New car reviews

2011 Ford Escape

Ford Escape car-based CUV stocks a load of safety equipment

, Wed, 24 Nov 2010 01:43:40 PST

STEVENSON, Wash. -- The Lewis and Clark Highway -- Washington state route 14 which traverses the Columbia River Gorge -- rolls over rugged terrain, threading through clefs in granite, wrapping around fir-forest hillsides and dipping low in swings down to the broad river's northern bank.

This twisty asphalt strip seems like it was designed expressly to show off the road-hugging agility and sticky tire traction of Escape, Ford's crossover utility vehicle (CUV) for the compact class.

Formatted with the two-box body of a four-door wagon, Escape foregoes the conventional sport utility vehicle's body-on-frame structure in favor of a monocoque platform that unites chassis and body in a cohesive unit that's extremely rigid in motion.

The structure amounts to the chassis of a front-wheel-drive (FWD) car rather than the SUV's rear-wheel-drive (RWD) platform of a truck.

A generous wheelbase length of 103.1 inches and a broad wheel track (60.7 inches front, 60.2 inches rear) set up a long and wide foundation for stability when turning.

And, unlike the SUV with a solid rear truck axle and crude leaf springs, Escape carries a car's four-wheel independent suspension components -- MacPherson struts in front and a double lateral and semi-trailing arm design in back -- which bring more control over the vehicle for a driver and more comfortable ride sensations for passengers.

Steering is made easy due to the EPAS -- electric power assist steering -- through a direct rack and pinion system.

The 2011 editions of Ford's compact-class CUV load up on premium equipment and safety systems with choices for four-cylinder or six-cylinder powertrains plus FWD or all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction.

Escape 2011 trims out in three equipment tiers labeled XLS, XLT and Limited, the latter with luxury touches like leather upholstery on seats.

With aluminum block and heads plus dual overhead cams (DOHC), the plant displaces 2.5 liters and produces 171 hp at 6000 rpm and a torque rating of 171 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.

The four-cylinder engine when tied to a six-speed automatic transaxle achieves EPA fuel economy scores of 21 mpg for city driving and 28 mpg on the highway.

Escape XLT and Limited editions offer either the four-cylinder plant or an upgrade to V6 power.

The dual-cam 3.0-liter V6 generates 240 hp at 6500 rpm plus torque of 223 lb-ft at 4300 rpm.

The electronically controlled six-speed automatic transaxle works with either engine, although the Escape four-pack lists the standard shifter as a five-speed manual.

The AWD mechanism is a smart traction system which distributes the engine's power between front and rear wheels selectively as changing conditions of road or trail may warrant -- the intent is to maintain a firm tire grip no matter what happens on pavement or dirt.

On dry pavement, all of the engine's power goes to the front wheels which also steer.

Having the front wheels both turn and steer -- when combined with the stiff unitized structure and lively suspension -- makes Escape uncommonly agile, but that's the big idea here.

As to vehicle safety measures, the nimble driving attitude of Escape translates to an important active safety feature because this wagon when directed by an alert driver can move quickly through evasive maneuvers to avoid hazards on the road.

Escape's unibody structure serves as the first line of defense for passengers, surrounded by a safety cage rigged with force-deflecting energy management zones fore and aft plus reinforced side panels and doors.

Front riders have dual two-stage frontal air bags plus seatbelts with load-limiting retractors and buckle pretensioners, while in the rear there are anchors to tether a child's safety seat. Side-impact air bags mounted on outboard front seats and Ford's Safety Canopy consisting of curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners above front and back rows are also on tap as standard gear.

Equipment promoting active safety includes the quick EPAS rack and pinion steering and brakes tied to an anti-lock brake system (ABS) plus Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control device with Roll Stability Control (RSC) which measures vehicle motion on both the yaw and roll axes.

Other safety tools range from a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) to integrated blind spot mirrors for better blind spot visibility and the MyKey programmable vehicle key to encourage safer vehicle operation from teenaged drivers by limiting the top speed to 80 mph, preventing the deactivation of the vehicle's traction control system and limiting the volume level on the audio system to 44 percent of maximum volume.

Styling for the body of Escape forges a bold, tough look in a chiseled design with a sloping and stepped front hood, a high beltline and big wheels and tires as emphasized by flared wheel arches.

Escape 2011 contains upscale appointments in the five-seat cabin, like an information display mounted on top of the dashboard and easy-on-the-eyes Ice Blue lighting washing instruments, console, steering wheel and door switches.

Bucket seats account for the first row, while a bench on the second row provides room for up to three riders with a backrest that splits and folds down to enlarge the cargo area, and that back bay with rear gate access has more useful room because a spare tire tucks beneath the deck.

Escape XLS rolls on 16-inch steel wheels and provides seats with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power controls for windows and locks and mirrors, the audio with AM/FM/CD and auxiliary jack, a defroster in the rear window and 16-inch steel wheels.

Escape XLT gets more gear like power controls on the driver's bucket, cruise control and 16-inch alloy wheels.

Escape Limited carries leather on the seats, automatic headlights, a six-disc CD changer and 17-inch chrome wheels.

The MSRP chart for 2011 Escape models extends from $21,070 to $27,390.

The MSRP chart for 2011 Escape models extends from $21,070 to $27,390.



2011 Ford Escape

great instrument panel

emissions free

a long look

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