A whopping number of popular priced compact crossover sport utility vehicles are available to entice buyers, but few – like the 2018 Ford Escape – also offer scintillating performance.
To get that, however, you must order an Escape with the optional 245-horsepower, 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which delivers 275 lb.-ft. of torque (or twisting force) through a 6-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. EcoBoost is Ford-speak for its direct-injected turbocharged engine line.
The $1,295 engine option is available on the SE and Titanium Escape trims, which have as standard a 179 horsepower, 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine on front- and all-wheel-drive versions. The base Escape S, in front-drive only, is powered by a non-turbo 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
Driven for this review was a front-drive SE model with the 245-horsepower EcoBoost engine. It proved to be a willing conveyance, especially when darting about and shooting through holes in urban traffic. With turbo lag nearly absent, throttle responses were mostly instant, allowing for quick maneuvers that could be decisive in emergency situations.
The Escape also proved to be a decent road car. The suspension keeps the wheels planted while delivering a reasonably comfortable ride when the highway is not overly pockmarked. A tall vehicle, it hustles around curves capably and tracks steadily in a straight line.
The Escape feels tightly bolted together with little wind noise and enough insulation to muffle road and mechanical sounds. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the back seats – except for the center position – offer comfort with ample head and knee room.
Passengers will enjoy more than 90 cubic feet of space with 30+ cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats. Passenger space is about what you find in a midsize car, while the cargo space is about double that of a large sedan. Fold the rear seats and the cargo capacity jumps to 68 cubic feet.
The Escape parks in the sweet spot of the current market, where buyers are flocking to small, compact, and midsize crossovers across the board from economy to luxury. When you check the charts, it’s astounding to find that there are at least 52 small, compact, and midsize crossover SUVs available in the United States, including popular priced and luxury models. Almost all have two rows of seats; the number doesn’t include larger models, some with three rows of seats.
With a base price of $25,605, the tested front-drive SE arrived with a decent level of equipment. Full safety equipment comes standard, including a backup camera, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. Dual-zone electronic climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, audio system with SXM satellite radio, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, and an electric parking brake are also standard.
Added on the tested Escape was the $1,295 engine, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, voice-activated navigation system with a touch screen, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, and a power rear lift gate.
It all made for a nice, borderline luxurious package except for missing a couple of expected items on a vehicle in this category. Though it had stop-start technology that shut down the engine at stoplights to enhance fuel economy, it did not have pushbutton starting. A standard ignition key with a remote control for locking and unlocking is complemented by a keypad on the outside doorframe for performing the same functions with a numeric code.
With many fine competitors vying for attention, a prospective buyer can simply choose whatever suits him or her. The 2018 Escape is a good place to start.