The Ford Escape has been a fixture on the American automotive landscape--in part because it's been around for eleven years in essentially the same form, and in other part because that form looked very much like the time-honored, first-generation Ford Explorer.
All that changes without much visible regret with the 2013 Escape, the new crossover that arrives in showrooms in June. Completely new, derived from the family of components that brought you TheCarConnection's Best Car To Buy 2012, the Ford Focus, the new Escape delivers something very nearly unimaginable, given its heritage--an athletic look that's authenticated by deft road manners.
In escaping its own past, Ford's compact crossover turns first to a trio of four-cylinders to replace its former four- and six-cylinder engines and the much-loved but discontinued Ford Escape Hybrid. The base engine's a carryover 2.5-liter four meant for fleets, while the mainstream choice is a 178-horsepower, 1.6-liter turbo four with straight-line acceleration competitive with its chief rivals, the Honda CR-V and four-cylinder Toyota RAV4. At the peak of power is a 2.0-liter turbo four with 240 hp, estimated at 0-60 mph in under 8.0 seconds. All versions come with a six-speed automatic; all are estimated at more than 30 mpg in highway fuel economy. On the Escape Titanium we drove, ride and handling were the ideal counterparts for the turbo's dartlike power; we can't think of a single compact crossover that steers with more precision or tamps down ride motions as smartly as the Escape, except maybe the 155-hp Mazda CX-5.
The performance pairs well with the Escape's new track suit. The running-shoe styling only wears thin at the front, where the skinny grille and gaping air inlets need to find some common ground and call a truce.