2019 Escape New Car Test Drive
The Ford Escape has been an enormous success, with hundreds of thousands sold each year, for a few good reasons. Chief among them might be its styling. Ford builds many truck-like utility vehicles (soon there will be two more, with the coming return of the Bronco), but the Escape slips into that fleet discreetly disguised as a big hatchback, at least from behind the wheel. A responsive turbo engine complements the snappy handling.
This is the seventh year of this generation, and it will be the last, with a redesign scheduled for 2020. For 2019, Ford makes a big touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility standard, on all but the base Escape.
The base engine is a 2.5-liter inline-4 making 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. It's smooth enough, and it's nearly as fast as the turbo on the freeway, but it's not as quick. It has a 6-speed automatic transmission that works well, but also works hard with the available power.
The upgrade that most buyers choose is the 1.5-liter turbo-4. It makes 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, and while that isn't much more than the base engine, the turbo makes Escape-ing much more fun and adventuresome. It uses the same 6-speed automatic, with welcome paddle shifters. The transmission is able to be more relaxed with this stronger engine.
Our own choice, of course, is the hottest engine. That's a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 245 horsepower, with available all-wheel drive. From the model's firm ride to its sharp steering, it creams the competition.
The not-SUV styling works on the outside. Inside, the heavily styled dash cuts into some passenger room, and the seats are pretty firm.
The Escape is on the small side to start with, having a wheelbase of 106 inches and overall length of 178 inches. It's not as space-efficient as a Honda CR-V, which has a shorter wheelbase by 3 inches but 1 inch more rear legroom.
But the Escape is a good bit bigger than the next smallest Ford crossover, the EcoSport, with a 99-inch wheelbase and length of 161 inches.
With the standard 2.5-liter engine and front-wheel drive, the EPA rates the Escape at 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined.
With the 1.5-liter turbo and front-wheel drive, it's rated at 23/30/26 mpg, or with all-wheel drive, at 22/28/24 mpg.
The 2.0-liter turbo-4 gets 20/27/23 mpg with all-wheel drive and 21/28/24 mpg with front-wheel drive.
Both turbocharged engines have stop/start technology and direct injection that boost fuel mileage, and all Escapes get active grille shutters that help smooth airflow.
The NHTSA gives the Escape five stars overall for crash protection, while the IIHS only gives it four. It does well in their front- and side-impact tests, but gets a “Poor” rating in its small-overlap frontal crash test. Many cars get less than the top “Good” score, but it's three notches down to “Poor.”
Ford doesn't make forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking easy; it's not available at all on the S model, and is a $1,295 option on the other models, even the top Titanium.
Other available safety features include adaptive cruise control, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors. .
The Escape comes in S, SE, SEL, and Titanium models.
At $24,105, the Escape S comes with the base engine, cloth seats, power features, air conditioning, 17-inch wheels, cruise control, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system, and Sync infotainment with a tiny 4.2-inch center screen that isn't a touchscreen. All-wheel drive isn't available on the S.
The SE at $26,500 is the best value and best seller, despite the fact that the 1.5-liter turbo-4 engine raises the price. For that $2,400 difference you also get a power driver seat, satellite radio, keypad entry, keyless ignition, Sync 3 infotainment with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated front seats. All-wheel drive is available for another $1,500, same as the next two models.
The SEL at $28,445 gets a power tailgate that raises with a swish of your foot, leather seats, and rear parking sensors. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking are a $1,295 option on these and on the Titanium trim level; some rivals offer this safety tech standard.
Titanium at $32,620 adds a 12-speaker 390-watt Sony audio system, navigation, power passenger seat, HD radio, blind-spot monitors, ambient lighting, and 18-inch wheels. Options include all-wheel drive, automatic emergency braking, panoramic roof, a tow package, and even automatic park assist. A fully-loaded Titanium hits $40,000. .