Ford's first global utility vehicle
By Frank Washington
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - Ford's head of global marketing, Jim Farley, put it bluntly: "This is a very special launch for us," it's the company's first global utility vehicle.
I'm talking about the 2013 Ford Escape and it will be sold in China and Europe as the Ford Kuga. Still, it is the same vehicle and it will go on sale in the U.S. in late spring. Thus, American automotive journalists got to test drive it first.
Being that Farley is a marketing guy, we heard a lot of marketing stuff which I won't get into here. But the fact is that the old Escape was in its sixth year, that's old age in the automotive world. Thus it needed to be updated.
However, there's a big risk; a couple of them. The first one is that old or not, the Ford Escape was the best selling small utility vehicle in the U.S. last year. The vehicle that will replace it is a quantum leap. In other words, the 2013 Ford Escape looks radically different from the vehicle it will replace.
In effect, Ford is messing with success. Will consumers like the Escape's new look as well as they liked the look of the old one?
The 2013 Escape sports the new face of Ford in the form of a trapezoidal grille. It also has a steeply raked windshield that gives it a racier silhouette, a rising belt line that makes the vehicle look like it's moving while sanding still, muscular wheel wells and headlights that are pulled back into the fender.
The other big bet is that the Escape has a choice of three engines - they are all four cylinder powerplants. Ford has wagered that fuel efficiency will play an even bigger role in consumers' purchasing decisions.
Indeed, with the price of regular gasoline hovering at four bucks or more a gallon, a fuel efficient utility lineup might not be that big of a bet.
The base engine of the 2013 Ford Escape is an improved 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque and gets 30 mpg on the hwy.
Then there is the first American application of Ford's 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that gets 33 mpg on the hwy. It makes 178 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
And the top of the line is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that gets 30 mpg on the hwy. It makes 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. All of the Escape engines are mated to six-speed transmissions.
EcoBoost is Ford-speak for turbocharged engine. At Ford, direct fuel injection, turbo charging and variable camshaft timing are used to increase horsepower on small engines while enhancing fuel efficiency.
And the 2013 Ford Escape has an available hands free power liftgate, an easier to use MyFord Touch audio system and a smart all-wheel-drive system that is capable of sending 100 percent of its torque fore or aft.
We had a 2013 Ford Escape with the 2.0-liter engine for our test drive. Some quick points:
The 2013 Ford Escape's raked windshield translated into a lower dashboard. Combined with tall side windows and a pane of glass in between the C and D pillars, our test car felt airy, sight lines visually felt like picture windows and the cabin did not have the closed in feel of a truck or utility vehicle.
Our 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine provided plenty of oomph to get up and over the hills north of here. It seemed a little loud as it worked hard on some really steep inclines. But I don't know of an engine that doesn't work hard traversing northern California hills.
The Escape handled the two-lane twisting and switch backed roads like it had flypaper tires. It tracked well, there wasn't a lot of sway in the really sharp turns and it stuck in place in the lanes.
What's more, our test vehicle was really comfortable. Its new contoured front seats, driver and passenger alike, seemed custom fitted for me. The vehicle's instrument layout was sharper - rhetorically speaking as well as physically.
Dual pods housing the tachometer and speedometer were large and angled. The center-stack was layered with the information screen atop the dash, followed by the audio controls which seemed to sit on a ledge, beneath that were the climate controls on the face of the center stack followed by the gear shift positioned forward in the center console and the controls for options like our heated front seats followed.
There were soft touch points on the dash, French stitching framed our black leather interior and our test vehicle was chock full of options that included a rearview camera, all-wheel-drive, a navigation system, blind side and cross traffic alerts, power liftgate and a fore and aft reverse sensing system.
The 2013Ford Escape base price is $22,470. Add an $825 freight charge and the options which included the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine and the total for our 2013 Ford EcoBoost Escape was $34,735.
Our test vehicle looked good, drove well and it was really comfortable. Ford has made a really good crossover vehicle better with the 2013 Ford Escape.