In its first significant refresh since its 2001 debut, the Ford Escape compact SUV receives some styling changes, inside and out, plus a quieter cabin for 2008. The drivetrains, including that of the Escape Hybrid, remain the same.
The Escape looks more like a Ford Explorer now, but with a plunging chrome grille in some trim levels that would be equally at home on a Volkswagen Jetta or Golf. A raised hood and higher beltline may make the SUV look tougher, but they probably don't do much for visibility.
Changes include a new top-of-dash display and blue gauge backlighting. An auxiliary audio input jack is now standard. The center control panel has gotten a badly needed update. Ford says the standard fabric seats use 100 percent post-industrial plastic waste. While post-industrial doesn't have quite as big an impact as post-consumer waste, Ford says the new source will conserve, annually, 600,000 gallons of water, the equivalent of 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide and more than 7 million kilowatt hours of electricity.
Perhaps most important, Ford addressed one of the loudest complaints about the model by quieting the cabin. Sheet metal changes and a new windshield and ceiling liner address wind noise. Thicker carpeting is claimed to diminish road noise. Overall, Ford says, the Escape is 12 percent quieter at 80 mph.
Unfortunately, the fabric is the only thing that seems to have changed about the seats. Folding the backseat flat still requires flipping the cushion forward and removing the head restraints.
Under the Hood
Though the powertrains are unchanged, a new electric power-steering system removes the constant load of conventional hydraulic assist, which should improve fuel economy.
In addition to the Safety Canopy side-impact and curtain airbags, the Escape now features an electronic stability system with Roll Stability Control. The latter — which comes only on SUVs from Ford-owned brands, including its originator, Volvo — is the only system with a sensor that actually detects the beginning of a rollover and can act to stop it.
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