Pros: Quieter , Zippy , Better Looking.
Cons: Teeny gas tank. wacky stereo controls. Not for heavy offroad use.
The Top Line
Ive been driving a 2001 Escape for the last couple of years and I love it. Of course, there are a few things about the vehicle that can drive you crazy more later. Last year I rented a 2003 model and noticed a lot of improvements, so I was hoping for a continuation of that trend with the 2005 model. Recently I was on a business trip and had an opportunity to rent a 2005 Escape for a week. I wonder what changes theyve made? thought I , perhaps they took note of my consumer response surveys and all my epinions and fixed something. And actually .. they did well almost. Two of my major b!tches and complaints about the Escape are now things of the past
Originally targeted at the low-end market ($18-25k) the Escape, and its competitors are digging into the low-end of regular SUV sales (Explorer) as well as replacing the family sedan and station wagon. This section of the market is growing rapidly and is putting a smile on your local Ford dealers face. The mini-SUVs, as they are now called, are bringing this kind of vehicle into new territory. When Ford initially launched the Escape several years ago they estimated that 44% of buyers are women, and nearly 2/3rds are new Ford customers.
If you are looking at this car, check out the Honda CRV, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota RAV4 and Saturn Vue. You should also look at the Nissan Xterra and Jeep Liberty if you want something a little rougher and more rugged. Also new on the market this year is the Chevy Equinox, which you could cynically say is the reason Ford updated the 2004 Escape. Although I havent personally driven the Equinox it has received good buzz so it is worth checking out.
I drove a 2005 Ford Escape XLT 4 by 4 with a three-litre engine and four-speed automatic transmission. Pay attention to the size of the engine bigger is better. The 3.0L 24 valve Duratec V6 makes for a zippy ride, serving up 200 horses and 193 pound-feet of torque. Certainly enough to rack up a respectable 8.8 seconds for 0-60mph. Pull away from lights is more than respectable and I had no problems merging onto high-speed interstates or overtaking slower-moving cars when needed. The engine, which previously used to get a bit noisy at around 80mph, has apparently been recalibrated, and seems to be quieter and more refined. The constant road noise that used to plague the Escape has definitely been diminished (score #1 for the Ford engineers). The absence of the roar initially made me think theyd compromised on power, so I actually drove similar routes in my 2001 and the 2005 rental and discovered the difference only existed in my head!
The Escape can tow up to 3500 pounds, although I have no direct experience of towing anything with either my own 2001 model or this 2005.
In previous years Ford offered the option for the lower-price models of getting a 2.0L manual engine. This magnificent animal used to offer 127 horsepower and was woefully underpowered for the vehicle. Can you say acceleration of a dead sheep ? New for 2005 is the upgrade of the 2L to a 2.3L , 153 horsepower four cylinder which makes it far more competitive with vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4. Although I have no personal experience with the 2.3L model (which is available in manual or automatic) it has to be a major improvement over the 2L model which was so truly awful that my local Ford dealers hardly ever stocked them.
Fuel economy is average at best. I experienced 17mpg driving around the city, and about 21mpg on the highway. Which brings me to one of the largest drawbacks of the Ford Escape - THE GAS TANK IS TOO SMALL. Fitting 14 gallons on a good day, you get an effective range of 250 miles. Our local gas station attendant knows me by name. Ford claim its a 16 A? gallon tank, but I just dont believe them. The 2005 Escape also allegedly has fuel economy figures of 20/25 mpg but I classify those figures the same way that I judge height/weight stats for NFL players. So the economy has improved over the last 5 years, but not to the point where you stop imagining that the road noise is actually the sound of dollar bills being sucked out of your wallet.
The fuel gauges in the escape operate in hurry and up wait mode. This means you drop alarmingly from F to about ֿ/4 , then take a similar amount of time to get to E. After a few weeks you learn not to pull into the gas station when the gauge shows ֫/4 otherwise youre only putting about 9 gallons in another psychological point which underscores the teeny gas tank size.
One of the biases I bring to driving the Escape is the fact that I have owned one for four years, so I pride myself on knowing how all its quirks with regard to safe and efficient cornering impact the driving experience. I drive on the marginally aggressive side of average, without whipping the vehicle into corners and leaving skid marks across the local asphalt.
That said the vehicle handles well, probably the result of being based upon a car chassis, although if you really put your foot down coming into the turn you can feel the back-end of the vehicle wanting to go its own way and at the same time the front end leans into the turn. The steering at regular speeds is Goldilocks-class neither too heavy, not too light so you really get a good feel about what is going on as you speed down the road.
As mentioned previously the road noise has significantly diminished from the prior years models, as the newer styling has also had an impact on wind noise. All in all a major improvement.
