First Look: 2013 Ford Escape

With nearly two million units sold since its launch in 2001, the Ford Escape has undoubtedly been a smashing success for Ford. Seeing as the current model is Ford's second-best selling product (following the F-Series truck range, of course), it's critical that the 2013 Ford Escape, which makes its public debut at the Los Angeles auto show, is even more appealing to consumers than the outgoing product.

Edgy New Design
First things first: the new crossover looks nothing like the square, conservative Escape that bowed over a decade ago. The new model is a striking, thoroughly modern design that may be the most attractive in its segment. The A rounded, bold front fascia leads into aggressive character lines and creases. The roofline curves down slightly past the B-pillars, contributing to the athletic stance. The tailgate is all diagonal lines and sharp edges, with triangular-shaped taillights and an angular license plate opening. Better yet, the new design produces about 10 percent less aerodynamic drag than the current Escape.

The cabin affords 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats, which rises to 68.1 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. The interior design mostly follows that seen on other new Fords like the Explorer and Focus, although the center stack has several odd bulges to house the touch screen, climate controls, and other switchgear. Interior surfaces are made from a mix of hard plastics and soft-touch elements. Addressing a key criticism of the current Escape, the rear seats can now be folded more easily in one motion.

Power and Efficiency
Three different engines will be offered, and all are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The base engine is a carryover from the current Escape, a 2.5-liter inline-four good for 171 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. It receives mild changes to improve efficiency, namely polished cam followers and a low-friction accessory drive. Ford expects that only about 10 percent of Escapes will be sold with this engine.

The next step up is a 1.6-liter EcoBoost inline-four engine. Its combination of direct injection, turbocharging, and variable valve timing enable power ratings of 173 hp and 177 lb-ft. It should be the most fuel-efficient version of the 2013 Escape. Fuel economy figures have yet to certified, yet Ford confidently predicts highway fuel mileage of five mpg greater than the current model -- which would mean a rating as high as 36 mpg, given that the 2012 Escape is rated at 31 mpg on the highway in hybrid form.

The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine debuted here in the Edge and Explorer, where it is chosen by about 15 percent of those cars' buyers. In the Escape, it will produce 237 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. It is positioned as the top-spec powerplant, and Escapes so equipped are rated to tow 3500 pounds.

EcoBoost engines get several other drivetrain components not offered for the 2.5-liter engine. The first is a new, "intelligent" four-wheel-drive system is an internal Ford design that can shuffle torque between wheels depending on traction, with the current torque split shown on a display in the instrument cluster. It measures 25 different variables to determine the best torque distribution. EcoBoost engines also feature active grille shutters, which can close under certain conditions to reduce drag or help the engine warm up more quickly. The shifter for the six-speed automatic transmission also receives a small toggle switch, which allows drivers to manually select gears.

Safer and More Convenient
New technologies for the Escape can be split into two categories: convenience and safety. The headlining feature is The Escape's "kick to open" power liftgate. Owners simply wave their foot beneath the rear bumper, and the liftgate opens or closes. The idea is that owners lugging lots of shopping bags won't have to set them down and fumble for keys before loading groceries into the Escape. It uses two capacitive sensors mounted in the rear bumper to detect the presence of both a shin and a foot, safeguarding against the hatch popping open unexpectedly.

A new Parking Technology package bundles blind-spot warning system, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors, a backup camera, and Ford's Active Park Assist self-parking system. Other optional toys include the latest version of Sync voice recognition and the MyFord Touch touch-screen interfaces, a remote starter, and a hill-start assist feature to prevent the SUV from rolling backwards when launched on a steep incline.

Safety features begin with a panoply of airbags, including redesigned side airbags that automatically adjust their firmness depending on occupant size, "canopy" curtain airbags that deploy in a rollover accident, and the Escape's first-ever driver's knee airbag. Active safety technologies comprise Torque Steer Compensation, which uses the electric power steering to mitigate torque steer; Torque Vectoring Control, which applies the front brakes to maintain front-wheel traction when cornering; and Curve Control, which automatically slows the Escape if it is approaching a turn too quickly.


Strong Sales Goals
Ford claims that two-thirds of all Americans are planning to buy a new compact crossover, and believes the 2013 Escape will continue to enjoy strong sales within its segment.

Ford hasn't yet shared pricing information, although the company expects buyers to load their models with options. As is currently the case, the automaker expects almost all new Escapes to be ordered with four-wheel-drive. Ford also expects many buyers to opt for the pricier SEL and Titanium trim levels, as those top-spec models have proven popular on new Ford products like the Focus and Explorer.

The 2013 Ford Escape will reach dealerships in spring 2012.

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