|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
And then, like a meteorite from the heavens, boom: the all-new Ford Escape is here. It wiped out all traces of its ancient ancestor and felt like a blessing, a mana from the gods (who happened to look and sound like Alan Mulally) who said: “You’ve suffered long enough from carbon dated products. Now we give you the best we have. We give you EcoBoost. We give you Intelligent AWD. We give you SYNC with MyFord Touch powered by Microsoft™.”
With the exception of MyFord Touch (MFT), everything else is what Ford needed. It’s what the compact crossover segment needed. It’s what you needed, you just don’t know it yet. It brings curiosity. It brings excitement. It brings intrigue. Whoever said that this genre was cornered by the Japanese makes didn’t tell Ford.
The question now beckons: is the Ford Escape the best compact crossover out there.
It’s certainly come a long way, but it’s still not the super-uber best one out there. Still, you’ve got to hand it over to the Ford guys. A for effort—high five and slow clap. For starters, it looks nice. Nice like a spaceship landed on the roads, nice. There’s not a single weak point to the Escape’s sheet metal. It’s modern, sleek, and filled with all the correct angles and none of the curves. It’s as chiseled as Ben Affleck’s Batman chin. Even the 19-inch rims are nicely done. It’s garnered enough inquisitive looks from motorists, passersby, and gasoline station attendants. More importantly, it’s made one owner of the other “turbocharged compact crossover” salivate with envy. It’s like the Focus and the Explorer gave birth to a handsome crossover. This thing will give you a man crush, guaranteed.
But that admiration wears off and turns into confusion the moment you step inside the cabin. It’s like bubby cute Miley Cyrus suddenly turn all crazy and twerky on you. Without looking at the owner’s manual, just firing up the Escape requires a minute or two. After locating the oddly positioned Engine Start button, press it and you’ll be greeted by an avalanche of flashing screens, beeps, and chimes. It’s a sensory overload. And this experience doesn’t get any easier with time. Simply put, with the exception of the great seating position and the location of the major driving controls (steering wheel, shifter, and stalks), it’s an ergonomic nightmare.
The biggest culprit is the dual colored screens with one sandwiched between the speedo and tach, and the other, serving as MFT central. Both display a wealth of information, which is good, but navigating through them is confusing, which is bad. For instance, the small screen in the instrument cluster shows the multi-function display which is controlled by the left set of steering wheel buttons. That’s easy enough. So you’d think the story’s the same with MFT which is controlled by the joystick looking thingy? Nope. The joystick isn’t even a joystick; it simply operates the Tune and Seek functions. You want to access MFT? You have to use the touchscreen. And boy, is it laggy. The annoyance continues when you find that vehicle functions aren’t centralized either on the multi-function display or MFT. You want to change fuel consumption units? That’s in the multi-function display. Clock settings? MFT. Driver aids? Multi-function display. Rear camera? MFT. There’s no fast and easy rule. You simply have to go through all the menus and discover a nugget of new sub-menus. Well, at least you won’t get bored.
This crossover isn’t for the technologically challenged. But the ‘confuse and conquer’ attitude of the Escape doesn’t end there. There are other gripes, albeit less major. First, the CD slot is located on top of the center console, where the natural driver’s line of sight is. The MFT screen should have been put there. Second, controls for the customizable mood lighting aren’t located in the lighting panel. They’re on the panel controlling the sunroof (as a side note, the mood lighting does double as a door ajar warning, letting you know which door wasn’t closed properly; a nice touch). Third, see that high-gloss piano black accent running through the dash? It looks nice, but not when it’s blinding you half the time when sunshine hits it. Finally, it comes with a huge array of sensors like front and rear proximity sensors, but it only knows how to beep. There’re no visual representations where the beeps are coming from. It’s hard to understand how the Focus could have a visual indicator of where the obstacle is, while the Escape doesn’t. It’s so annoying, you’ll end up turning off the sensors before driving off, relying instead on the rear camera during parking.
For all its ergonomic pitfalls, the Escape is the segment’s most comfortable offering. Driving four to five hours straight is peanuts. It’s clearly built for interstate driving in the US. The four-spoke tiller is nice to hold, though the leather does have a weird fake texture. The front seats are highly supportive with adjustable lumbars and power adjustment for the front occupants (with memory for the driver) while the rear ones have reclining seat backs. Plus, there are eight air conditioning vents upfront and two at the back ensuring everyone gets his or her fair share of machine-chilled air. Space-wise, it’s much more cramped than its generous exterior dimensions suggest, akin to a Focus. So bringing your four friends along for the comfortable ride may not be a great idea, unless they’re really close or they’re Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. Items in the cargo hold fare much better than the passengers with a low and flat loading space. It’s tall enough to fit a common 18-liter (four gallon) water container upright with room to spare for the tonneau cover. The blacked out portion of the bumper’s a nice touch as well, preventing unwanted nicks and scratches when you have to slide heavy stuff out like luggage. And speaking about the cargo hold, you can’t talk about the Escape without discussing its most talked about feature: the hands-free tailgate. Anyone can do a power tailgate (the best execution so far, by the way), but the kick below the rear bumper to open? Magic.