Only a few changes mark the new 2005 Escape. The front and rear fascias have been reworked, for the better, featuring new headlights and a grille design. Comparing two vehicles side by side I realized that the major difference was that the headlights and fog lamps are now round instead of rectangular and there was a more elegant use of contrast-grey in the paneling. Minor changes, but a definite upscale effect.
Wow. The interior has changed from 2001. The most noticeable change is the movement of the gear-shift from a clunky column-mount to a center console with a ergonomically designed and grippy gear lever. Yeah!! The console itself meshes into the front-end instrument panel.
Also noticeable are newly designed instrument gauges. Initially introduced in 2004 with the white-faced gauges the design has been marginally changed in 2005, probably to the overall detriment of look and feel. I personally liked the 2004 version better, but thats just personal aesthetics. The radio/stereo controls continue to drive me nuts apparently being a heat-seeking missile for complexity. Something as simple as working the stereo shouldnt be that hard. When I sat back to figure this out I concluded it was workflow the controls just werent in the physical position I was expecting them to be. One by-product of the gear-shift movement is that the column shift no longer obscures the stereo (or whether the rear-defrost is on or off).
My rental model had cloth seats , which were comfortable enough but Id probably go for the leather if I was buying one for the family. Most third-party reviews of the leather rate it as so-so, but cloth vs leather for around $300 is a no-brainer. Im also happy to say that Ford has reverted to the seat designs from earlier years. The 2003 and 2004 driver seats were distinctly uncomfortable and the rear-seats may as well have been a flat park bench; in distinct contrast to the 2001-2002 versions. Thigh support is much improved, and a three hour drive left no strain on my hamstrings, which Ive noticed in some other SUVs.
I also noticed there were no rear floor mats in my rental. Strange.
Despite all these minor annoyances, when it comes right down to it, there is a lot of room in these Escapes. The rear seat can be folded down in a 40/60 split (and remember to remove the headrests and tuck them under the front seats before you start) yielding 65 cuft3 of space. The rear seat is also roomy, I managed to fit three six-footers in the back without anyones knees getting damaged.
ABS is now standard on all models ( used to be the XLT and Limited) and all V6 models have 4-wheel disc brakes. The new 2005 safety feature is a (optional) Side Canopy system offering full-length head curtain airbags for side collision and rollovers. The Limited also has a reverse sensing system very useful for parallel parking and making sure you dont run over your boss who is senselessly standing behind the vehicle. In Government tests the Escape earned a perfect five stars for frontal driver impact and four for the passenger. Side-impact crash tests also yielded five stars.
NHTSA Crash Test Results
Head-on accident Driver GOOD
Head-on accident Passenger GOOD
Side Impact Front EXCELLENT
Side impact Rear EXCELLENT
Rollover Rating NOT TESTED
Offset Crash Tests Acceptable (improvement from Marginal IIHS test-2004 Result)
My Ford Escape has never left me FORD (Found On Road Dead) so I should be grateful for that. The Escape has traditionally been one of the most recalled vehicles around although never for anything really incredibly stupid or dangerous. My friends in the car rental business tell me that their fleets actually age well, although at around 35,000 miles (this is for a 2003) they need a fairly comprehensive overhaul that can easily exceed $1,000 for the general public. My one week with the 2005 yielded no problems.
Specifications (from Edmunds)
Length: 174.9 in. Width: 70.1 in.
Height: 69.7 in. Wheel Base: 103.1 in.
Ground Clearance: 8 in. Curb Weight: 3464 lbs.
Gross Weight: 4520 lbs.
Front Head Room: 40.4 in. Front Hip Room: 53.4 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 56.3 in. Rear Head Room: 39.2 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 55.9 in. Rear Hip Room: 49.1 in.
Front Leg Room: 41.6 in. Rear Leg Room: 36.3 in.
Luggage Capacity: 29.3 cu. ft. Maximum Cargo Capacity: 66 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5
Base Number of Cylinders: 6 Base Engine Size: 3 liters
Base Engine Type: V6 Horsepower: 200 hp
Max Horsepower: 6000 rpm Torque: 193 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 4850 rpm Maximum Payload: 1174 lbs.
Maximum Towing Capacity: 3500 lbs. Drive Type: AWD
Turning Circle: 36.7 ft.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 16.5 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway)
Automatic: : 18 mpg / 22 mpg
Range in Miles: (City/Highway)
Automatic: 297 mi. / 363 mi.
The Bottom Line
Aside from a pea-sized gas tank and a little more road noise than youd expect I cant find a reason not to recommend this mini-SUV if youre in the market. The 2005 model sports many improvements over the 2001 and 2003 versions, both cosmetic and mechanical, and offers you a sporty, zippy ride. It is not the SUV to buy if you will be spending a lot of time off-road as the 4WD is more for show than necessity, but you can comfortably fit 5 in the vehicle, feel safe driving around town and the highway and know that it is reliable enough to get you there.