I’ll be completely honest: I’ve never been much of an SUV/ CUV kind of guy. When I was in my mid-teens, my father had a 1994 Plymouth Voyager and whenever I got a chance to drive it, I really felt uncomfortable mainly due to the higher center of gravity as opposed to my daily driver at the time, a 1987 Volvo station wagon. All my cars since then have been hatchbacks that were low to the ground.
So when I had the new Ford Escape for the Civic Holiday long weekend, I was anticipating the same handling, i.e., slow right down when making any turn. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. The Escape is very well balanced and has a sporty feel
to it. It handled both sharp and sweeping turns extremely well—I was in full control at all times.
The SEL model with front-wheel drive was my tester and my first tour of duty was moving a huge china cabinet from my house to my parents’ place about 10 kilometres away. Eyeballing it at first, I wasn’t certain it’d fit but there’s a surprisingly high volume of cargo space—1,920 litres to be exact. With the back seats folded flat, the cabinet easily slid in and I could cross this task off my list.
The technology is quite impressive in this vehicle. Armed with powerful Microsoft SYNC software with MyFord Touch, it boasts a 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster, an 8-inch LCD touchscreen in the centre stack, two USB ports, an SD card reader and two AV jacks. There’s a vast amount of information available at either your fingertips or by voice command. SYNC is a great resource to help keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. It handles climate control, navigates your MP3 player and finds gas prices/locations, plus it provides full navigation and comprehensive points of interest data either near your location or other cities. The steering wheel is loaded with functions, including cruise control, radio controls and Bluetooth.
The nine-speaker sound is crisp and clear, the panoramic Vista Roof is a nice touch and most interesting of all is that the vehicle itself is 85 percent recyclable at the end of its lifespan! Recycled plastic bottles are part of the composition of the carpeting and cotton jeans and sweaters are used in the sound- absorption material.
I should also mention the class-exclusive hands-free lift- gate, which opens the back hatch by way of a sensor beneath the bumper. When your hands are full (say, with groceries or in my case, guitars), you just make a kicking motion towards the sensor and the hatch opens (or closes). I had a few neighbours try it out and they were quite impressed with it. And if you’re worried about just anyone opening up your car, don’t—you have to have the key FOB on you for it to work.
Part of my weekend task list was an errand in Glen Williams. It was on the way there that I really had a chance to open up the engine and see just what kind of power was beneath my right foot. Armed with the 2.0 EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, my six-speed automatic Escape delivered a generous 240 horsepower and 270 pounds of torque. As I was flirting around 100–115 kilometres per hour, it hovered at an impressive 2,000 rpm, which contributes to maximizing fuel efficiency. With smooth yet quick acceleration, you’re easily able to get up to speed.
What’s interesting is that the entire Escape lineup is based on three variations of four-cylinder engines. Gone is the V6, but Ford has still managed to offer smart options within the three available engines: two are the efficient EcoBoost models and the other is the standard 2.5 Duratec.
Later in the afternoon, I found out that the QEW resembled a parking lot from Trafalgar to Brant, so I altered my route to Dundas by taking Dundas Street. This gave me a good chance to see how the Escape responded to a stop-and-go traffic situation. The leather seats made the drive comfortable, and the braking was very responsive. The smooth-shifting transmission eliminated the lurch-and-jerk feeling you often experience when confined in heavy traffic. The 70-minute drive didn’t feel very long at all.
Overall, the Escape is well put together, both inside and out. There are many options for any type of driver in this segment. It offers a great balance of style, performance and functionality, and its price ranges from the low $20,000s to the low $30,000s. If you’re looking for a compact crossover that is great in the city and on rural roads, has lots of cargo space and is loaded with cool tech, then the Escape should definitely be at the top of your list.