Pros: Clean line styling, nice ride, big SUV feel in a nimble package.
Cons: Small gas tank, marginal gas mileage.
I first drove the Ford Escape when my company gave me a 6-Cyl XLS Popular version in the Spring of 2003. When I changed jobs and handed back the keys, I swore that when I was looking for another vehicle I would consider the Escape. Funny how things work out, because only months later I was, and I did, and now im an owner of the new 2005. When it came time to update the Escape, the designers at ford really listened up to what past owners complained about and made changes. This can often be a problem with automakers because sometimes they will make changes just for the sake of making changes. With a truck this good to start with that doesnt necessarily mean a lot of changes, just the right changes. The new 2005 Escape has new headlamps, fog lamps, grille, new front and rear bumpers and new wheels. Interior changes included moving the shifter from the steering column to a floor-mounted position on a flow-through console, different white gauges, new seat cushion materials, and a longer seat base pad (So comfortable), and better fabrics. Ford did a good job changing the 2005 Escape inside and out, take for instance the better all-wheel drive performance system and more importantly, its alot safer then the older model escapes, and with more and larger SUVs on the road today thats really important. Larger front shocks and a new stabilizer system absorb road impacts better then older Escapes while maintaining the spirited, agile driving characteristics of the Escape. On a side note here, I went through a driver training course in the escape where we were taught defensive driving tactics that I though would have flipped an SUV. After being encouraged by our Police Officer training instructors I had the Escape in panic accident avoidance maneuvers I couldnt believe left us on all four wheels. Truly impressed by that I knew I was driving a very safe vehicle.
The 05 Escape now uses the fully automatic I-4WD system (Intelligent 4WD) which doesnt need to be switched on, like the old Control Trac II system. This new system operates normally in front-wheel drive and is capable of transferring as much as 99% of all traction to the rear wheels if its required. Sensors at each wheel keep constant watch for wheel slippage at a rate of 200 times per second and in a nanosecond shift torque and power to where its needed. Of course this system is completely transparent to the driver so youhave no idea whats going on except that you feel very surefooted driving this vehicle. A week after getting mine, Ive already driven in two New Jersey Ice /Sleet storms complete with black ice and and frozen sleeted roadways, let me repeat... GREAT SUV.
peace of mind features that are included in the 05 Escape include new occupant sensing airbag technology that determines whether or not there is a front passenger, and whether that passenger is an adult or child and then switches off the air bag if it is empty or a child. The improved airbags also offer Dual Stage Front Airbags which will deploy at full or partial power depending on how severe of an accident your in. Additionally all five seating spots have head restraints and shoulder belts, this is the first time ive seen a should belt in the rear center position. All the 05 Escapes get Anti-lock brakes with brake assist , and for roughly another $600 you can get side curtain air bags that protect against side impacts and roll-overs. I bought mine off the lot and since this option was not built in I dont have it, but it really sounds worth it. The moonroof is HUGE, and though I only got to use it once since we had an unusually warm (60*) January day I know that when the spring comes im really going to enjoy it. The hideaway sliding cover will be nice when you have to park in the sun.
Standard options on mine include: Power steering and ABS brakes, a 6 CD audio system, and a cover to hide things in the storage area behind the rear seat. This is truly an entry level SUV that you can live with. Ive camped out of it, actually sleeping in the back!) Its proven to be more then enough truck for me to fill with gardening or home improvement materials, and a great foul weather hauler for me and 4 friends to get to the ski mountain in. You'll probably see high teens to low 20's as far as MPG in combined highway driving, but for me this is ok, because its not far off what most front wheel drive cars are getting. The payback? A high point of view for the driver, a small SUV with removable rear seats, and a rugged little package that isnt boring.
Complaints? Well the gas tank is a little small and the range can be limited by this. I drove the Hybrid and though the performace matched that of my V6, I couldnt justify the huge difference in price. Maybe in a few years when the cost of the new technology comes down ill reconsider. Until then I think anyone looking for a small SUV will be perfectly happy in an Escape.