2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost
2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost
2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Justin Pritchard

The Ford Escape isn’t one of the market’s most recently updated or freshest crossover models, but it is the latest version of one of the first and most successful crossovers on the scene. Escape has become a staple in the segment, largely by offering good value, a nice list of features, plenty of powertrain and technology selection, decent off-road capability, and a decent price.

For 2014, Escape is handsome and modern looking, even if this generation has seen the former’s truck-like shape curbed in favor of what looks like a jacked-up Focus wagon. Though your writer misses the days when the Escape looked like a little truck, it is what’s under the skin that counts – and with Escape, several signature technologies exist under that skin to help it stand apart from the droves of crossovers with which it competes.

One of those technologies is Ford Sync, which lives in the central display screen and steering wheel–mounted voice-command paddle. After a few days of practice, virtually any function relating to climate control, navigation, entertainment or communication is just a simple click and spoken command away. The system can read your text messages out loud, let you speak out the address of a destination, track down the nearest pancake joint or even turn the heat up. You can ask Sync to display gas prices, movie showtimes, weather conditions and traffic reports too. So, it’s pretty high tech, a little futuristic, and a nice thing to have if you’re a bad out-of-town traveler like me and frequently get lost and kerfluffled when away from home.

Another signature technology, EcoBoost, lives under the Escape’s hood. Clever marketers whipped up this name for the principle of turbocharging small-displacement engines to replace bigger and thirstier ones. Carmakers have been turbocharging small engines to save fuel and increase performance for decades, after all – and that’s the case with most of Escape’s engine options.

Where most competitors offer just one engine, Escape offers three – two of which run EcoBoost technology. Standard is a 2.5L Duratec four-cylinder. No EcoBoost here – it’s the standard choice with 168 horsepower. For more torque and the promise of improved mileage, you can get the smaller 1.6L EcoBoost, as fitted to this this tester, for 178 horsepower and, more importantly, 184 lb-ft of torque. This smaller EcoBoost mill intends to perform like a larger four-cylinder while turning in fuel mileage on par with a smaller one.

Escape’s top-line engine is a 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder running 240 horsepower. There’s no V6, since ditching V6 engines in place of a boosted four-banger has become quite a sport lately.

2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost dashboard2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost gauges
2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost dashboard & gauges. Click image to enlarge

Performance from the tester’s mid-range engine is on par with what test drivers will find in a RAV4, CR-V, CX-5 (2.5), Forester (2.5) or Santa Fe (2.4), or most any other naturally aspirated four-cylinder sports ute, but with richer mid-range power and a slight improvement in throttle response. The turbocharger isn’t fitted to make Escape a rocket ship or let it lay the smack down on that guy with the ML 63 AMG – it’s there to boost the little engine’s power when drivers need it, so they can save more fuel when they don’t.

Smoothness, sound output and overall character is on par with any of the similarly powered, larger-displacement engines offered in competing products. The turbocharger operates in near silence and with minimal boost lag. For most drivers, most of the time, the little EcoBoost will simply feel like a larger engine. That’s pretty much the point.

Intelligent AWD, which sees the system’s hardware cleverly packaged into the rear axle, was on board for fuss-free traction, too. You can get front-wheel drive if you like, but this advanced and sophisticated new AWD system is excellent, fast acting, lightweight and efficient – meaning it works well, and without much penalty on fuel mileage.

2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost
2014 Ford Escape SE EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

Ford’s torque vectoring control witchcraft is at work, transferring more power to the outer wheels in corners, and effectively using the AWD system to help turn the vehicle and keep things agile and frisky if you get to having some fun on a winding backroad. Driven thusly, Escape feels that delightful bit smaller and more planted than you might expect from a vehicle of this size and height. It’s a touch competent and athletic in quick corners, and doesn’t handle like an inflatable bouncy castle.

Elsewhere, Escape’s cabin looks slick, complete with a futuristic-looking centre stack, easy-to-use controls and a fresh and modern look to the displays, switches, readouts and instruments. Controls on and around the steering wheel provide quick, eyes-free access to many functions, including the full-color driver computer for keeping your eyes on vital running data.

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