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Monday, August 27, 2018

2019 Ford Escape Review

The 2019 Ford Escape works well as a crossover SUV, but has the ride and handling of a smartly tuned hatchback.
The 2019 Ford Escape lives in a household full of bro-dozers and brute-utes, and somehow it thrives. The sleek, hatchback-ish crossover sells hundreds of thousands of copies a year, and we think we know why.

Sold in S, SE, SEL, and Titanium trim, the 2019 Escape can and wants to be driven like a hot hatch, so long as you order the frothy engine, not the frugal one.


We rate the 2019 Ford Escape at 5.7 out of 10, slightly above average despite some concerns with a crash-test score. 

Still taut and sleek from the outside, the Escape drops all SUV pretense with its fast roofline and lower ride height. Pert and handsome years from its introduction, the Escape’s cockpit hasn’t fared so well. The undulating shape cuts into passenger space and looks dated. Time for another run by edit.

Skip the Escape’s base inline-4 engine; it’s meant for rental fleets and people more patient than any of us. The 179-horsepower 1.5-liter turbo-4 makes for a better choice for most drivers, with better low-end power and better gas mileage. Our Escape would be the 245-hp turbo-4 with all-wheel drive. It creams competitors with rally-car realness, from its firm ride to its sharp steering.

That high-strung ride might not be a favorite of passengers nestled in the Escape’s snug cabin. Front passengers get very firm seats that provide enduring comfort over long trips. The back seats flip down to boost cargo space to more than 68 cubic feet, and the Escape can be fitted with a hands-free tailgate.

The IIHS says front-passenger small-overlap protection is poor; the Escape’s struggled with crash tests for most of the current generation. Ford also makes automatic emergency braking a pricey option. 
On the credit side, Ford’s made a big touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility standard on all but the base Escape, and the crossover can be equipped with leather upholstery, navigation, a tow package, and automatic park assistance.

Styling
The past doesn’t echo through the Ford Escape’s snappy hatchback body.
Nothing in the body or cabin of the 2019 Ford Escape remotely suggests it’s an SUV. That’s all part of the plan.

Ford has plenty of truckish utility vehicles in its lineup, and with the imminent return of the Bronco and baby Bronco, it’s about to have more. The Escape’s a flying wedge into a different sort of utility, one that needles through urban environments discreetly cloaked as a hatchback.

The Escape’s been around a while, but it’s still good-looking. We think it’s a 6 for styling.

Seven years into the current generation, the Escape’s shape has endured. Like a comfortable sports shoe, the Escape masks some of the undergear that lets it perform as well as it does. It gives up some ground-hugging effects in exchange for a taller roofline; it’s throwing strikes right down the middle, between darty liftback and rugged SUV. With its latest front end, grafted on just a couple years ago, it’s set to live out the last year of its current generation in smart style.

The Escape’s cabin still has us grasping for answers. The anti-SUV theme goes to extremes here, with curves and crests baked into a dash that swarms passengers and steals some of their space. It’s rakish and forward-looking still, but doesn’t work as well from a utility perspective. It can feel confining, and some of its bits and pieces read like timestamps, from the dozens of black buttons to its CD player slot. A new Escape appears for 2020; a tamer cabin might be a better way forward.

Performance
With the Escape, Ford found a way to graft hot-hatch limbs on a crossover body.
The Ford Escape doesn’t look at all like an old-school SUV, and that says everything about its performance. It’s more a zippy hatchback on high wheels, especially in top turbo trim.

We give it a point above average for its snappy handling, and call it a 6 here. 

Ford straps an uninspiring 2.5-liter inline-4 in the base Escape. It’s a skipper, unless the sticker price is your decider. With 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, the base engine’s reasonably smooth and borderline competent, but has the most sluggish acceleration of the lineup, and nearly the lowest fuel economy.

The 1.5-liter turbo-4 offered in all Escapes is a better choice for most drivers. It has 179 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, and while acceleration doesn’t improve by leaps and bounds, it pulls more strongly at low revs and the 6-speed automatic doesn’t get as busy on the interstate. Gas mileage is the best of the lineup, but you’ll have to endure some exhaust thrum and boom.

The 2.0-liter turbo-4 powers the Escapes we’d drive. With 245 hp on tap, it pulls to 60 mph in about 7.0 seconds, with gobs of passing power and low-end punch. Like the smaller-displacement turbo-4, this engine comes with paddle shift controls that encourage eager use of its ample thrust.

All-wheel drive is an option on the otherwise front-wheel-driven Escape. It’s a simple setup that can move power front to back, depending on traction. The Escape also has stability-control programming that bites down on an inside front wheel in tight corners, to simulate torque-vectoring.

