2003 Escape New Car Test Drive
The Ford Escape is one of the best of the small, affordable SUVs, assuming that off-road travel isn't a priority. The Escape offers agile handling on paved and unpaved roads. It accelerates briskly when equipped with the optional V6 engine. It rides smoothly and its refined interior seats four people comfortably. Folding down the rear seats reveals a flat, moderately sized cargo area. Best of all, its price is relatively low.
The Escape was an all-new vehicle in 2001. For 2003, all models have upgraded interior materials for better appearance and feel. The seat fabrics, floor mats and door trim are of higher quality and are available in new patterns and hues. The center stack, door bezels and window switches are painted for a two-tone interior effect, and the window switches are illuminated for nighttime convenience.
For 2003, Ford has added an up-market Limited trim level, and a limited-edition option package called Midnight.
For 2003, Ford has expanded the Escape model lineup from two trim levels to three. XLS starts at $18,800 with front-wheel drive (2WD) and at $21,895 with four-wheel drive (4WD). XLT begins at $22,335 with 2WD and at $23,960 with 4WD. New for 2003 is the Limited, at $25,460 with 2WD and $26,910 with 4WD.
The base XLS comes with a high level of standard equipment that includes air conditioning, illuminated remote entry, power windows and mirrors, a tilt steering column, center console, 15-inch steel wheels and an AM/FM/CD/cassette audio system with a clock. Power for the XLS comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Zetec engine producing 130 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque. XLS shifts gears with a standard five-speed manual transmission. A 3.0-liter, 201-horsepower Duratec V6 and four-speed automatic are offered as an option.
XLT comes standard with the Duratec V6 and automatic transmission. XLT also gets four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), premium cloth upholstery, a power driver's seat, privacy glass, a power moonroof, cruise control, a cargo cover and convenience net, fog lights, an in-dash six-CD changer, and white-letter P235/70R16 tires on16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels.
The Limited comes with premium leather seats, seat heaters, front side-impact air bags, dual front sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated exterior mirrors, Ford's Reverse Sensing System and a MACH Audio in-dash six-CD changer with automatic volume control. From the outside, you can spot a Limited by its monochrome exterior, with body-color cladding, fascias, moldings, door handles and liftgate trim; and by its bright machined 16-inch aluminum wheels.
Option packages are available for each trim level. For example, the XLT Premium Package ($1230) includes leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 60/40 split rear bench seat, front door map pockets, an overhead console with dual storage bins, a front passenger under-seat storage tray, and a power moonroof with sunshade.
New for 2003 is the XLT Appearance Package, which includes glossy Dark Shadow Gray bumper fascias and side cladding, machined bright aluminum 16-inch wheels and Dark Shadow Gray step bars.
Also new is a limited edition XLT called Midnight. The Midnight Escape features gloss black paint on fascias, body cladding and wheel-lip moldings. A unique black trim treatment and ebony Nudo leather-trimmed seats complement the all-black exterior. Midnight comes loaded with side-impact air bags, a MACH MP3 music system, and 16-inch bright, machined aluminum wheels with high-gloss black accents and silver center caps. Midnight options include side-step bars and a trailer-towing package. Ford expects to build no more than 5,000 Midnight Escapes, priced $24,995 for the 2WD version, and $26,445 for the four-wheeler.