Like so many vehicles coming from the Ford Motor Company these days, the next Escape is built on the global C-segment platform that underpins the Focus and a bevy of other small cars (page 66). The Vertrek concept shown above portends a production model that will replace both the Escape here in America and the popular Kuga in Europe. Ford insiders hint that both names will be retained in their respective markets, as each has very high recognition with consumers. J Mays, Ford's worldwide design chief, admits that the Vertrek is very close to what the production vehicle will look like, and he's understandably pleased with what his design team has created. It is modern, progressive, and upscale, with very origami-like side creases. Production modifications -- sideview mirrors, smaller wheels, door handles, and a steel roof -- should have little impact on the vehicle's good looks. A trio of four-cylinder engines will provide the power, starting with the 168-hp, 2.5-liter base unit. A 180-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter paired with automatic start/stop should offer the best fuel economy but will also command a premium price. The current Escape's V-6 will be replaced by a turbo 2.0-liter good for about 240 hp. All engines will be paired with six-speed automatics.
WHAT Ford's small crossover, evolved from stale to sexy.
WHEN Early 2012
IT'S ABOUT TIME With relatively few major changes in its lifetime, the Escape that sits in showrooms today is pretty much the same one that debuted eleven years ago.
WHAT A bad-to-the-bone Focus hatchback that could make Volkswagen GTI owners shake in their lederhosen.
WHEN Early 2012
EVERYTHING WE'VE WANTED IN A FOCUS It's no RS, but the Focus ST is a damn fine consolation prize: a high-powered hatch that can run with the GTI and the Mazdaspeed 3. The ST will produce 247 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Power is routed to the front wheels through either a six-speed manual or a dual-clutch automatic transmission. To keep torque steer in check, the ST does without a mechanical limited-slip differential -- and instead uses its brakes to eliminate one-wheel peel.