At its core, this completely redesigned compact sport-utility vehicle is a great vehicle. It is comfortable, capable and not bad to look at.
Yet, the $36,025 Escape Titanium four-wheel drive I tested piled on too many layers of unreliable technology. The foot-activated power tailgate worked when it wanted to, the detection system for backing up was hyperactive, and the navigation system literally couldn't find itself.
So if you like the Escape as an alternative to the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Chevy Equinox, do yourself a favor and avoid the technological woes of the high-end models. There are plenty of simple tasks that the Escape is good at.
Like driving. Around town or on the highway, my preproduction model (the Escape is on sale now) was always well-mannered and a pleasure to pilot. It's sporty when you want to have some fun, thanks largely to the fancy-pants four-wheel-drive option that uses torque vectoring to push power to the outside wheels to maximize traction (front-wheel drive is standard).
Meanwhile, in everyday driving the suspension always impresses you with its comfort.
The engine on my tester was practically hedonistic for this segment. Rather than offering the Escape with an optional V-6 as it has in the past, Ford wisely dropped into the top engine spot a more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder from a family of engines dubbed EcoBoost.
This one makes 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque; that's plenty for a vehicle of this size and it will propel the Escape from zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds, according to Truck Trend.
A key benefit of an engine this powerful in a small SUV like this is towing capacity. The model I tested can tow 3,500 pounds; this compares with a few competitors that offer only one engine, which maxes out at about 1,500 pounds.
This engine is standard on the top-end Titanium model and optional on the SE and SEL models. If you're not towing or would just rather save $1,100 and lose some power, Ford offers a smaller 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that makes 178 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It's this engine that probably will be the volume seller of the Escape lineup and is found on models starting at $25,895.
Safety features standard on all Escapes include seven air bags, traction control with roll stability control, ABS with brake assist and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
Also standard across the board is a six-speed automatic transmission. Although occasionally slow to respond, the gearbox generally does its job without fuss. Drop the transmission into Sport mode and you can shift it manually via buttons on the shift knob.
Yet, perhaps the best feature of all these mechanicals is how quietly they work together. Indeed, the entire experience of riding in an Escape is one of silent comfort; the taut exterior slips through the wind quietly.
Buyers comparing interior space should note that the Escape trails most of its competitors in passenger and cargo volume. Yet, the cabin never feels small and there's plenty of headroom and legroom for charges of all shapes and sizes.
The most common problem with the nav system was wanderlust. After entering a destination, the vehicle icon would float around the map for as long as 20 minutes while the system tried to figure out where the Escape actually was.
The other technologies had their problems too. The hands-free power liftgate claims to open with a subtle kick beneath the rear bumper, but in reality needed all sorts of foot gestures, jabs and wiggles to get the hatch to open. The cross-path detection, designed to alert you specifically to objects moving into your path as you back up, seemed to think parked cars and the large oak outside my apartment posed a threat. At least the self-park feature worked as advertised.
If you're justifiably interested in buying a 2013 Escape, take not only the vehicle for a test-drive, but also any tech options too.
2013 Ford Escape
BASE PRICE: $23,295 (including destination charge)
PRICE AS TESTED: $36,025; Escape Titanium 4WD
POWERTRAIN: 2.0-liter, DOHC incline four cylinder turbocharged engine with direct-injection; six-speed automatic transmission with sport mode and manual shifting; permanent four-wheel drive
HORSEPOWER: 240 at 5,500 rpm
TORQUE: 270 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm
ZERO-60: 6.8 seconds, according to Truck Trend magazine
CURB WEIGHT: 3,732 pounds
WHEELBASE: 105.9 inches
OVERALL LENGTH: 178.1.7 inches
EPA FUEL ECONOMY: 21 mpg city/28 highway
BOTTOM LINE: Escape complications