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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Ford Escape

Ford has a completely new Escape for the 2013 model year that shares its platform with the 2012 Focus. The previous-generation Escape debuted back in 2000 and received mild updates in 2008, so this refresh was needed. This time around, Ford offers plenty of tech options to sort through before you order.

The top-rung Titanium trim level showed up for Mudfest 2013. It was nicely equipped with standard push-button start, remote start, SYNC with MyFord Touch, HID projector headlights, and leather seats. Our test vehicle had the company’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged motor paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and intelligent four-wheel drive system. Ford doesn’t give away much information on its drivetrain, but mentions that it monitors traction conditions every 16 ms for optimal torque distribution and vectoring. 

Some of the options our Escape included were a power lift gate, rear parking sensors, active park assist, blind spot detection, a back-up camera, navigation, and HD Radio. The lift gate has a neat trick; it lets you walk up behind the car with a key in your pocket and kick your foot below the rear bumper to automatically open it. We weren't able to test the active park assist or blind spot detection systems, but we’ve evaluated active park assist in the past and found it to be quite functional.

We spent a little more time using SYNC with MyFord Touch and our HTC Droid DNA. The phone paired fine and its phonebook transferred over, but text messaging did not work. This was odd because the Droid DNA features HTC Sense, which properly supports the Bluetooth MAP protocol. Nevertheless, we were limited on time. SYNC with MyFord Touch had no trouble with the Lightning-connector equipped iPad, and it played music off of the tablet like a standard iPod.

The Escape was more car-like than SUV. Its Focus roots are noticeable, making it a great crossover to toss around. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost motor was very smooth, didn’t exhibit any noticeable lag, and packed quite a punch. We found the intelligent four-wheel drive system to be competent around the skid pad and dirt course, observing none of the understeer you typically associate with FWD-based systems.

The Escape's throttle response was a little odd in that the drive-by-wire system doesn’t appear to react fast enough when you step on the gas while cruising around. Driving around more conservatively, this wasn't an issue. Ford's Escape wasn’t the only vehicle to exhibit this behavior, though. We noticed it on the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport as well.

Styling-wise, I find the new Escape to be a massive improvement over the previous generation. It's good-looking and stands out in a sea of bland-looking vehicles around it.

Vehicle Specifications
Vehicle2013 Ford Escape
Trim levelTitanium 4WD
Engine2.0 L I4 GTDI EcoBoost (Turbo)
TransmissionSix-speed Select Shift Automatic
DrivetrainIntelligent 4WD
InfotainmentSYNC with MyFord Touch & Navigation
Notable featuresPower lift-gateRear parking aid sensorsActive park assistBlind spot detection system (BLIS)Rear-view camera
Fuel economy21 city, 28 highway, 24 combined MPG
MSRP$35,630
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply