By on May 14, 2009

Conceived in a desperate search of EPA credits, the Ford Escape has walked in the shadows of its bigger brothers, Explorer and Expedition. Despite the Escape’s loveless upbringing, it prevailed, providing easy cream on Ford’s SUV gravy [train]. In the last fuel surge, the Escape found favor: a future president escaped his Chrysler 300C for a gas/electric version of the venerable Fordette. In the ongoing clamor for right-sized, fuel efficient vehicles, one would think the Escape’s inner virtue would shine through. Instead, Ford stifled its middle child by birthing a clusterf*ck of overweight CUVs (Edge and Flex). For 2009, the Escape, again, eats from the scraps.

The Escape has never been a standout in its appearance, nor has it ever been regarded unattractive. Functional may be the most apt description. The 2008 model year’s redux boxed-out the boxy CUV, but deprived it of the Ford family’s trademark bold three-bar grille (black sheep anyone?). Taken as a whole, from a distance, the Escape remains a reasonably decent looking vehicle. Closer inspection reveals a busy mish-mash of hapless shapes, indents, grooves and lines that scream “design by committee.” Nobody could agree on what an Escape should truly look like, so everybody got a vote.

Stepping inside reveals a whole new world of dissonance. The 2001-07 vintage interior was an utterly forgettable homage to Ford-of-the-day high-gloss, poorly grained polymers, Chiclet-inspired buttonry, and second-rate upholstery. The 2008’s redesign brought an utterly dismissable homage to Ford-of-today semi-gloss, meagerly-grained polymers, Lego-inspired buttonry, and self-inflicted second-use upholstery made of recycled fibers (no joke). It’s not ugly, but it ain’t right.

First up, the positives: “Ice Blue” instrument backlighting is a welcome improvement over Ford’s puke green of yore (good riddance). The passenger and cargo compartment are equally spacious for its class, and visibility is excellent. Plentiful cubbies and storage bins surround the front occupants. And that’s about it.

On the negative side, the Escape’s center stack’s buttons are tiny and difficult to navigate at a glance. Ergonomics were an after(noon?)thought. To wit: steering wheel controls have no tactile representation, the illumination controls are hopelessly lost below the driver’s knee along with the controls for the cluster-mounted info center, the dead pedal (wait . . . what dead pedal?), and Ford’s on-again, off-again love affair with the seventy-gazillion functions on a singular steering column stalk (thank Holy Dieties the cruise buttons remain on the wheel, unlike GM).

The Escape’s seats lack lumbar support, the rear bench is (un)remarkably flat, and the recycled-fiber cloth upholstery feels like recycled-fiber, minus the cloth. A myriad of plastics are reasonably soft to the touch, but the sheen and graining wouldn’t convince you of it at a glance. In sum, the rectilinear design theme is a continuum of discontinuity.

Enough kvetching. Let’s drive.

Ford’s venerable Duratec 3.0 V6 displacing three liters arrives for ’09 with new twists: a six-speed autobox, electric-assist EPS steering (no pump thus no parasitic losses), and a host of massages and tweaks. The resulting 240 hp (40 hp gain) and 223 lb·ft of torque make for surprising haste in this sprightly 3528 lb trucklette.  When [if] the transmission decides to [maybe] grab the right gear [stay tuned . . . ], the Escape rips off 60 mph sprints that seem far faster than the manufacturer’s claim of high-8s.  If the Escape’s corporate father bequeathed it nothing else, it’s got balls.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t figured it out by now, the new 6F35 transmission completely neuters the Escape’s go-fasterism. Downshifts are lazy and indecisive. Rolling stops constantly get stuck in second gear, and twice (count ’em: one, two) in my week-long Detroit Escape, the transmission hailed “no joy” and checked out completely. This during some frustrated passing maneuvers on city streets (engine returned to idle speed and transmission took three seconds to reset and contemplate the appropriate gear). Anecdotal evidence suggests that Ford transmission calibrations are no stranger to epic failure.

When underway, the Escape feels chuckable. The limits of adhesion arrive early and often. The Conti tires throw the towel to understeer first, but drop-throttle can quickly correct a push without excessive drama. The bean counters stormed the Brake Systems design offices like the FDIC on any given Friday; the Escape is the first automobile in modern days to actually step backwards in engineering time to drums at the rear. Surprisingly, little effort or feel seems lost. The EPS system features cool new tricks like pull-drift compensation to soak up crosswinds and road crowns. It works, and steering feel does not seem sacrificed (not to imply it was stellar to begin with).

Despite the nits and gripes, my heart forgives the Escape. It’s a victim, not a criminal. A patchwork of misfit pieces, it nonetheless manages to work—no thanks to its negligent parents. In the end, the Escape succeeds how a middle child does: as a scrapper. But for how long?

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67 Comments on “Review: 2009 Ford Escape...”


  • avatar
    dwford

    A myriad of plastics are reasonably soft to the touch, but the sheen and graining wouldn’t convince you of it at a glance.

    This comment is a gift to the Escape. The Escape’s interior has the hardest, nastiest plastics around (except for the 09 Focus maybe). The interior quality is the Escape’s biggest failing.

    When so many small CUVs are compromising the “u” with swoopy lines, the boxy Escape fits the traditional SUV mold. I only hope Ford finds a way to keep the Escape as a small SUV (on a new chassis, of course, since 10 years is long enough on this one!) when they bring the Kuga CUV here in a couple of years.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Gee, I have always thought that the current Escape is kind of attractive, in a functional sort of way. But then, I always liked the 68 Chrysler, too.

    And on the lack of a 3 bar grill – aren’t those only for the cars or the crossovers that are supposed to be more car-like? Trucks get the horrid SuperDutyesque grille, so I presume that the Escape is trying to look like the F-350s little brother. At least they pull it off better on the Escape than on the E-150, which is truly, truly ugly.

  • avatar
    NickR

    the transmission hailed “no joy” and checked out completely

    Sorry, but that’s all I needed to read to get scared away. That should never happen, period.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    i like this review but forgive me if i’m wrong but isn’t this a Mazda Tribute in an ill fitting dress?

    My feeling is this… it was always gonna be a patchwork affair. The Tribute is not a good small SUV… it is decidely old fashioned in every respect compared to the other Japanese. It always trails them.

    When Ford got it all they did was spend the minimum to differentiate it from it’s Kimino weaing cousin.

    It will always be an also ran unless Mazda puts in a genuine effort and why would they when they keep their ‘nagare’ design SUVs to themselves. Mazda were never really strong in SUVs anyway. Ford engineers are doing a conversion they really don’t want to. This is always going to be a recipe for mediocrity.

    Ford and Mazda just want a stooge to steal a few sales from the companies who put in a real effort.

    Now that the Koreans have actually put in some hard yards (eg. KIA Sorrento with a 2.2 litre CRDi with 200hp and 320lb) I can’t see this car ever being considered by anyone serious about buying a class leading product.

    It’s sad. Sometimes Ford put in a mediocre effort and it pays off (Mustang GT) but most of the times a mediocre effort means a mediocre car.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I never could understand why Ford didn’t put more into the Escape. It is far more profitable than a unibody CUV, is just as fuel efficient, and has great road manners for a body on frame SUV, IMHO. If they upgraded the exterior and interior I’m sure it could have sold in at least Edge numbers, and been a green darling with its hybrid powertrain option. Maybe it wouldn’t be class leading but how many body on frame, and thus tow capable and trucklike durability having, SUV’s are out there in this size?

  • avatar
    dwford

    @TonyJZX:

    Your entire comment is completely backwards. The Tribute is an Escape in an ill fitting dress, etc…All your comments are valid, just reverse the brands.

  • avatar
    dwford

    If they upgraded the exterior and interior I’m sure it could have sold in at least Edge numbers

    FYI: the Escape has sold almost 45,000 units so far this year vs the Edge at 25,000. So sales wise it is doing ok.

  • avatar
    86er

    guyincognito: I never could understand why Ford didn’t put more into the Escape. It is far more profitable than a unibody CUV, is just as fuel efficient, and has great road manners for a body on frame SUV, IMHO.

    Isn’t the Escape unibody?

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    I’ve only driven an 04 V6 4-speed AT and it wasn’t bad. Went with a Mazda3 wagon instead, then I was moved to Idaho. The extra utility and ground clearance would have been nice.

    Fast forward 3 years; we’re looking at a “larger” family vehicle to replace the old 760 Turbo. The Escape (wife prefers the Mariner, you can get a green color…go figure) has been on my list, easy to drive, utilitarian, and good road manners. Seems the transmission is a let-down though.

    Being a FoMoCo/Mazda fan, I’d rather go for the CX7 and sacrifice the city MPGs. And maybe the more “rough and tumble” image. Both are comparable in size. Really need the clearance more than the 4WD/AWD system, otherwise we’d just get another wagon or even a Mazda5.

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    @guyincognito :

    The Escape is unibody. CD2 platform.

  • avatar

    The EPS was introduced on the 2008. And the previous conventional system, IMO, provided much better road feel, among the best for a compact SUV.

    OTOH, the 2008 interior was much higher in quality than the earlier interior. It might not seem this way at first glance, but sit in them back-to-back and the improvement seems substantial.

    guyincognito: the Escape is and has always been a unibody design.

    Based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, Escapes from 2003 on range from better than average to the high side of average in reliability. The 2008 has been averaging half a repair trip per year. The most common problem has been a leaking connection to the transmission cooler. Ford was aware of the problem, so it shouldn’t affect the 2009.

    Additional participants in our survey always helpful.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    Why on earth does Ford have such a mess of small CUVs/SUVs in its roster? The Escape, Flex, Edge, Taurus X, etc all seem to overlap each other’s market space at least partially. Why the hell can’t Ford just pick one body style and put a solid effort into making it truly great?

    BTW, the Escape is unibody…it was based on the Mazda 626 platform, if I remember correctly.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    Why on earth does Ford have such a mess of small CUVs/SUVs in its roster? The Escape, Flex, Edge, Taurus X” The Taurus X is dead, and all the others dont compete against each other at all. The Edge is just about style and is larger overall than the Escape were as far as the Flex is concerned it is giant in size comparatively. You guys are aware that Toyota has three CUV’s right, along with Honda as well.

  • avatar
    volvo

    I recently shopped for a CUV. Came down to Escape V6 vs. RAV4 V6. I looked at each in detail and agree 99% with the review.

    Big cons for the Escape compared to the RAV4 were performance and road feel, cluttered exterior design and interior by Fischer-Price.

    Positives for Escape were better ground clearance and significant discount for “loaded” models. At the base level the prices were about the same.

    Not a lot of happy shopping in CUV land if you want a V6 in the $25-30K MSRP range.

  • avatar

    Dragophire–Toyota actually has four, if you include the Edge-like Venza. And they’ll have five if they come out with something the size of the Flex, which seems inevitable.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    one other thing… if this car has origins in 2001 (around the time george w bush was inaugurated) how can you expect it to be competitive?

    2ndly since it’s based on the mazda 626 which was developed by mazda and not a model sold by ford i dunno what to beleive?

    in any case i’ve driven both and both sucked

    i like the idea of a smaller SUV – 3,500lbs sounds pretty damn good to me but again this is indicative of it’s age

    the competition has moved on to 4,000lbs – not that that’s a good thing but i’d like to see what the NCAP for this is.

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    “The Taurus X is dead, and all the others dont compete against each other at all. The Edge is just about style and is larger overall than the Escape were as far as the Flex is concerned it is giant in size comparatively. You guys are aware that Toyota has three CUV’s right, along with Honda as well.”

    Ok, so then why does the Explorer still exist? Oh gee, I suppose that’s to get the “mid-size towing and off-roading SUV market” or whatever.

    The point is that Ford has way too many CUVs/SUVs in its stable, and most of its smaller ones don’t sell in massive numbers and are poorly aimed at whatever niche they’re supposed to be targeting. Take the Flex, for instance – “since we couldn’t figure out how to build a decent minivan, we’ll sell some kind of truck-looking ‘CUV’ of a similar size (but with no better fuel economy), and that outta sell well”. It hasn’t.

    I’ve been inside both an Edge and an Escape, and the Edge doesn’t feel much bigger on the inside. It doesn’t ride much smoother either, and the “stylish” exterior design cuts sharply into interior space. (Oh, and BTW is the Edge was supposed to be “all about style”, somebody should have informed its interior designers, because they clearly didn’t get the memo.) The Freestyle/Taurus X would have stood a chance if they’d have put some real marketing effort behind it, but of course they didn’t bother and a decent vehicle never came to fruition saleswise.

  • avatar

    I like the Escape, it’s good-looking, reasonably efficient and comes available as a very efficient and functional hybrid. It also comes available with a manual, which isn’t as common as it should be. I’ve only sat in one at the auto show, but it was a reasonably nice place to be. I like the new Subaru Forester better, but 3 stars seems about right for the Escape.

    kowsnofskia, I think Ford is aware of the overlap between the Escape, Edge and Taurus X. The Flex is monster-huge and isn’t in the same category. It’s my understanding that the Taurus X is on it’s way out, which will leave the Edge and Escape in the small/mid SUV segment. IMO, The Edge chases a younger, hipper more citified demographic, where the 2-box Escape is a more practical and traditional (and better, if you ask me) overall package aimed at suburbanites and families.

    I think the two cars bring in different customers, though I might be wrong. They’re sufficiently different and unique from one another and Ford must want a few offerings in the increasingly popular CUV segment.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The 2008 model year’s redux boxed-out the boxy CUV, but deprived it of the Ford family’s trademark bold three-bar grille (black sheep anyone?).

    The Escape is part of the “E” marketing family (Escape, Explorer, Expedition, the trucks, etc; as opposed to the Fusion, Focus, Five Hundred), and thusly, under Ford’s long term marketing strategy for the last two thirds of 2007, was to get a look akin to it’s bigger cousins.

    The problem is that Ford switches marketing strategies more often than people change the undergarments. So Ford dropped the E/F delineation of names, slapped the three-bar on the trucks and generally made a mess of what was a reasonably coherent plan.

    And now they’re dropping three-bar, which is ok (it was restricting, and might not have aged well) but jeezus, can they possibly stick with something for more than a month or two?

    That said, this is a good car that’s been left too long on the vine. Like the Focus, it kicked Toyonda ass in 2000 but was let down by terrible teething pains. Also like the Focus, it’s been left on the same bones for too long and has been lapped badly.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Everybody I know who bought an Escape chose it for the same reason. It’s a good dog car. I mean that literally. They carry big dogs around with them a lot and the Escape works for them. I don’t know what about it that makes it such a good dog car, but the owners like it.

  • avatar
    dwford

    Why on earth does Ford have such a mess of small CUVs/SUVs in its roster?

    Well,
    the Escape is in the $19-30k range
    the Edge is in the $26-35 range and is 5 passenger crossover
    the Flex is in the $26-42k range and is 7 passenger crossover
    the Explorer is in the $26-40k range and is a 5/7 passenger BOF suv

    so they do have 3 suv’s in the same price range, but targeted at different customers. I can’t imagine there is much cross shopping between the Edge, Flex, and Explorer.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    I think the 2006 models were a lot cleaner and good looking than the later ones. The new Escape looks like the old escape ate a lot of Chunky Monkey.

  • avatar
    derek533

    Alright, finally something I know quite a bit about since I’ve driven Escapes as company cars since their inception. I’ve driven an 02, 04, 06, and now 09.

    The first generation, was horrible. It was the noisiest car I have ever ridden in, the interior was laughable (although, unlike GM, Ford has managed to make a cheap interior that somehow doesn’t rattle), didn’t have a center armrest, and overall was a just a cheap me to type car.

    What I call the second generation (06-07)even though it was still the same car more or less, was when the shifter was moved from the column to the floor. This made the car somewhat more up to date and not as bargain basement as the previous versions. Still, it was noisy on the inside and other than the shifter move, it was still the same dash and cheap materials, and just an overall average car at best. Gas mileage was around 18-20mpg in mixed driving (V6 on all of them so far).

    My current Escape is a 2009 and it has the 4-cylinder (I was given the option of loaded 4-cylinder or stripped down cloth V6). Even in loaded trim, the front seats are the only leather saddles in the car. The rear seats are a pleather type material. The ride is much improved over prior generations and the car is much more hushed at highway speeds. The interior while not the best, is definitely a step in the right direction and certainly functional once you get used to it. It’s got Sync and Sat to keep me entertained. It also has color selectable ambient lighting as well. The only thing missing is nav and moonroof otherwise, it is hard laoded. Overall, by no means is it a luxury ute or should be considered as such. But for what these loaded 4-cylinders are selling for and the gas mileage they are returning (for me, about 25mpg in mixed driving), they aren’t a bad choice at all. Especially for those who desire a higher ride height than a car. Honestly, getting in and out of this car is probably the easiest of any car I’ve ever owned or ridden in as the height is a perfect step in and out for a 6’1 tall individual. The cargo space is decent too considering this is classified as CUV/SUV. It may not have the interior of the Rav4/CRV but you won’t pay as much for it either.

    BTW, they have all been extremely reliable other than normal maintenance with no issues whatsoever other than a recall for a bad rear liftgate strut in the 02 I believe.

  • avatar
    Speederson

    Hate to say it but the basic concept of the Escape beckons back to the original Bronco II. How long ago was that? 25-years? I have heard, however, that there are some extremely aggressive discounting going on for all Escape trim levels including hybrid, however TrueCar.com doesn’t necessarily show much other than the $2,500 incentive currently offered on gas-only. May be able to pick up a base model for close to 16K in the near future if not now.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    derek–what kind of gas milage do you get with the 4 (auto or manual?
    Thanks.

  • avatar
    blautens

    I got the 4 cylinder version of this for 3 days from Enterprise. I completely agree with the review…there’s so much more this platform could be. The interior was so dreadful compared to the current CRV (even the last generation CRV….hell, maybe even the first gen CRV).

    Having driven CRVs (4 cylinder, obviously) and RAV4s (admittedly a V6), I’m not sure why anyone would buy this…except *maybe* the hybrid. Or unless these are going for fire sale prices. You can’t tell me that most Ford Escape shoppers aren’t going to cross shop the CRV and RAV4, though.

    Look, the Ford stockholder in me wants these to sell…but the pistonhead in me asks why they would?

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    A base (but still not bad: power windows, power door locks, A/C, ABS, 6 air bags) Escape can be had for about $15K even, and a loaded V6 can be had in the very low $20s. At those prices it is a buy.

    Especially the base Escape. Ford’s leather sucks, and all the extra features are going to stop working in a year or two, so why go for the loaded Escape.

    To Ford’s credit a manual can still be had in the base model, and even the I4 is paired with the 6-speed if an automatic is specified.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Just glad to see a review point out my pet peeve with most vehicles: the dreaded “seventy-gazillion functions on a singular steering column stalk”.

    As mentioned GM is the clear leader of this horrible user interface. Case in point my father’s TrailBlazer which has a Rubik’s Cube on the end of the stalk. Turn, push, twist, press, slide, cruise, lights, wipers… WTF!?! Why is it so hard to get this right? Honda figured it out years ago: one stalk controls the lights, the other the wipers and cruise buttons go on the steering wheel.

    As for the Escape: it might be the only CUV out there with a SQUARE opening in the back, all other utes seem to have a odd-shaped porthole thru which you can (or can not) load cargo, thus defeating the whole purpose of the vehicle. I blame the Murano for starting this trend with its extra curvy bubble-butt.

  • avatar
    heaven_on_mars

    The Escape is okay, but I would take a RAV4 over it. The only thing that keeps the Escape on the radar is the way Ford seems to be giving them away. Toyota offers $500 every now and then on the RAV4, but Ford is offering cash rebates and zero percent in many of their promotions.

    If anyone is thinking Escape hybrid, I drove one the other day and that thing has a very stiff ride. Unless the Escape hybrid gets 100 MPG, it is not worth the harsh ride. Just getting 30 MPG or whatever it is, cannot make the suffering worth it.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Having driven many, many, many Escapes I have no doubt in my mind why it sells. It is practical, fuel efficient, has great visibility, an affordable price, and a few must have features for certain buyers.

    I’ve never encountered one with a transmission that took 3 seconds to respond to throttle input, but I will admit it is tuned for economy more than performance, but that is what the people buying Escapes want. Similarly the driving dynamics and (lack of) steering feel make it an effortless around town grocery-getter/soccer-mom vehicle. It would completely embarass itself around an autocross track, yes, but no one is buying it for that, and it isn’t being marketed as being in any way sporty.

    The interior does have some hard plastics (a lot of them in fact) and the leather used in the Escape isn’t Fords best (compare it to the Mustang or F-150 leather and the difference is night and day) but it seems durable, and the cloth, while not being mouse-hair soft, is very stain resistant, thick, and utilitarian. It looks better in Limited trim with the piano-black center stack instead of the silver painted one, and best with the charcoal black interior environment that gets rid of the different neutral colors in favor of an all encompassing classy black from floormats to headliner.

    The buttons on the steering wheel are smartly laid out (cruise on the left, audio/entertainment on the right, where they belong) and quite ergonomic for thumb use with hands at 10 and 2. Also, having dedicated 0 – 9 buttons (as the Escape does) on the center stack should be a must have for any vehicle that comes with satellite radio, to quickly tune in any channel without having to wait through scrolling.

    Engines are peppy, ingress and egress are easy, the cargo floor is the perfect height, the rear seats fold truly flat, and the convenience of Sync is a gamechanger for a lot of busy people on the go.

    Put it right next to the CR-V and Rav4 and the Escape holds its own in terms of practicality and usability, and comes out on top in terms of value, and that is what most people who are looking at this type of vehicle are interested in.

  • avatar
    John R

    Oh, cool. Avis gave me one of these for the time being, except its on Michelins not Contis, but sounds like the difference is academic as I’m also experiencing the same handling…quirks. It is quite punchy, however.

    I kept thinking to myself while driving it, “This isn’t too bad. I just wish it would corner flatter not give up the ghost so early.”

    Then I realized I wanted a WRX five-door.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Now that the Koreans have actually put in some hard yards (eg. KIA Sorrento with a 2.2 litre CRDi with 200hp and 320lb) I can’t see this car ever being considered by anyone serious about buying a class leading product.

    Well said. After seeing the 2008 Santa Fe last year, I went into a Ford dealership thinking the Escape would be a virtual tie, and it wasn’t even close.

  • avatar
    John R

    @dwford:

    [The Ford Escape]was jointly developed with Mazda, in which Ford owns a controlling interest, and was released simultaneously with the Mazda Tribute…

    The Escape is built on the Ford CD2 platform, which is in turn based on the Mazda GF platform, which was used by the Mazda 626.

    No, no. Tony’s right. This girl used to wear a kimono.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Don – The Sante Fe doesn’t compete with the Escape, the Tuscon does, and and the Escape has it all over the Tuscon. If you want the Sante Fe competitor, you go to the Edge.

    Also, that diesel Sorrento isn’t a US option.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    Thank God it doesn’t have the three-bar grille. Then it would look as bad as the Taurus, Focus, Fusion,Flex, and Edge.

  • avatar
    John Holt

    @ NulloModo: the transmission hesitations occured during those “change your mind” shifts – light accel, drop throttle to the brake, then get back on the throttle to get by the slowpoke turning in front of me. Having (company) leased an ’05 Explorer, this was all too familiar a phenomenon. However, the stall in the Escape was the most dramatic failure mode I’ve seen yet. Makes you think long and hard before jumping into traffic.

    Similarly the driving dynamics and (lack of) steering feel make it an effortless around town grocery-getter/soccer-mom vehicle.

    Perfectly described. It was an easy drive, just not very engaging.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    “It is far more profitable than a unibody CUV, is just as fuel efficient, and has great road manners for a body on frame SUV, IMHO.”

    “PaulieWalnut :
    May 14th, 2009 at 9:58 am

    @guyincognito :

    The Escape is unibody. CD2 platform.”

    D’oh. I should really have known better. In my defense, it is confusing as to why Ford would produce both this and the Edge, with both of them being unibody and very similarly sized, and I didn’t spend that much time at KCAP anyway.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    It’s a trooper that’s for sure. It just seems to hold on and stay in the market.

    Let’s look ahead. Ford Escape — minor improvements over the next year, maybe two. A few more small improvements and a continual effort to uglify the front grill. Time for an major upgrade, so let’s drop the Escape and come out with a new model and slap a new name on it, but likely no significant improvement. No reason to keep a product out there with brand recognition after all.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    Ford’s SUV/CUV lineup isn’t as bloated as Toyota’s-

    Rav4
    Venza
    Highlander
    FJ Cruiser
    Highlander
    Land Cruiser
    Sequoia

    Ford’s Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex, Expedition is in line with Nissan’s Rogue, Maurano, XTerra, Pathfinder, Armada lineup.

    I still see quite a few Excursions on the road as well as the Lincoln Aviator.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    Bring back the Bronco.

    Why aren’t there many (any?) 2 door SUV’s like the old Broncos, Blazers and Rodeo’s.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Why aren’t there many (any?) 2 door SUV’s like the old Broncos, Blazers and Rodeo’s.

    One: because they sucked and people didn’t like climbing up into them and then twisting past the door. No one really likes two-doors except people who never, ever have to deal with the rear seat, ergo…

    Two: You may as well get a pickup truck with a covered bed and/or jump seats in the rear.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    i like this review but forgive me if i’m wrong but isn’t this a Mazda Tribute in an ill fitting dress?

