The Great Escape


The Great Escape

Can the revamped 2018 Ford Escape hold a candle to its rivals in a highly competitive segment?

By George Kuruvilla

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Published: Thu 25 Jan 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Jan 2018, 1:00 AM

Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) have been the story of the season for many years now. Most manufacturers have at least half-a-dozen SUVs in their line-up and the American automaker with the big F is one such example. Recently, Ford revamped their Escape compact crossover SUV, so we decided to dissect what this (possibly) million-dollar makeover was all about.
Ford has many SUVs and 'wannabe' SUVs i.e. crossovers, but each -competent though they may be - have their own quirks when it comes to styling. The EcoSport seems a tad too round, the Flex too rectangular and almost MPV-like, the Edge and Explorer more car-like and less 'SUV', and the Expedition too bulky. It is only the Escape that comes across as proportionate - there is a visual balance to its silhouette. And when viewed in the flesh, it does appear larger than its dimensions suggest: which is, 4,524 mm length, 1,701 mm height and 1,838 mm width.
With the revamp came a bold new front end. And although its detailing seems more conventional and geometric, it certainly is more deliberate. The front grille now has a slatted chrome arrangement instead of a blacked-out grille. The headlamps, with their sharper edges, have a nice pullback effect and the fog lamps below are larger. The door handles - at least on our test car - came in body-colour. and like many other Ford vehicles, it comes with an Easy Fuel® capless fuel filler - there is no cap to handle; you just need to plug the fuel nozzle in. Smaller lamps grace the tailgate, while the lower valance and the dual stainless steel exhaust tips remain. Depending on the trim, you can end up with either 17-inch steel wheels to elegant multi-spoke 19-inch wheels. In the company of rivals that share a similar price tag, the Escape maintains its identity - and should appeal to both sexes.
On the inside, it's the usual Ford story. The Escape retains its busy architecture that consists of interesting lines that drop and rise almost unexpectedly, and panels that are mostly hard plastic. The fixtures and panel arrangement are pleasing to the eye - no rental car banality here. The ergonomics and comfort levels are high, but it undercuts rivals like the Honda CR-V and VW Tiguan in terms of fit and finish. The standout feature would be the air vents; the inboard ones have a curvature to them and the outboard ones have an extra set of vents - the direction of which can be controlled individually. The latter is a good idea, but we remain apprehensive about its effectiveness.
The 3-spoke steering wheel is of a good thickness - it replaces the 4-spoke variety on the predecessor - and gets a leather wrapping, as does the shift lever. The rest of the knobs, gauges and switchgear are legible and within grasp. Some may find the touchscreen infotainment screen, which sits under a cowl atop the dashboard, a bit of a stretch away. Well, that's why SYNC3 comes with voice-operated control. Also with the refresh, they have managed to squeeze in two twin cupholders alongside the shift lever, allowing for a larger central cubby.
As for space, it is more than sufficient for tall lanky individuals up front with the added convenience of multiple seat adjustments, while the second row poses no complaints for kids or adults.
Starting 2017, the choices for powertrains are two. The base car gets the 2.5-litre naturally aspirated 4-cylinder which gets you better gas mileage - specifically 7.3l/100km, thanks to its light-weight FWD layout - but also puts out smaller output figures. This 4-cylinder dishes out an apt-for-everyday-driving 170 bhp at 6,000 rpm and an average 230 Nm of torque at 4,500 rpm.
But for a lot more oomph, we suggest you put your name down for the EcoBoost motor which, in recent times, Ford has included in many different applications, starting from the F-150 full-size pick-up truck to the Mustang muscle car - all in different displacements, of course. Our test car had the 2.0L EcoBoost variety that incorporates direct fuel injection with turbocharging and variable valve timing, which we could get running using the unusually-named FordPower button.
With its fuel economy rating of 8.3 l/100km, it does suffer a little at the pump, meaning you need to pay more - but for all purposes of going fast and smooth, this is the one. The 100 km/h comes up in a brisk 7.6 seconds and it feels as quick as the new Volkswagen Tiguan in full throttle. Like most Fords, this too has a fun-to-drive quality about it. Yes, there is some body roll and some lag from the turbo but, behind the wheel, you're in control. Much of the traction can be attributed to the contact patch lent by larger wheel sizes and their matching tyres, but also the Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive System that is capable of sensing loss of traction at any corner and diverts torque in that direction in a matter of milliseconds. The vehicle doesn't disappoint with its soft riding quality and the Adaptive Cruise Control which will make everyday living easier.
In terms of practicality, this Escape, like most other Fords, does many things right. You have upto 456 litres of space behind the seats - which is as good as any full-size sedan. And by dropping the 60:40 split folding seats, you get a rather large 1,653 litre capacity to access. If you have your hands full, you have the hands-free liftgate at your disposal.
Parallel parking has been made easier with Active Park Assist. Simply push a button, and sensors locate a suitable space as you drive past. The system then steers the vehicle into the space while you modulate the shifter, brake and accelerator. Park Out Assist helps you exit in the same way. That's not all. Top trims also come with Blind Spot Alert, ABS, ESC with trailer stability function, Hill Launch Assist and Rollover Mitigation.
Cabin comfort is maintained using a dual-zone electronic climate control that was up for the task even with five on board. And most of them were kept busy thanks to the illuminated mirrors on the sunshade. As for infotainment, you have Bluetooth and USB ports to play out your mood for the minute. Lower trims start with 6, but higher up you get upto 10 speakers and a subwoofer.
The Ford Escape is a conventionally-styled, but handsome crossover that has a busy, yet ergonomically-designed interior with plenty of space for kit and kin. The EcoBoost option makes it a surprising powerhouse and all the more fun to drive. However, for Ford, it was never about how well their cars are designed. The thorn in their foot has been about reliability and resale. Our advice is: get a decent package with a warranty period and service contract, and you should be fine.
The Escape is also known as the Kuga in some markets.
Body type: 5-seater; 5-door compact crossover SUV
Engine: Front-engine; turbocharged 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder; all-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed SelectShift (automatic)
Peak output: 239 bhp @ 5,300 rpm; 366 Nm @ 2,700 - 4,500 rpm
0 to 100km/h: 7.6 seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 220 km/h (drag limited; estimated)
Price: Starting at Dh89,900
Pros: Traditional but decent looks; quick on its wheels; general space and ergonomics
Cons: Questionable resale and reliability; some hard plastics
Author's rating: 7.5/10 stars

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