So much cool stuff clings to the 2013 Ford Escape, it would be easy to lose site of how fundamentally good it is.
No doubt you’ve heard about the motion-sensing handsfree tailgate, the torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system and the first-in-class application of active park assist.
Nor will Ford let you forget about the three engine choices, two of which are turbo-charged and direct-injected, or the Escape’s dramatic fuel efficiency gains.
Also a new are a blind-spot warning system, a cross-traffic alert system and a system that slows an Escape carrying too much speed into a corner.
Be that as it may, I recently crossed the state twice in a minimally equipped, FWD Escape and came away with an appreciation for the basic car, sans frills. In town, the ride is firm but compliant; on the road it’s settled and stable, the result of a longer wheelbase, wider track and new steering and suspension systems.
A trim, contemporary exterior replaces the boxy shape of the previous generation and the stylish cabin is finished in high-quality materials.
The Sync connectivity system remains one of the best in the business and, while it remains a work in progress, the optional MyFord Touch system is no longer a reason to not buy the car.
Fulfills the world-car promise
The Escape makes good on the promise of the world-car. Known in Europe and China as the Kuga, it’s based on the all-new and very good Focus. In a single vehicle, Ford marries the size, efficiency and dynamics demanded by foreign markets with the comforts and technologies sought by Americans.
The Escape has been redesigned from the outside in. The roofline comes down about 4.5 inches and ground clearance drops half an inch. The streamlining process results in a bit less passenger space and a bit more cargo space.
The base, FWD-only Escape S ($23,750, with destination) is lightly equipped and intended primarily for fleets. Most consumers will choose the SE ($25,895) or SEL ($28,695). The top-of-the-line Titanium rings out at $31,195.
A 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter four powers the S. Both SE and SEL can be had with a 178-horsepower 1.6-liter four or a 270-hp, 2.0-liter four. Both are turbocharged and direct-injected.
The 2.5 fetches 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway, the 1.6 23 city/33 highway and the 2.0 22/30/25. AWD versions rate 1-2 mpg less.
My FWD SE tester had the 1.6-liter Ecoboost engine, which handled Snoqualmie without fuss, though the Ryegrass grade forced a few downshifts. Owners planning to tow or carry heavy loads may need the larger engine.
MyFord Touch is still too complex; the touchscreen interface is distracting and the learning curve is steep. Its voice-command lexicon has grown, though, and the system moves us toward the day when we will speak to our cars.
Beneath the razzle-dazzle, the 2013 Escape is a seriously good compact CUV, the kind of rig that makes it easy to root for Detroit.
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2013 Ford Escape SE FWD
Vehicle base price: $22,470
Trim level base price: $25,070
As tested: $27,860
Optional equipment: Cargo management package; roof rails with cross bars; tonneau cover; perimeter alarm, MyFord Touch with satellite radio and navigation.
EPA ratings: 23 city/33 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified