2013 Ford Escape: What a Difference $11,000 Makes

It seems we may be having a love-hate relationship with Ford's redesigned Escape. Our first impressions were good, really good, in fact. "No matter how hard I looked, I couldn't find anything significantly wrong with it," Managing Editor David Thomas said of the new compact crossover. Shortly after that review, the redesigned Escape flunked Cars.com's $25,000 Compact SUV Shootout, sulking in last place. What gives?

Well, for starters, there are a several versions of this vehicle — some we love and some we could live without. I drove both the base model evaluated in the Shootout and a loaded Titanium-trim test car, and let's just say our relationship status is "complicated."

The 2013 Ford Escape is available in four trim levels with three engines. There's base S, SE, SEL and Titanium. Under the hood, there's the base 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder and two new turbocharged four-cylinders: a 173-hp, 1.6-liter and a 231-hp, 2.0- liter.

The base model's engine is a carryover four-cylinder from the outgoing Escape; the turbocharged 2.0-liter in the Titanium model is smooth and powerful, replacing the outgoing V-6.

The base model's cabin was a disappointment with large, uneven panel gaps, loads of hard plastic surfaces and chintzy seat fabric. The Titanium model's interior looked high class; it was comfortable and wrapped in soft-touch materials. The base model lacked many features similarly priced competitors offer, but the Titanium was stocked with comfort and technology features.

But there's a catch, and it's a big one: all that refinement and comfort costs money — a lot of it, actually. At $23,295, including an $825 destination charge, our two-wheel-drive Shootout test car fell well under the $25,000 mark and had no options. For this Shootout, vehicles needed to come in below $25,000, excluding destination charges, to qualify. To get more features in the 2013 Escape, we needed to jump to the SE model, which brought it just over $25,000 and disqualified it.

The all-wheel-drive Titanium model starts at a pricey $32,945, including an $825 destination fee; after adding the MyFord Touch multimedia and navigation system and the Parking Technology Package, our test car's final sticker was an eye-opening $34,735. That's a lot of money for a compact crossover. Acura's new RDX with all-wheel drive is $36,615, including an $895 destination charge, and Audi's all-wheel-drive Q5 starts at $36,475 with an $875 destination charge. You'll need to pay more for navigation, but these luxury compact crossovers aren't far off the top Escape's mark.

Although I was quite impressed by the Escape in Titanium trim, I didn't love the extra $11,440. It seems the 1.6-liter SE model will be the bulk seller at $25,895 before adding all-wheel drive or MyFord Touch. We just haven't seen one yet.

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