    The Gen I Tribute was better looking than the G1 Escape. But now the new Tribute seems tremendously bland compared to the Ford.

    These are nice, simple tall wagons, that is all. I like the CR-V a lot but they’re pricey, and the stylized back end compromises the whole purpose of the U. I’d take an XLT with the sport package.

    It will be interesting where they slot the new Explorer, moving to the Taurus chassis I believe.

  • avatar
    bodyonframe

    Hey Dave M. were on the same page – it pains me to say so, but from everything I have heard the current body on frame explorer and mountaineer are gone after 2010. The mountaineer stays dead, the explorer will be replaced by a van like crossover (think explorer america concept) based on the unibody CD4 platform (I think, whatever the Taurus, Flex, MKS, etc. is on). SO this will leave Escape vs. Edge and Flex vs. gutless said Explorer. And did I mention this Explorer CUV is too replace the outgoing Taurus X? Just too many CUV’s. If the Expedition wasn’t so ugly it would be the best of them IMHO. Of course that’s coming from a guy with Body on Frame for a name so go figure.

  • avatar
    zaitcev

    Escape has a few small advantages over RAV4.3 in the rear (for most applications), in particular the lifting gate over RAV’s door and also I think its window pops open for overlong items.

    I went with RAV4 for 2 reasons:
    – better gas mileage (I’ve got 4-cyl version)
    – longer inside length in cargo configuration (177cm for RAV4)

    It was about the same price back then. Mind, this is not relevant to modern prices.

    BTW, I laugh at people who talk about HARD inside plastics. Seriously guys, my father cars had METAL dashes. The harder the better. What do you need to caress your dash for anyway?

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I bought my 05 (“2nd gen”) in May of 04. While it may not have the best ergonomics or interior plastics, this is a great inexpensive CUV that does everything i ask of it. I have 98,000 miles on it without any problems. And Ford does sell a huge number of these so they must be doing something right. Although i do not like the current model and will wait for the next. Or better yet, the Kuga.

    no_slushbox
    and all the extra features are going to stop working in a year or two, so why go for the loaded Escape.

    huh? I have a loaded Limited and after 5 years everything still works just fine.

  • avatar
    derek533

    “ruckover :
    derek–what kind of gas milage do you get with the 4 (auto or manual?
    Thanks.”

    According to the computer, about 25-26mpg in mixed driving. Auto btw.

  • avatar
    telrbm1

    You know, I might actually consider a FORD product if they didn’t use the same damn steering wheel in Every. Product. They. Make. The same damn one they have been using for about 20 years or so. My perception is that all of the FORD owned brands, more any any other, take the whole “parts bin” problem to its extreme.

  • avatar
    pls

    After 17 Tauri for my company car I started getting Escapes every year in 2002. From my experience it has been much more reliable than the Taurus ever was and a decent little truck, but I have a few issues:

    The 08 and 09 dash hangs down very low and is very square, and I am always banging my shin on it as I get in the car. My poor shin remains bruised and scratched most of the time. I’m 6’3″, but my 5’7″ coworker was complaining about the same thing the other day, so it’s not a height issue.

    The recycled material in the seats is impossible to clean if you get something on it. Water on a rag just seems to make the spot bigger. That’s bad with kids.

    I’ve got no issues with transmissions. I’m sure it’s not up to BMW standards but I can’t recall any issues as described in the review. We got 4 cylinders this year and it is noisy, shakes when setting at idle, and gets less than 1mpg better than the 6 did, so go with the 6. It was always willing and competent enough.

    In summary I won’t spend a bunch of time defending it, but I couldn’t blame you for thinking this might be a decent vehicle for your daughter.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    derek, thanks. I am in need of a wagon-ish vehicle that gets good gas milage. (I do wish Mazda had offered a 6 wagon with a 4 cylinder)

  • avatar
    davey49

    A lot of people claim Ford has too many S/CUVs because they don’t believe that some want a car-like (rounded) vehicle and some don’t.

    “I’m 6′3″, but my 5′7″ coworker was complaining about the same thing the other day, so it’s not a height issue.”
    It’s never about height, it’s about leg length. Or torso length for headroom complaints

    The Escape has been one of Ford’s best sellers as of late.

  • avatar
    davey49

    dcdriver- +1 on bringing the 2 doors back
    psarjh- If the 2 doors “sucked” no one asked me. I’d like a vehicle like this that isn’t made for people with kids. The “family values” obsession is what fucked cars up. No Blazer, no Monte Carlo, no Eldorado.
    Pickups don’t work because you can’t reach the cargo area from inside the cab.

    bodyonframe- The Expedition is ugly?, that’s one I’ve never heard before. It’s design seems innocuous.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The only reason they ever made the 2 door SUVs was because they were based on truck platforms that at the time were not easily extendable to four door versions. Now that every truck other than the Ranger is availible as a crew-cab, and CUVs are based on car platforms designed for four doors anyway, it’s easy to add the extra set of doors.

    I don’t see how having two doors is a benefit to any SUV, it doesn’t benefit styling, it doesn’t lower the cost much, and it makes it harder to access the rear area for passengers and cargo.

