A slew of innovative high-tech features make the 2010 Ford Escape a tempting choice in the compact crossover category. But this model is showing its advanced age and most competitors are ultimately more appealing.
Remember the year 2000? Back when we were all a-flutter about hanging chads and surviving the Y2K computer bug? That year also saw the arrival of the Ford Escape, the first compact crossover SUV from an American car company, which quickly became a runaway best-seller. Although its engines, steering, styling and interior are considerably different than they were at the turn of the century, the 2010 Ford Escape still has a lot of similarity to the vehicle that launched when Bill Clinton was a lame duck. Not surprisingly, the Escape is beginning to feel its age.
It's most apparent on the inside, where the Escape lacks a few basic features now common among its newer competitors, such as a telescoping steering wheel and a backseat that reclines and slides fore and aft. As such, the Escape just isn't as comfortable or versatile as more modern rivals. Even more damning, though, are brakes (discs in front but antiquated drums in the rear) that simply don't have the power to bring the Escape to a stop as effectively as other small SUVs.
However, there are a number of high-tech goodies stashed inside this aging wrapper that make the Escape still worth a look. Ford's Sync system is certainly a deal-making technology, seamlessly integrating your cell phone and iPod\/MP3 player into the car's control systems. When equipped with the optional navigation system (the same one found in all Ford's products), the Escape provides real-time information for traffic, weather, sport scores, movie times and probably your horoscope if you ask nicely enough.
New for 2010 is MyKey, which allows parents to set electronic limits for vehicle speed and stereo volume for their teenage driver. Think of it as an automotive V-chip (speaking of 2000-era relics). Even more notable is Auto Park. Taking a page out of the Lexus playbook, it gives the car control over its steering during parallel-parking maneuvers. We've tested it and found the Escape's system works notably better than the one found in the exponentially more expensive Lexus LS 460.
In total, a fully loaded 2010 Ford Escape will certainly please those who value having the latest technology, so it may be worthy of consideration. However, so are other top small crossover SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. Driving them all back-to-back, you might find yourself thinking the Escape, despite its techno veneer, is just a tad too dated for your tastes.
The 2010 Ford Escape is a compact SUV that seats five people. It is available in XLS, XLT and Limited trim levels. A Hybrid model is addressed via a separate review.
Standard equipment on the XLS includes 16-inch alloy wheels, an integrated blind spot driver mirror, keyless entry, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and auxiliary audio jack. The Sync electronics interface (includes iPod interface and Bluetooth) and steering wheel audio controls are optional. The XLT adds automatic headlights, foglamps, MyKey parental controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a six-way power driver seat, steering wheel audio controls and satellite radio. The Leather package adds ambient lighting and leather upholstery. The Sun & Sync package adds Sync and a sunroof. The Sport Appearance package adds 17-inch wheels and a variety of upgraded interior and exterior trim pieces. A seven-speaker stereo upgrade is also available.
To the XLT's feature list, the Escape Limited adds different 16-inch wheels, chrome exterior highlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, Sync and a six-speaker stereo. Upgrading to the Limited Luxury package adds dual-zone automatic climate control, rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. The Moon and Tune package adds a sunroof and the seven-speaker stereo upgrade. Stand-alone options on the Limited include Auto Park and a navigation system, which includes the upgraded stereo, digital music storage and Sirius Travel Link (includes real-time traffic, weather and other information).
While pleasant to drive, the 2010 Ford Escape lacks the mechanical polish and sophistication of newer models from Chevrolet, Honda, Subaru and Toyota. Among compact crossovers, the Escape feels the most trucklike. Nevertheless, the electric power steering makes parking and low-speed maneuvers easy, and the suspension has been tweaked to be smoother over rough pavement. Acceleration from both engines is adequate, though the V6 isn't as energetic as the more powerful mills in the Equinox and RAV4.
All trim levels of the Ford Escape can be had with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. A 171-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is standard, with a 240-hp 3.0-liter V6 optional on all but the XLS. The 2.5 can be fitted with either a five-speed manual transmission (XLS only) or a six-speed automatic. The V6 comes only with the automatic transmission. Properly equipped, the V6 Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Fuel economy with the four-cylinder, six-speed auto and front-wheel drive is 20 mpg city\/28 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive drops that to 19\/25\/21 mpg. The front-wheel-drive six-cylinder Escape returns an estimated 18\/26\/21, while all-wheel drive gets 17\/24\/20.
Antilock brakes (albeit with rear drums), traction control, stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags are all standard on the 2010 Ford Escape. In government tests, the Escape earned a perfect five stars in front and side crash tests. The Escape did equally well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, scoring the highest rating of \Good\ in the frontal-offset and side tests.
Unfortunately, the Escape is hampered by poor braking performance. From 60 mph, the last Escape we tested stopped in a disappointing 154 feet.
The Escape's cabin was given a welcome complete overhaul a few years ago, granting it nicer materials and a more attractive design. The center stack consists of neatly grouped buttons that are designed to work specifically with Ford's Sync system. This electronics interface connects with your cell phone and MP3 player, allowing you to control them through voice commands.
In terms of comfort and space, though, the Escape is starting to feel its age. Up front, the seating position is too tall, which gives the driver the feeling of hovering above the controls, and there's no telescoping steering wheel. The backseat is flat and devoid of recline or fore\/aft adjustments. Cargo space stands at 29 cubic feet behind the second row and 66 cubes with the second row folded down. Folding it can be tricky, though, as the headrests must be removed and the bottom cushions tipped forward before the seatbacks can be flipped down.
Innovative high-tech features, impressive crash scores, peppy performance.
Feels old compared to rivals, poor braking performance, non-reclining rear seat is difficult to fold.