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. They promise carlike ride and handling and the security of available four-wheel drive.
Given a fresh look inside and out for 2005, the Escape got a new 2.3-liter Duratec four-cylinder that develops 153 horsepower. For the first time, four-cylinder models were available with an optional automatic transmission. A new Intelligent automatic four-wheel-drive system became available.
Antilock brakes are standard, and Safety Canopy rollover protection is optional. XLS, XLT, XLT Sport and Limited trim levels are available. Two new colors are offered on 2006 Escapes, and the 2.3-liter engine is now an option on XLT models.
A new Escape Hybrid that operates with a four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor debuted in the 2005 model year.
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The 2005 face-lift included new front and rear fascias, an eggcrate grille, new headlights and restyled wheels. Traditional styling resembles Ford’s full-size SUVs and trucks, though on a smaller scale. The rear liftgate has a flip-up window that opens separately.
The four-door Escape rides a 103.2-inch wheelbase, has a four-wheel-independent suspension and uses unibody construction. Standard wheels measure 15 inches in diameter, but 16-inch tires are available. Dark Shadow Grey fascias, cladding and wheel-lip moldings highlight the XLT Sport, while the Escape Limited has a monochromatic appearance.
Rather than the column-mounted gearshift previous models used, the current Escape features a console shift lever. Each Escape seats five people on two front bucket seats and a 60/40-split, folding 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. The Limited has leather seating surfaces. A Luxury Comfort Package for the Limited includes a 320-watt Audiophile stereo and a Reverse Sensing System.
A 153-hp, 2.3-liter Duratec four-cylinder in the XLS and XLT mates with a four-speed automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. XLT Sport and Limited models use a 200-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, which comes only with the automatic. Escapes can be equipped with 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. A Safety Canopy side curtain-type airbag system with rollover protection is optional.
The 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 — 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 reached dealerships in the 2005 model year. The Escape Hybrid is 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. At stoplights, the gas engine shuts itself off.
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.
For 2006, a Premium Package with a monochromatic appearance in a choice of five colors is available. The option group includes premium leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, a Reverse Sensing System, a hybrid energy display and a navigation system.
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 claims a front-drive Escape Hybrid can yield 36 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. 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. 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 zero on the tachometer indicates that no fuel is being used. An optional display screen shows powertrain information and functions as the navigation-system display.
Based on the 2.3-liter Duratec four-cylinder, the Escape Hybrid’s 133-hp gasoline engine uses the Atkinson-cycle combustion process for greater fuel efficiency. Towing capacity is 1,000 pounds, 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 gas-powered Escapes. You can hardly tell 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, though that’s 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 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