  • avatar
    bodyonframe

    Davey49- Yeah ugly isn’t really the word I was looking for. I guess I just like the 03-06 Expedition’s looks better is all. Aren’t these things supposed to keep looking better with age like everything else ;)

  • avatar
    coatejo

    After my wife purchased a new 350Z, I decided that we needed a practicle car for everyday use, so I traded my Mustang GT in on a new 2008 Escape after cross shopping with a Honda CRV. I decided on the Escape because the boxy shape offered more room and better utility, and the V6 provided smoother, more enjoyable power than the CRV. After 22K miles, I’ve grown very fond of this little SUV. The V6 is very peppy and returns on average 23MPG, which is pretty good for a SUV. The ride is also very good. I initially liked the looks of the prior gen Escape better, but now prefer the styling of mine. The interior is much better than the older Escape. Gripes? A few. The front seats could be more supportive. Would prefer the parking brake release to be located between the seats, and there are no passenger grab handles, and only 1 lousy coat hanger way in the back by the liftgate. Otherwise, I can recommend this little SUV, it’s a winner for Ford.

  • avatar
    Honda_Lover

    3 seconds for transmission shift to kick in? Big deal! Back in 1732 it took 3 minutes to get the horse carriage to go into reverse! Ah, let me tell you about those days…

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I always though the Escape was attractive for it’s class. I’d rather think Ford has done a decent job in keeping it up-to-date with the competition, albeit on an almost 10 year old platform. I sat inside one a few months ago and found the interior decent enough (although the imports are still leaps and bounds ahead) and the controls a “function-first” experience. Those transmission troubles are bit unnerving however…probably the only thing that would prevent me from recommending it to my sister.

  • avatar
    modemjunki

    We have an ’03 XLT V6 with 120k on the clock, picked up used some two years ago.

    It’s been quite reliable. Yes, it’s noisy. Yes, the seats are hard as rock after 20 minutes. Yes, the interior is – erm, “utilitarian”. Yes, the PCV valve requires some patience and ingenuity to replace (give me a rubber hose and 10 minutes alone with the guy who put it where it is…)

    But the practicality works for us. We haul home appliances, all manner of home fixup supplies, bicycles, dogs, etc. etc.. It has a modest tow rating, enough to rent a lightweight trailer for the few times we needed to haul something that would require an open bed. We climb into it after an outing in a local forest preserve and don’t care about getting a bit of dirt in it.

    And it was cheap. Cheap is good for this purpose.

    If it needed to be replaced, the same vehicle would be a strong contender.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Why aren’t there many (any?) 2 door SUV’s like the old Broncos, Blazers and Rodeo’s.…

    Ford used to sell, or try to sell, 2 door Explorers (and Mazda Navajo). Neither sold well. Mazda was limited to 2 doors only, which didn’t make them happy. So, I can see why Ford didn’t waste the development and tooling on a two door. I do agree, that is too bad; I prefer the two door look.

    We just received new Escape Hybrids at work. Mixed driving is returning 28 MPG, with no particular effort to do better – just drive as you normally would. Switchover between driving modes is remarkably seamless. Interiors are improved from the prior ones, but +1 to the comments posted by those who say the improvements are best noted by comparing to the older models. Ford could have coughed up a few bucks to make it nicer, at least as an option. Many people often note that they would pay 200 bucks more for better materials. Just do it! Ford listened with the Flex, which has much better materials inside. Too bad a Escape intender is not likely to buy a Flex.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    telrbm1, I couldn’t agree more with you about Ford steering wheels. Seems like I’ve seen that same institutional-looking one since we were all on dial-up. It would be different if it were a good looking and well-executed one. It is neither. Reminds me of that funny chart showing the many expressions of Keanu Reeves where they’re all the same.

    Fords have always struck me as appliances, inside and out. I instantly find something to dislike about so many of their models after a few seconds behind the wheel. Cheap, plain ugly, designed by a committee (with no design sense), sharp edges to so many things you lay your hand on, acres of ugly-colored/textured plastics, mismatched panel colors, shitty fuzz for seats, and on and on.

    I had a new Explorer for a day as a loaner last year. It was sad to see how they have not kept that vehicle up to the competition. It’s not like they haven’t had a few years to get it right. Everything I mentioned in the above paragraph applied to it. It’s amazing that they have sold as well as they have over the years. I bet a lot of it is due to import-aversion and its forget-me, boxy looks.

    The CR-V and RAV4 are much more refined vehicles. I would jump on a used Pilot (if I needed me some V6 for a bit of light/medium towing) before I’d ever take that depressing plunge into an Escape. I do like the Flex, Mustang and F-150 – it’s obvious that they can do a good one if they want.

    Ford has let this and other vehicles linger way past their sell-by dates. It hurts the brand as a whole more than they seem to realize. What’s even worse is that they have let the Escape go downhill in the handling department. Check out these choice words from Consumer Reports: “…lost agility and tire grip, negatively affecting handling and braking.” I mean, seriously, how does Ford let this shit get out the door worse than the year before? Did they cut corners (like I routinely cut my hand on Ford interior bits) on the tires and suspension? No thanks.

