Ford owns a controlling interest in Mazda, and though the Japanese company still sells unique products, it shares the Tribute with its bosses in Dearborn, Mich. Tribute is a new sport utility vehicle developed by the two companies, and Fords version is the Escape. They are based on the front-drive platform for the Mazda 626 sedan but use Ford engines.
Like the Escape, Tribute is designed to lure buyers out of cars by offering the look of an SUV with carlike driving ease and the security of four-wheel drive but not true offroad capability.
Tribute gets Mazda back into the SUV business. Because Mazda builds only cars, its previous SUV entry was a clone of the two-door Ford Explorer, discontinued after the 1994 model year.
Though the Tribute has the same shape as the Escape, it has a different grille, front fascia and headlamps, and unique exterior trim. It has similar dimensions and comes only as a four-door wagon with a rear liftgate that includes a flip-up window.
The overall length of 173 inches makes it 4 inches shorter than the Honda CR-V and 8 inches longer than the redesigned Toyota RAV4.
Five-passenger seating is complemented by a folding rear seat on LX and ES models that expands cargo room from a minimum of 17 cubic feet to 70. Leather upholstery and a power drivers seat are standard on the ES, the most expensive model.
Under the Hood
Tribute has the same powertrain choices as Escape. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 130 horsepower, and the optional engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 with 200 hp. The four-cylinder comes with only a five-speed manual and the V-6 with only a four-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive or a Ford four-wheel-drive system that engages automatically are available. Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats are optional.