Goodbye Kuga, hello Ford Escape
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Driving the new Escape
He might be a long way from his Michigan base, but Ford’s Global Programme Manager for the Ford Escape SUV, Dean Nowicki, knows how important this new mid-sizer is for the antipodean market.
“This is Ford’s most significant launch of 2017,” he says in no uncertain terms. He’s probably right. Because it’s also a product launch which sees New Zealand and Australia come online with (most of) the rest of the globe.
The Kuga nameplate will remain in Europe, where it dominates the sector, but for us, Asia and North America, 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, run through both the front and all four wheels.
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.
The range begins 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 like a reversing camera, seven airbags and Ford’s newly updated SYNC 3 entertainment system (with integrated satellite navigation) is standard.
Escape Trend models step things up into the early-to-mid-$40,000 range, adding Active City Safe autonomous braking, Blind Spot Information and a variety of other driver aids (as well as shiny fare like 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 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 has been updated to include perpendicular park assist too.
All these prices are slightly cheaper than the equivalent Kuga model, despite the larger feature set across the board, which is pretty admirable.
On the road, the all-wheel drive models are the pick of the bunch (especially on some of country Victoria’s gravel backroads). Ford reckons the growth is in the front-wheel drive mid-size SUV market, so as a result there are two separate front-drivers available. The top Titanium grade is AWD only.
“People are looking for the optimal balance for a vehicle that performs in terms of family and business commitments and we really believe this is it,” says Nowicki.
First impressions are that the Escape ticks plenty of boxes. But the mid-size SUV market has exploded of late. There is plenty of competition sporting established nameplates, in this segment.