The Top Line
Ive been driving a 2001 Escape for the last five years and 110,000 miles and I love it. Of course, there are a few things about the vehicle that can drive you crazy more later. Every year I rent a current model for business travel and have noticed many improvements, so I was hoping for a continuation of that trend with the 2007 model. Especially as the 01 had started to become unreliable and I was in the market for a new SUV. Recently I was on a business trip in Cleveland and had an opportunity to rent a 2007 Escape for a week and drive it on a wide variety of roads in different weather conditions. 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 .. sadly they didnt almost nothing. So not much different from the 2005 and 2006 models.
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 almost defunct station wagon. This section of the market is still growing rapidly, at least compared with many others, and is about the only thing putting a smile on your local Ford dealers face, even with hefty discounting. The mini-SUVs, as they are now called, are bringing this kind of vehicle into new territory. When Ford initially launched the Escape five years ago, they estimated that 44% of buyers were women, and nearly 2/3rds were 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 revamped Mitsubishi Outlander, which is the vehicle I eventually purchased to replace my old Escape.
I drove a Hertz fleet 2007 Ford Escape XLT 4 by 4 with a three-liter 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 decent 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 early Escapes has definitely been diminished (score #1 for the Ford engineers). The absence of the roar initially made me think theyd compromised on power, but that doesnt appear to be the case.
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 2007.
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 was the upgrade of the 2L to a 2.3L, 153 horsepower four cylinder that 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 was such 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 16mpg driving around the city of Cleveland, and about 20mpg 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 it is a 16 ˝ gallon tank, but I just dont believe them. The 2007 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. Ive noted this feature in every Escape Ive ever driven.
One of the biases I bring to driving the Escape is the fact that I have owned one for five 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 Mazda 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. This distinguishes it from the Honda and Toyota where you may as well be holding a wet noodle in your hand when cornering for all the road feel you receive.
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 marked the new 2007 Escape and other than a few new colors and a couple of insignificant trim changes the engineers apparently slept through the past 12 months.
Wow. The interior has changed from 2001 but these are all 2005-year modifications, nothing for 2007. 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 was 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). The other annoyance about the stereo is the lack of a MP3 jack in any of the trims or upgrades.
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 across Ohio left no strain on my hamstrings, which Ive noticed in some other SUVs. You can get the heated front seats as an option in the XLT.
I also noticed there were still no rear floor mats in my rental. Strange. That happened last year too.
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 being damaged.
ABS is now standard on all models (used to be the XLT and Limited) and all V6 models have 4-wheel disc brakes but there is still no standard, or even optional, stability control system. A new safety feature introduced last year was an (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 do not run over your loved ones who are 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 although its behavior in the past few months has come close. 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 2006) they need a fairly comprehensive overhaul that can easily exceed $1,000 for the general public. My one week with the 2007 yielded no problems.
The standard Ford warranty is still 3 years / 36,000 miles although the powertrain has been bumped up to 5 years / 60,000 miles.
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 you at least look at this mini-SUV if youre in the market. The 2007 model sports many improvements over the earlier 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. The downside is that compared to the competition the Escape now feels rather spartan. It still offers an average radio/CD player; at most two power outlets, no trip computer and no Bluetooth or Navigation Packages. I ultimately chose the Outlander for the same price as the Escape as it offered more luxuries, better external styling and far superior mileage combined with a longer warranty.