October 15, 2012
2013 Ford Escape SE 4WD. Click image to enlarge
|Comparison: Compact CUVs, Round Two
First Drive: 2013 Ford Escape
First Drive: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
Manufacturer’s web site
Review and photos by Chris Chase
2013 Ford Escape
Whether it’s installed in an entertaining sports car or a utilitarian crossover, a good engine can make or break a vehicle. The 2013 Ford Escape is a rarity in the compact CUV class with the availability of three different powerplants: a 2.5L four-cylinder, carried over from the 2012 model; a 1.6L turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder; and a 2.0L EcoBoost that replaces the previous Escape’s V6 as the most powerful in the range.
If you want the motor that makes the Escape one of the best-driving vehicles in its class, then you want the 1.6L EcoBoost. This is the standard engine in the SE model (the 2.5L comes in base S trim, and the 2.0L is optional in the SE and standard in SEL and Titanium trims); its 178 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque aren’t world-beating, but it impresses with how it delivers that power. Torque comes on at low revs to make the Escape feel strong in city driving, and it’s only when pressed for peak highway power that this engine runs out of breath. The silver lining is that it sounds good and spins smoothly even when being flogged for everything it’s got. In the vast majority of driving situations, this 1.6L is all the engine the Escape needs.
I had a brief discussion with a few other journalists who had tested the Escape with the 2.0L engine, and the prevailing opinion was that that engine was almost too powerful for what is a relatively small vehicle. They thought fuel economy suffered as a result; with the 1.6L, the Escape’s Natural Resources Canada estimates run as low as 9.1 L/100 km in city driving and 6.0 L/100 km on the highway for a front-wheel-drive model; ratings for my AWD tester are 9.2 and 6.6. I averaged 10.9 L/100 in mostly city driving, which one of those other journalists said was a full 20 percent better than he saw in a 2.0L model.
The Escape’s ride generated more positive impressions. Here’s a suspension that strikes a fine balance between controlling body motions and preserving ride comfort over rough roads. That comfort doesn’t come at the expense of handling, either: the Escape’s steering is quick to turn in and offers good road feel, and the car displays great balance in aggressive cornering. Being based on the Focus, the Escape has a similarly wide turning circle. Like the Focus, I suspect this quirk becomes a more serious annoyance with the 18- and 19-inch wheel and tire packages available in place of the 17s standard on S and SE trims.