The Escape doesn’t need much in the way of electronic intervention to handle as well as it does. It has a tossable, firm, grippy feel that’s polished far above its price class. Other crossover SUVs have glumpy road feel and sluggish steering; the Escape quickly responds to calls from the weighty steering and brakes, and controls its body with sport-sedan firmness. It’s a crossover that feels more like an engaging hatchback, with more cargo space and ground clearance.
The flip side? The Escape can feel jittery on urban roads, especially with the Titanium’s 19-inch wheels and tires that crash over speed bumps and potholes.

Comfort & Quality
The Ford Escape wraps its skin tightly around a cabin with firm front seats and ample cargo space.
The Escape is a bit smaller than some competitors, though, and those front seats aren’t to everyone’s taste.

We give it a 7 for comfort and quality.

The Escape rides on a 105.9-inch wheelbase, and sits 178.1 inches long. It’s not as space-efficient as a Honda CR-V, for example, which has a shorter wheelbase and more interior room.

In part, it’s due to expressive interior style. The Escape has a heavily sculpted dash that protrudes deeply into the cabin. It tapers the footwells, and cuts into knee room in front.

Add in the available panoramic sunroof, and the Escape’s cockpit snugs against taller drivers and masks its size.

The Escape’s front seats will be too firm for some, but we like their long-distance support. The seats have slim cushions on the bottom and backrest.

The rear seats fold down to expand the Escape’s cargo space from 34 to 68 cubic feet. There’s no single lever to flip and fold away those chairs, but the Escape offers an adjustable cargo floor and a hands-free tailgate that opens with a swipe of a free foot.

Safety
The Escape generally crashes well, though it has one “Poor” rating from the IIHS and Ford puts a price on important safety gear.
The Ford Escape has performed well in most recent crash tests, but in its final year of the current generation, it still doesn’t make key safety equipment standard.

It’s a 4 for safety, for that fact and for a concerning new rating from the IIHS. 

The IIHS says the current Escape performs well in front- and side-impact tests, but calls its passenger small-overlap protection “Poor.” The agency’s just added the new passenger-side test to its roster, and it reveals sharp differences in protection afforded to drivers and front passengers.

The NHTSA says the Escape earns a five-star overall score.

Ford makes forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking available on the Escape, but not on the S model; on all other models, even the Titanium, it’s a $1,295 option.

Other available safety features include all-wheel drive, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors.

A tow package adds trailer-sway control, which uses stability control to compensate for the rocking motion induced by a trailer, and better headlights.

Features
Ford makes the Escape SE its value leader as it closes out the current generation.
Ford sells the Escape in S, SE, SEL, and Titanium trim levels. In the middle two, the Escape is a good value. Elsewhere, some key features are walled off only to expensive trims, and the base infotainment screen is lousy and small. The Escape’s warranty is nothing special, either.

We rate it a 6. 

Starting from the mid-$20,000s, the 2019 Ford Escape S comes with cloth seats, power features, air conditioning, 17-inch wheels, cruise control, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD  audio system, and Sync infotainment with a teensy, non-touch-controlled 4.2-inch center screen. Escape SE crossovers also come with the power-poor inline-4; we’d call this a non-starter.

Move into the value-leading Escape SE and Ford adds the smaller-displacement turbo-4, a power driver seat, satellite radio, keypad entry, keyless ignition, Sync 3 infotainment with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, dual-zone automatic climate control, and heated front seats. The SEL gets a power tailgate, leather seats, and rear parking sensors. Forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking are a $1,295 option on these and on the Titanium trim level; some rivals offer the gear standard.

The Escape Titanium adds a 12-speaker 390-watt Sony audio system, navigation, a power passenger seat, HD radio, blind-spot monitors, ambient lighting, and 18-inch wheels.

Add in all the options on a top-line Escape and the price approaches $40,000. Those options include a tow package, automatic park assist, and a panoramic roof.

Fuel Economy
The Escape’s gas mileage isn’t bad for an SUV; it’s middling for an economy car.
Gas mileage for the 2019 Ford Escape hasn’t been published, but with no mechanical changes, we expect the 2018 ratings will carry over intact.

The figures for the current Escape have been good enough to earn a 5 for fuel economy, based on ratings for the most popular versions. 

The Escape comes with a standard 2.5-liter inline-4 and front-wheel drive. In that front-drive configuration, the EPA rates it at 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined.

Ford sells a 1.5-liter turbo-4 that we recommend for most buyers. With front-wheel drive, it’s rated at 23/30/26 mpg, or with all-wheel drive, at 22/28/24 mpg.

The most powerful Escape engine is the 2.0-liter turbo-4. Its gas mileage, of course, is the lowest of the lineup, at 20/27/23 mpg for all-wheel-drive versions, and 21/28/24 mpg for those with front-wheel drive.

Both turbocharged engines have stop/start and direct injection that boost fuel economy, and all Escapes get active grille shutters that can help to smooth airflow.

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