system.

Our Escape was powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine, coupled to an optional all-wheel-drive system.

(Christian Wardlaw)

The MyFord Touch screen requires a farther reach that’s made more difficult to use by the surrounding dashboard housing. The dual-zone automatic climate controls aren’t much better. They’re tucked down low on the dashboard behind the gear selector, every control requiring visual reference to use except for the temperature knobs. Having driven a fairly basic Escape earlier this year, I can tell you that I prefer this SUV’s standard infotainment setup and the basic air conditioning system to what’s in the Escape Titanium.

As far as comfort is concerned, the Escape delivers plenty of it…for front seat occupants, anyway. You sit up nice and high in this crossover, with an excellent view out, and Ford supplies soft places to rest elbows as well as a steering wheel that’s pleasing to grip. The leather isn’t particularly soft, but it strikes me as durable, and it looks good.

Adults won’t be as happy in the Escape’s back seat. Legroom is tight, but that’s not the main problem. My complaint is that the bottom cushion is too low and too flat, lacking thigh support. But the design does allow the rear seat backs to fold flat for maximum cargo space.

We're generally happy with the Escape Titanium's dashboard design, minus the long reach needed to control the center touch-screen and some of the ventilation controls. The base Escape's less tech-oriented dash is ultimately more user-friendly.

We're generally happy with the Escape Titanium's dashboard design, minus the long reach needed to control the center touch-screen and some of the ventilation controls. The base Escape's less tech-oriented dash is ultimately more user-friendly.

(Christian Wardlaw)

Ford says the Escape offers 34.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and 67.8 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume. That’s not class leading but is still large enough to make the Escape competitive. The Escape Titanium includes a power rear liftgate with hands-free functionality. Once you get the hang of kicking your leg just right to activate the tailgate, this feature works every time, and is pretty useful.

My test vehicle came with the optional turbocharged, 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder engine ($1,195) and all-wheel drive ($1,750), underscoring that extra acceleration and all-weather traction sure don’t come cheap. With 240-horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque, the engine upgrade genuinely transforms the driving experience, however.

So equipped, the Escape is quick and energetic, especially if you choose to drive with the transmission in Sport mode, which makes the powertrain feel more responsive. Trouble is, the engine also sucks up more gas when you drive like that. It might as well have a V-6 engine.

You sit up nice and high in the Escape. The leather fitted to our test vehicle wasn't particularly soft, but it felt very durable.

You sit up nice and high in the Escape. The leather fitted to our test vehicle wasn't particularly soft, but it felt very durable.

(Christian Wardlaw)
We found the bottom cushion of the rear seats too short and flat to be comfortable for adults.

We found the bottom cushion of the rear seats too short and flat to be comfortable for adults.

(Christian Wardlaw)

But that’s the idea behind EcoBoost engines. Ford says this 2.0-liter turbo delivers the power of a V-6 when you want it, combined with the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder engine when you need it. Whether or not it actually gets close to the EPA’s 24-mpg estimate in combined driving is up to you and your right foot. I got 21.4 mpg, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Around town and on highways, the Escape’s handling is athletic and nimble, but the short wheelbase does lead to a wiggly ride on uneven pavement. This SUV is tall, too, and suffers more wind noise than might be expected, especially at the Titanium’s price point.

Where I lacked confidence in the Escape was on a mountain road. Excessive body roll – combined with seats that don’t do a very good job of holding the driver behind the wheel – results in the Escape giving your abdominals a serious workout while threading a hilly highway.

By Ford's measurements, the Escape provides 34.1 cu. ft. of cargo room. Fold down the split-folding rear seats, and this grows to 67.8 cu. ft. of space.

By Ford's measurements, the Escape provides 34.1 cu. ft. of cargo room. Fold down the split-folding rear seats, and this grows to 67.8 cu. ft. of space.

(Christian Wardlaw)

I also took this Escape off the pavement, and while it proved that it can go somewhere a Focus or Fusion never could, you’re not going to want tackle much more than grassy fields and the occasional muddy pumpkin patch in this wee SUV.

The Ford Escape is a genuinely likable little crossover. But until Ford fixes that “Poor” crash-test rating, I have a hard time recommending the Escape over other models – such as the Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, and Subaru Forester – that have aced that same IIHS offset crash test.

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ford
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Source : http://www.nydailynews.com/autos/latest-reviews/test-drive-2014-ford-escape-article-1.1857774

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