Ford hoping for great Escape
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Ford's next step on the global model path has finally arrived, and it's in a mid-size SUV package
The Escape will be a familiar nameplate to many Kiwis because in a pre-Territory world (if you can remember such a thing), this was Ford's mid-size SUV. And so it shall rise again.
With the Ford Escape's rebirth, two nameplates are consigned to the dustbin of history; the end of Ocker manufacturing means there's no more Territory, and in adopting the Escape, we say bye-bye to Kuga. The Kuga name will continue to exist in Europe, where it holds sway over the mid-size SUV market. For the rest of the world though, it's Escape all the way.
The grades will feel familiar, with entry-level Ambiente, mid-grade Trend and top-spec Titanium badges boasting a mix of 1.5- and 2.0-litre Ecoboost petrol and 2.0-litre TDCi turbo diesel engine technology, which runs through both front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models.
There is a mix of 18- and 19-inch alloys depending on your grade of choice, while six-speed automatics are to be found in every model.
The Escape has been awarded a five-star NCAP safety rating and features a host of clever safety tech, from daytime running lights all the way to autonomous braking tech and radar cruise control.
For those who might need it, the front-driver Escape has a braked towing capacity of 2000kg; the AWD 1500kg. The two petrol engines return combined fuel economy of between 7.0- and 8.6-litres/100km while, naturally, the oiler boasts a better return of 5.4-litres/100km.
The range is extensive; seven options in all, beginning with the $37,990 Escape Ambiente.
Entry-level buyers won't feel too hard done by, as even at this end of the range, convenience tech such as a reversing camera, seven airbags and Ford's newly updated SYNC 3 entertainment system (with integrated satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto mobile phone mirroring capability) is standard.
Escape Trend models step things up into the early-to-mid-$40,000 range, adding privacy glass, Active City Safe autonomous braking, Blind Spot Information and other driver aids (as well as shiny fare like 18-inch alloys and silver-finish roof rails).
You can pay up to $54,990 for an Escape in Titanium trim; for that you'll get extra premium features such as 19-inch alloy wheels, a 10-way powered/heated driver's seat, a panoramic sunroof and hands-free boot opening where a waggle of the foot under the rear bumper will see your boot lid magically open. The self-parking system available in Titanium grade Escapes has been updated to include perpendicular park assist.
The technology suite is impressive but you will have to pay a fair bit to get the Escape you want. All of a sudden, paying $53,000-ish for a mid-size SUV that doesn't have a premium Euro badge on the bonnet does seem a bit of an ask.
In saying that, Ford New Zealand will tell you it has done you (and your bank manager) a favour. All these prices are slightly cheaper than the equivalent Kuga models were, despite the larger feature set across the board, which is pretty admirable.
Ford also reckons the market growth is in the front-wheel drive mid-size SUV market so, as a result, there are two separate front-drivers available.
Despite the sales pitch, on the road in Australia the all-wheel drive models were the pick of the bunch (especially on some of the Victorian country's gravel backroads).
The steering feel was noticeably lighter in the front-wheel drive Trend when compared with an AWD Titanium, which is hard to explain away given that there wouldn't be much difference in weight.
SYNC 3 seemed easier to use on the fly too; Ford has worked hard to add a conversational element to the system. You still need to issue robotic commands for the most part, but getting what you need out of SYNC - a phone number, a pre-entered drive route in the satellite navigation system -- feels like a more fluid experience. It even recognised my New Zild accint.
So, with steering feel much more positive in the all-wheel drive Escape, pair it with the eager 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol and you possibly have the pick of the bunch in terms of on-road enjoyment.
Add a cautious eye on pricing to the equation and the $44,990 Escape Trend 2.0-litre EcoBoost AWD could be the range's sweet spot. If you can do without features like a panoramic sunroof, endlessly adjustable driver's seat, leather upholstery, Adaptive Cruise Control and some of the more active safety spec, then that could well be the one to go for.
There is, however, plenty of competition in this segment; Mazda CX-5 is the obvious one (and a newly updated CX-5 is mere minutes away, which Ford will be watching warily), but Toyota's RAV4 is also a mainstay, with Kia's Sportage, the Hyundai Tucson and the Nissan X-Trail all playing in the same ballpark too. All have their pros and cons, but all offer up equally generous spreads of interesting design elements, comfortable cabins and their share of grade-dependent tech spec.
Despite having to now go through the brand reintroduction exercise, Ford has still hit the ground running with the Escape.
Engines: 1.5-litre EcoBoost petrol (134kW/240Nm), 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol (178kW/345Nm), 2.0-litre TDCi turbo-diesel (132kW/400Nm)
Prices: Seven models from $37,990 (Escape Ambiente 1.5L EcoBoost FWD) to $54,990 (Escape Titanium 2.0L TDCi AWD)
Pro: Generous tech spec for higher grades, 2.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine brilliant performer
Con: You have to spend a lot to get the Escape you want