New Ford Escape vastly different from predecessor

The adage “all good things must end” is almost as depressing as “life isn’t fair.”

We all want good things to keep going, and the Ford Escape has been one of my favorite vehicles, so I wasn’t happy at all when Ford, without even bothering to check with me first, decided to completely re-do the Escape for 2013.

The previous Escape was a crossover with a boxy, sort of rugged exterior design, very SUV-looking but in a manageable, compact size. I wasn’t alone in my fondness for it; Escape has seen annual sales reaching into the hundreds of thousands, and it was still going gangbusters at the time of its redesign.

In the all-new 2013 version, boxiness has been eradicated and a sleek, muscular, sporty look has taken its place. The lack of resemblance to the previous model is so complete, if it weren’t for the Escape badging you’d never guess it was an Escape. The new look is definitely more modern and stylish, and by the end of the test week I had decided it was really cool.

Not so with the new interior design. It’s well built, but yo, is it ever busy. It’s all obtuse and scalene triangles and other irregular shapes everywhere – hardly a square or rectangle to be found. It’s as though the design inspiration came from a Spiderman costume or the boot animation on a Droid Razr Maxx. Surprisingly, though, location and operation of the controls are both logical and intuitive, and for that I’m willing to overlook almost anything in a car’s interior design. Another little consideration is that a million people will disagree with me and think the interior looks fabulous.

Unarguable benefits of the new interior include more room and comfort for passengers, and back seats that flip down super fast with a quick pull of a sturdy handle (easily reached when standing behind the car) to create a flat load floor.

The IMAX-sized windshield is wonderful for visibility, but it also means yardstick-sized wipers are required. And most wipers move in tandem, but Escape’s wipers move in opposite directions, like Mr. Bean doing synchronized swimming. The combination of long length and reverse movement makes the wipers more distracting than usual.

Ride and handling are just about unimpeachable, and my tester’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine deserved an ovation.

Three different four-cylinder engines are available: a 1.6-liter EcoBoost (turbo) generating 178 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque; a 2.0-liter EcoBoost with 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque; and a 2.5-liter iVCT with 168 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. All three engines are paired with a seamless six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift manual shift ability.

Fuel economy ratings, listed in the same order as the engines, are 23 mpg city, 32 mpg highway with front-wheel drive, 22/30 mpg with four-wheel drive; 22/30 mpg (FWD) and 21/28 mpg (4WD); and 22/31 mpg.

Hybrid and V6 versions are not in the 2013 lineup.

Four trim levels are offered: S, SE, SEL, and Titanium, with base pricing starting at $23,295 including an $825 destination charge.

Special features that helped push my top-of-the-line Titanium 4WD into the $32,000-plus range include 10-way power driver’s seat with lumbar, heated driver and front-passenger seats, intelligent access with push-button start, the MyFord Touch communications and entertainment system, a premium sound system with Sirius satellite radio, Sync voice-activation, 19-inch painted aluminum wheels, fog lamps, roof rack and crossbars, HID projector headlamps, a power liftgate, and rear parking aid sensors.

The inclusion of navigation in the MyFord Touch system added $795. The two other optional items were a Parking Technology Package featuring a blind spot detection system, active park assist and a rear-view camera ($995); and full leather bucket seats ($895).

Another nice bit of technology is also available as an option: a hands-free liftgate, which is activated by moving your foot in a kicking motion beneath the car. It only works when kickers have the key fob in their possession at the time.

The 2013 Escape is built in Kentucky at Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant.

2013 FORD ESCAPE TITANIUM 4WD

Base price, including destination charge: $32,945

Price as driven: $35,630

Mary Lowry has been reviewing cars for more than 20 years. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a board member of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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