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    I continue to like this little trucklet, especially for dogs, for one big reason that has been omitted on nearly every competitor – separate opening rear glass liftgate. It’s simple – you can get at the pooches but not let them out. People I know who are looking for somehting to ahul garden stuff and dogs, I always reccomend the Escape. Cheap materials? Sure, but if you’re going to treat it as a beater. . . .

    A 3-series wagon has has operable rear glass, but the CR-V doesn’t. The RAV4 doesn’t. The Equinox doesn’t.

    Oddly enough, by making it look truckier, it now stands out more, since the RAV4, CR-V, and Equinox are all getting more car-like. There is a utilitarian appearance here that (to my eyes at least) works well, in the same way that the 80’s Jeep Cherokee did. The Escape’s look is a bit fussier than the Classic Jeep, but at least it doesn’t look like it was excreted out the rear-most orafice of an animal, the way the Venza kind of looks.

  • avatar
    RyanB

    @revolver1978: An acquaintance is a pretty big Escape fan–she’s now on her second. She hung on to the old one, and she hauls her dog everywhere in the thing. The new one is the decked-out XLT, too–leather, satellite radio, Bluetooth, the works.

    Thing is, though, she also said in a separate conversation that she would totally be in the market for a compact luxury car–quiet, comfortable, but comparatively low gas mileage. But such a thing doesn’t really exist. Lincoln, are you listening? (I would ask Cadillac, but they’re too busy declaring bankruptcy to listen just now.)

  • avatar
    MikeCanada

    I don’t disagree with the assessment of the interior of the Escape. I sat in a new one at a Ford store, and frankly, it was awful. However, the Escape outsells every other small SUV in Canada by a very wide margin. (The Rav4 is second.) So there must be something in this vehicle as an overall package that appeals to people.

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    @ MikeCanada
    It (the Escape Interior) is pretty cheap. . . . OK style-wise (no risk, nothing earth shattering) but the materials definitely are not premium.
    I don’t think the RAV4’s are any better in quality, but the arrangement is more interesting and the gaps tighter, more like stereo equipment, especially the center stack.
    Of entry level cute-utes, the CR-V has the interior to beat, in my eyes. To bad it is woefully slow in performance.

    General –
    As someone soon to be in the market for a small 3-dog capable vehicle, and occasional work commuter,I keep comparing my options in this segment (an CPO 08 or new 09) to a used X3. . . . but am afraid of potentially wallet damaging repairs. Haven’t driven one yet, that could be the clincher. Also comparing these against an Outback wagon, and a Jetta Sportwagen. I don’t really need the AWD, but it just seems to me that if you’re going to get an SUV looking vehicle, it should have AWD. My own hang-up I suppose. . . I’ve never gotten stuck in the snow in Pittsburgh.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have a loaded ’09 Escape Limited for a rental from Hertz at the moment. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. I generally detest SUVs, but it is quiet, goes nicely, handles and rides well and is really quite unobtrusive. I was shocked to see 25mpg on the trip computer after battling from ATL to Athens, GA at rush hour. Reset it when I picked it up. No transmission issues with this one, in fact I was fairly impressed with the 6-cogger.

    On the downside, the driver’s seat is about as comfortable as the seats in the Canadair CRJ700 I flew down to ATL in. Which is to say, about like a wooden church pew. All the lumbar support of a Milkmaid’s stool. Maybe the Ford bottom cushion can be used as a flotation device? The interior is lifted to “barely Ok” status by the piano-black treatment in the Limited spec, and the fact that Sync is pretty darned cool. I imagine the lesser models are pretty awful. The ergonomics are just simply a joke.

    All in all, a decent rental (in another universe from the Grand Marquis I got last week!), but I’ll be quite happy to get back in my Saab when I get home.

  • avatar
    grobby2

    I have test driven almost every small suv on the market. Although not perfect, the Escape is still my favorite. It has nice handling, decent power from the four cy engine and comfortable seats. I would buy this over any other cute ute

  • avatar
    grobby22

    I have since purchased a 2009 Escape. I love this car. Great gas mileage, handling and great finish and fit. Before I purchased looked and drove almost every car in the segment. 4 cyl engine is fine, tagged to the 6 speed trasmission. Great car for the money.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    I owned an 03 Escape, 4cyl, 5-speed.  I opted for the 5-speed, because at the time, the auto had a goofy column shift, and I figured the mileage would be better with the stick.  The stick also gave the little Escape a nice basic feel.

    Unfortunately, the 5-speed, or rather the clutch used with the 5-speed, ended up being a deal breaker for me.  The clutch suffered from horrible chatter that worsened when the weather was wet or overly humid.

    Otherwise, the Escape was one of my favorite vehicles, and I will most likely purchase another (after my current car is used up).  I found it to be perfectly reliable (I drove it over 90K miles), fun to drive (the front wheel drive, 4 cylinders have a light, balanced feel to them).  When mounted with dedicated snow tires, my Escape provided enough traction to allow me to go anywhere with confidence.  I loved the cargo carrying ability, and when my roadtrips turned into real journeys, I never hesitated to pull over, put down the rear seats, and sleep (like a baby).

    Honestly, if it wasn’t for the MADDENING clutch chatter, I’d still have that car…

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