Ford's first car-based sport utility vehicle debuted for the 2001 model year as a result of Ford's controlling interest in Mazda, which produces the similar Tribute SUV. Both models were developed in tandem and compete against other small, car-based SUVs such as the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. All are considerably smaller than traditional truck-based SUVs and promise carlike ride and handling and the security of available four-wheel drive.
Given a fresh look inside and out for 2005, the Escape gets a new 2.3-liter Duratec four-cylinder engine that develops 153 horsepower — 26 hp more than the prior 2.0-liter four-cylinder. For the first time, four-cylinder models are available with an optional automatic transmission. A new "Intelligent" automatic four-wheel-drive system is available.
Safety Canopy rollover protection is optional and antilock brakes are standard for 2005. XLS, XLT and Limited trim levels are available.
Conventionally powered Escapes went on sale in late winter of 2004 as early 2005 models. A new Escape Hybrid that operates with a four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor debuts in the 2005 model year.
(Skip to details on the: Escape Hybrid)
This season's face-lift includes new front and rear fascias, an eggcrate grille, new headlights and restyled wheels. Traditional styling resembles Ford's full-size SUVs and trucks. The rear liftgate has a flip-up window that opens separately.
The four-door Escape rides a 103.1-inch wheelbase, has a four-wheel-independent suspension and uses unibody construction. Standard tires measure 15 inches in diameter, but 16-inchers are available.
Rather than the column-mounted gearshift previous models used, the 2005 Escape uses a console shift lever. The Escape seats five people on two front bucket seats and a split-folding, three-place rear bench. Cargo volume behind the rear seat measures 29.3 cubic feet. Standard equipment includes a CD player, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors.
Under the Hood
In the XLS, a new 153-hp, 2.3-liter Duratec four-cylinder mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission or a five-speed-manual gearbox. The Escape may also be equipped with a 200-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, which comes only with the automatic. Escapes may have either front-wheel drive or new "Intelligent" four-wheel drive, which engages automatically to maintain traction. An optional towing package for the V-6-equipped Escape allows it to haul 3,500 pounds.
Antilock brakes are standard and have Quick Brake Assist. Side curtain-type Safety Canopy airbags with rollover protection are optional.
Any Escape is easy to drive and quite stable on the highway. It steers with a very light touch, which imparts a sufficient level of confidence. Frisky performance emanates from the V-6 engine, and the Escape accelerates from a standstill with spirit. The automatic transmission shifts capably and without lumpiness — in fact, it's quite smooth for a truck.
Driveline noise is more noticeable than expected. Ride comfort is satisfying around town. Extremely short front-seat bottoms can impair comfort, but back support is fine. The doors and overall construction feel a little tinnier than some rival SUVs.
The first hybrid-powered SUV reaches Ford dealerships in the 2005 model year. It's also Ford's first entrant into the hybrid segment. Delivering its power to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT), the Escape Hybrid can run on its four-cylinder gasoline engine, electric power only (for short distances) or a combination of the two.
Ford's eCVT system allows the gas engine and electric traction motor to work together. The eCVT unit actually contains the electric motor. The battery pack sits below the rear floor carpet and delivers 39 kilowatts of power.
Mary Ann Wright, director of sustainable mobility technologies and hybrid vehicle programs, said the Escape Hybrid yields a 50 percent fuel-usage improvement in city and highway driving. Ford says an Escape Hybrid equipped with front-wheel drive can yield more than 35 mpg in city driving and travel up to 500 miles on a single tank of gas. The Escape Hybrid also meets Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) requirements. At stoplights, the engine shuts itself off. Ford promises acceleration that rivals V-6-powered models.
Except for a rear ventilation window that takes in air and circulates it through the battery system, the Escape Hybrid looks like a regular gas-powered Escape. It uses electric power steering, and regenerative braking helps keep the battery charged. Due to increased weight, the Escape Hybrid has revised suspension tuning.
A battery charge/usage gauge sits on the left side of the dashboard. In electric mode, an icon below the 0 on the tachometer indicates that no fuel is being used. An optional display screen in the center stack shows powertrain information and functions as the navigation-system display.
Based on the 2.3-liter Duratec four-cylinder, the Escape Hybrid's gasoline engine uses the Atkinson cycle combustion process for greater fuel efficiency. The combined output of the gasoline and electric motor is 155 hp. Towing capacity is 1,000 pounds in the Escape Hybrid, versus up to 3,500 pounds for a V-6-equipped Escape.
When driving the Escape Hybrid, you're seldom aware that you're in anything other than a conventional Escape. Acceleration is at least as eager as that of a four-cylinder-powered Escape and likely closer to that of the V-6 model. Totally smooth takeoffs are credited to the easy-operating eCVT, but you do feel a slight jerk when the gasoline engine kicks in.
The Hybrid's handling traits differ little from regular Escapes. It maneuvers in such a way that you can hardly tells it's using electric power steering. Ride comfort in both versions is comparable, ranking as pleasantly smooth on most surfaces. Engine braking for offroad driving is minimal.
The only bothersome noises are some engine blare on uphill acceleration, when it's straining and during acceleration when a bit of powertrain whine is apparent, but this is noticeable only if the windows are open.
Even though the display screen is tiny, it's exceptionally easy to read and the size of informative arrows changes in response to conditions. To explain what is occurring within the powertrain, the Escape Hybrid's display screen does not rely solely on charts and diagrams. Ford includes several explanations in words, which are easier for some people to understand. The round gauges are easy to see, but the LED odometer figures are more difficult to read and subject to glare. Back to top
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Joe Wiesenfelder||Cars.com National||November 12, 2004|
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||November 5, 2004|
|Kristin Varela||Mother Proof||February 15, 2005|
|Dan Neil||Los Angeles Times||December 15, 2004|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||November 7, 2004|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||November 6, 2004|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||July 18, 2004|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||June 30, 2004|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||June 20, 2004|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||May 22, 2004|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||October 10, 2003|
|Jason Stein||February 6, 2005|
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