Now comes the much-awaited part: the drive. With 240 horsepower and 366 Nm of torque, it easily stands toe-to-toe with another turbocharged compact crossover, the same one that caused salivation to its owner upon seeing the Escape. But despite the on-paper power specs, the on-road behavior is rather different. The direct-injected, turbocharged powerplant will largely disappoint Paul Walker wannabes because it gives the feel of a large displacement engine with its linear power delivery. It doesn’t give that “VTEC (or turbo) just kicked in ‘yo” moment nor does it dig you into the seatback. Instead, there’s locomotive-like progression. The aural quality is muted and muffled, with just a hint of a growl at the top end. Progress may not be felt by the seat of the pants, but it’s there. The speedometer doesn’t lie nor will any potential speed gun. What’s even lovelier is that it doesn’t rely on any fanciful switchable drive mode. It only has D and S. The lack of a selectable drive mode though means there’s no real way to curb its insatiable appetite for fuel: 5.55 km/L in the city, 15.38 km/L on the highway (good for a mixed figure of 7.14 km/L). That’s compared its rival which when left in ‘Intelligent’ mode still does 8.19 km/L in the city! Thankfully, the Escape balances that out by not being too picky with its fuel. It can run on regular 93-octane unleaded with no problems.
The six-speed automatic plays a supporting role in the Escape’s great on-road behavior. It shifts smoothly. In stop-and-go traffic, it goes largely unnoticed, giving the same shift shock-free feel of a CVT. It’s that good. It’s also flexible and anticipates your needs. It will adjust according to driving conditions instantaneously. During more spirited driving, it will hold the gear for you and will even allow you to bounce the limiter a tad before shifting up. It’s so good and responsive that you’ll forget that there’s a +/- rocker on the shift lever. And speaking about that rocker switch, that’s the least favorite thing about the entire driving experience, so good thing you don’t need to use that thing. Ever.
Outfitted with beefy 235/45 R19 Continental ContiProContacts, you’ll expect the Escape to have a firm and crashy ride. But, that’s far from the truth. In reality, suspension tuning is one its greatest strengths. It’s best experienced at mid to high speed where it quells road imperfections excellently. Concrete road ribs are absorbed very well and no crashiness makes it to the cabin. At low speeds, potholes and humps are much more noticeable, perhaps because of limited suspension travel, but again, they are mitigated before they reach the driver’s seat. It’s got a well-balanced ride that leans more toward the “comfort” side of the equation. And speaking of comfort, it’s serenely quiet with minimal road, tire, and wind noise. It’s too quiet in fact that those boy racers who refuse to grow up will feel somewhat disappointed (you know who you are).
It comes standard with an Intelligent AWD system that works transparently—you’ll only see it work via the multi-function display (if you happen to find it in the menus, that is). It shifts from front-wheel to all-wheel drive instantaneously without driver intervention. It quells wheel spin and torque steer excellently. The electric power steering offers an initially quick feel only to slow up as you rack up the turns. As a result, the Escape is best experienced in urban environments or at high speeds with gentle curves. In more aggressive driving, like the infamous “Tanayburgring”, it will exhibit noticeable body lean, tipping through corners. It has a great tendency to understeer as well.
At this point, it’s very clear that the Escape isn’t a WRC car on stilts. It doesn’t sound like a turbo. It doesn’t push you into the seat like a turbo. It doesn’t even ride like a turbo. It sure does sound like Ford’s pretty much muted the driving fun, and they did; but only if set your expectation as such. High-performance crossovers are supposed to deliver the driving goods; that’s expected. What makes the Escape different is that it does so without dispensing some of the more important attributes like comfort and NVH isolation. Perhaps it’s part of their One Ford Plan or extensive market research, but it’s clear that they want this crossover to be everything to everyone. And to a point, they’ve succeeded. It’s got enough tech and gizmos to keep you interested (or confused), enough grunt to emphasize ‘sport’ in ‘sport utility vehicle’, and enough design pizzazz to keep you, your spouse, and your nosy neighbor driving “the other turbocharged crossover” interested. That said, Ford did miss out on the Ken Block influence on this one, and it’s for that reason, maybe you would rather be the guy with “the other turbocharged crossover”.
2015 Ford Escape 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium AWD
|Ownership||2015 Ford Escape 2.0 EcoBoost Titanium AWD|
|Vehicle Classification||Compact Crossover|
|Body Type||5-door Crossover|
|Engine / Drive||F/AWD|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Direct Injection, Turbocharged|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Inline-4|
|BHP @ rpm||240 @ 5,500|
|Nm @ rpm||366 @ 3,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 93~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,710|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Multi-Link|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Continental ContiProContact 235/45 R19 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Front and Rear (with Reverse Camera), Cross Traffic Alert|
|Fog Lamps||Yes, Front|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Seating Adjustment||Electronic (front, driver w/ memory)|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||10|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes|