2001 Ford Escape
Click image to enlarge

All-new for the 2001 model year, the Ford Escape is a compact SUV designed in collaboration with Mazda who offer their own version, the Tribute. The Escape is available in two models: XLS with a standard 130 horsepower 2.0 litre four cylinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission, and XLT with a standard 200 horsepower 3.0 litre V6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission – an automatic transmission is not available with the four cylinder engine. Escapes range in price from $20,245 to the mid $30,000 range.

Roomy interior, class-leading horsepower, but V6 engine unrefined

Introduced for the 2001 model year, Ford’s new compact SUV, the Escape is the product of a joint venture between Ford and Mazda (Ford has a controlling interest in Mazda). Mazda engineered the vehicle in Japan and Ford builds it in Kansas City, Missouri. Mazda has their own version of the Escape called the Tribute which has different styling, a different interior, and re-tuned suspension and steering – otherwise it’s the same vehicle.

The Escape fits into the popular compact SUV class which now includes the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda Tribute, Hyundai Santa Fe, Subaru Forester, Chevrolet Tracker, Suzuki Grant Vitara/Vitara/XL7, Nissan Xterra, Jeep Liberty, and Kia Sportage – this is one of the fastest growing vehicle categories in Canada.

Escapes come in two versions, XLS and XLT. The XLS model has a standard 130 horsepower 2.0 litre DOHC four cylinder engine, front-wheel-drive and a five-speed manual transmission – it’s also available with an optional 200 horsepower 3.0 litre DOHC V6 engine, all-wheel-drive, and four-speed automatic transmission. The better-equipped XLT model has the standard V6 engine, all-wheel-drive, and four-speed automatic transmission.

The automatic transmission is offered only with the V6 engine – consumers who want the base four cylinder, front-wheel-drive model with an automatic transmission are out of luck. This may explain why Ford expects the Escape’s first year’s sales mix to be 80% V6/20% 4 cylinder models.

Interior roomy, well-designed

2001 Ford Escape
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Though it has a fairly high ground clearance, the Escape’s step-in height is relatively low and there are grab handles near the roof to assist entry. Front passengers step easily over a raised sill and into comfortable high-back bucket seats with a high hip point – outward visibility is excellent with the exception of the rear window where a bulging rear wiper motor obscures vision slightly. The cabin is roomy for a small SUV and offers generous headroom and legroom for four or five adults.

The driving position is excellent – a small, fat-rimmed steering wheel is positioned relatively low, the white-faced gauges are easy to see and the blacked-out centre control panel is within easy reach. I liked the angled door-mounted power window buttons which face the driver and passengers, and the handy coin holder to the left of the steering wheel.

A shift lever mounted on the steering column frees up the centre console area for extra storage space. For example, just below the dash is a small bin with a 12 volt powerpoint, and two more storage areas for loose items like pens, phones, notepads, and cassettes or CD’s. In addition, there’s a huge storage bin with armrest between the front seats – you could probably put a backpack in there – and front door pockets.

The rear seats also have a high hip point, and there is lots of footroom underneath the front seats. Rear passengers have the use of map pockets on the back of the front seats, and two flip-out cupholders on back of centre console.

The rear 60/40 split folding bench seats feature seat cushions that flip up against the front seats, while the backrests fold down flat onto the floor – this creates a flat loading surface from the rear hatch to the front seats. If you require more cargo area, the rear seat cushions can be removed.

The rear hatch lifts up easily from bumper level – alternatively, the rear window glass can open separately for lightweight packages. The carpeted cargo area has four floor hooks, a 12 volt powerpoint on the left-hand side, and a storage area behind the wheelwell that looks like it’s made for a jug of windshield washer fluid. A retractable cargo cover and cargo net are standard on the XLT.

My test car had tubular side step bars to assist entry and exit, but I found them unnecessary and even troublesome because you have to step over them to get in and out.

Interior safety features include dual front airbags, optional front side airbags, four height-adjustable head restraints, and four outboard 3-point seatbelts – the centre rear seatbelt is a lap belt. For child seats, there are rear lower anchors and upper tether anchors.

Driving Impressions

2001 Ford Escape
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The Escape’s ride is firm but comfortable, and there is less bobbing and pitching than in many truck-based SUV’s. This is due to the Escape’s car-like unit body construction, four wheel independent suspension (front MacPherson strut/rear multi-link), and wide track. On paved highways, I found the Escape’s handling to be stable, predictable, and the driving experience to be enjoyable. The Escape’s power-assisted steering is responsive and quick, and the front disc/rear drum brakes with ABS and EBD (electronic brake force distribution)(XLT models only) offered excellent stopping power. According to figures supplied by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, the Escape brakes from 100 km/h to 0 in just 41.7 metres (137 ft.) – that was the shortest distance of any new 2001 SUV tested, with the exception of the BMW X5. It’s worth noting that a Mazda Tribute without ABS (tested under the same conditions) had a considerably longer braking distance – the Tribute is ess!
entially the same vehicle.

From a standing start, the Escape’s acceleration is brisk but rather noisy – a combination of engine noise, vibration and the sound of rushing air from the engine fan makes the Escape sound ‘trucky’. However, at higher engine speeds and while cruising on the freeway, the engine is relatively quiet. With 200 horsepower, the Escape XLT has more than enough performance to merge onto the freeway and pass slower cars. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h takes just 9.5 seconds according to the independent AJAC tests, putting the Escape at or near the top of its class in acceleration.

With the V6 engine, the Escape has a maximum trailer-towing capacity of 1587 kg (3500 lb.), but you must order the optional Class 11 trailer package which includes hitch, wiring kit, 4-pin harness and engine oil cooler.

2001 Ford Escape
Click image to enlarge

The V6 engine’s fuel consumption is rather thirsty: official figures are 13.4 l/100 km (21 mpg) in the city and 9.2 l/100 km (31 mpg) on the highway, but this would be under optimal conditions.
The Escape’s all-wheel-drive system is a full-time four-wheel-drive system that operates in front-wheel-drive most of the time, but automatically transfers torque to the rear when the front wheels slip. This kind of system provides better traction on wet, snowy, icy or loose surfaces such as gravel or dirt roads. For really bad conditions, the Escape has a locking centre clutch/differential which provides improved traction on steep rocky off-road trails. The driver simply turns a dial on the dashboard to the ‘On’ position to engage the locking differential which provides a continuous 50/50 front/rear torque split.

I drove the Escape on some very steep mountain roads populated with loose rocks, protruding boulders, and deep ditches, and can affirm that the Escape will find traction where you might think it impossible. I have driven a lot of SUV’s over the years, and I was surprised at the Escape’s off-road abilities. It’s only drawback, in my mind, is the lack of a Low Range gear which is useful in slowing the vehicle when descending steep, slippery trails.

Realistically though, most Escapes will see only light-duty off-road use – the real benefit of its four-wheel-drive system and high ground clearance is to provide greater mobility in deep snow, and icy road surfaces common to most Canadian locales during Winter.

Overall, the Escape offers a good combination of car-like handling and ride, four-wheel-drive traction, interior roominess, and cargo capacity. I give the Escape a generous ‘thumbs up’, although it would be nice to see the less-expensive four cylinder model available with an automatic transmission.

Price and features

Base four cylinder Escape XLS models start at $20,245, and include the following major standard features: 2.0 litre four cylinder engine with a block heater, 5 speed manual transmission, front-wheel-drive, grey bumpers, single folding rear bench seat, AM/FM/CD/cassette player with four speakers, dual airbags, variable intermittent front wipers and two-speed rear wiper and washer, rear defroster, tilt steering column, centre armrest/storage bin, digital clock, two interior 12 volt power points, manually-adjustable outside mirrors, roof rack, and P225/70R-15 inch all-season tires.
With the optional V6 engine, four-wheel-drive, automatic transmission and ABS brakes, the XLS is priced at $22,895.

Top-of-the-line Escape XLT models for $28,995 add the following standard features to the base XLS model: 3.0 litre V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, driver’s seat height and lumbar adjustments, power windows with driver’s one-touch down feature, power mirrors, 60/40 split rear seatbacks, retractable rear cargo cover, cargo net, illuminated entry, P235/70R-16 inch OWL tires and 16″ X 7″ alloy wheels, and chrome grille trim.
My Escape XLT test vehicle had these options: 6-disc CD changer ($640), side airbags ($445), power driver’s seat and leather steering wheel pkg. ($1,160), power moonroof ($875, side step bars ($365), and Class 11 trailer towing ($480). With freight charges ($795) and federal excise tax on air conditioning ($100), the total came to $33,855.

Technical Data:

2001 Ford Escape XLT
Base price $20,245
Base price $28,995
Freight $795
Price as tested $33,855
Type compact 4-door, 5-passenger SUV
Layout transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive
Engine 3.0 litre V6, DOHC
Horsepower 200 h.p. @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 200 lb.-ft. @ 4,750 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Curb weight 1393 kg (3065 lb.)
Wheelbase 2620 mm (103.1 in.)
Length 4393 mm (173.0 in.)
Width 1780 mm (70.1 in.)
Height 1702 mm (67.0 in.)
Cargo volume 935 litres (33.0 in.) behind 2nd seats
  1792 litres (63.3 cu. ft.) behind 3rd row seats
Fuel consumption City: 13.1 l/100 km (22 mpg)
  8.9 l/100 km (32 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km

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