All-New Ford Escape Back on Top

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2013 Ford Escape.

In the year 2000, Ford rolled out an all-new compact sport utility as a sign of things to come. Some people in the car buying public were less than thrilled with the idea of Ford’s other SUV offerings, namely the wildly popular (at the time) Explorer and Expedition. While handy, they were too large and too thirsty for many peoples’ needs.

The 2001 Escape was a hit pretty much right off the bat. Lots of room to carry things, but reasonably fuel efficient and easy to maneuver at the same time. It rode on a car-type platform, and offered a four cylinder or V6 engine for power, and even all wheel drive if you wanted it.

But 2000 was a long time ago in the automotive world, and while it was still selling well with only one mild makeover for 2008, the compact sport utility segment is a very competitive one. Much fresher and more modern looking examples from Honda, Kia and others made the Escape look at bit dated.

That’s all changing for the 2013 model year with the first all new Escape since that original one debuted in ’00. The new one is fresh, bold, and loaded with technology. A striking new exterior design also puts it into a more familial look with its bigger brothers, the Edge and the Explorer (which itself was all new a couple of years ago).

Big changes under the hood too. No more V6, and the hybrid option is gone too (for now, anyway). Ford has decided that its turbocharged and direct injected EcoBoost four cylinder engines can replace the larger V6 in terms of power, but also be fuel efficient enough so that a hybrid isn’t really necessary.

An automatic transmission is now standard, and fuel economy ranges anywhere from 21 to 33 miles per gallon (city to highway) depending on which of the three engines you might choose, and whether you feel you need all wheel drive. My test vehicle was a 2.0 liter EcoBoost model (240 horsepower!) with the AWD option, and I saw economy in the low 20s in my normal mix of city and freeway travel.

Aside from the new engines, Ford has decided that technology sells, so the Escape is crammed with it, mostly within option packages. On the safety front, it’s the latest Ford product to get blind spot monitoring, both when driving in traffic or when pulling out of a parking space.

Hate to parallel park? The Escape also now offers the slick Active Park Assist. Slow down in the right lane, and push a button. The system will look for a space that the Escape can fit in, and when found, guide you through an easy automatic parking job. Your hands never touch the wheel, and you’ll park like an ace every time.

My favorite new option is an automatic liftgate. Sure, power tailgates and liftgates have become commonplace on SUVs and minivans. But this one is completely hands-free. With the proximity key in your pocket or handbag (and your hands full of groceries, for example) you merely swing your foot up under the rear bumper. The lights flash, and suddenly the rear hatch is magically opened for you. It might seem a little silly, but just about everyone I showed it to thought it was pretty slick.

Road manners are much improved too, and the Escape is amazingly quiet. With that, and all the available gizmos, I have a feeling Ford’s going to see a lot of larger sport utilities traded in on this little guy.

Base price for the 2013 Escape is $22,470, though my loaded up Titanium trim level test example was well over $30,000. Ford’s assembly plant inLouisville,Kentuckyis starting to crank them out right now, and I have a feeling those factory workers are going to be pretty busy filling demand.

I’ll see you down the road.

Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave

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