By KBB.com Editors
It's easy to confuse the sleek shapes and wedge-like profiles that dominate today's compact SUV crop. The 2008 Ford Escape, however, displays the same boxy, bold and rugged look that defines Ford's Explorer and Expedition SUVs. With over a million units sold, the Escape has proven itself to be an appealing vehicle and, with a host of interior refinements as well as more standard equipment and a quieter, more upscale cabin, the 2008 model looks to continue to rack up sales.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for traditional SUV features, such as high ground clearance and a high seating position, but you want it in a smaller, more fuel-efficient package, the 2008 Ford Escape makes a good choice.You May Not Like This Car If...
The Escape's ride and handling are not as precise as many crossover utility vehicles, and its four-cylinder engine lags behind the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue in horsepower and torque.What's New for 2008
Despite its new look, the 2008 Ford Escape's chassis, engines and transmissions are, for the most part, carry-overs from the previous model. What is new are the redesigned exterior and interior components, which include seat fabric made from 100-percent recycled material, a new dash backlit in "Ice Blue" lighting and standard AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC).Driving It Driving Impressions
The 2008 Escape gained a bit of weight compared to the 2007 model, but unfortunately didn't get any extra power to compensate for the extra padding. As a result, acceleration is underwhelming, even with the V6 model. Handling is best described as respectable, but not as tight or confident as experienced in more car-like utility vehicles, such as the Honda CR-V or Nissan Rouge. A new electric-assist power steering system delivers good steering response and eliminates the need for a belt-driven pump, which draws power from the engine.Favorite Features
Easy to use and loaded with helpful features, the Escape's on-board navigation unit can hunt down hotels, coffee kiosks and out-of-the-way gas stations in seconds.
Center Console Storage Space
The revised center console features a storage compartment large enough to hide a laptop computer, a rubber-lined storage tray to keep electronic devices from sliding around and an optional 110-volt power outlet.
The 2008 Ford Escape's interior gets a major overhaul, with better quality plastics, "Ice Blue" dash lighting and a new "top-of-dash" information center. Ford has repositioned the parking brake lever to the driver's-side footwell, creating a new center console storage space large enough to accept a laptop computer. A thicker headliner and carpeting, as well as laminated side glass, help quiet the interior, and the Escape's rear seat remains one of the roomiest in this class. Ford's standard Safety Canopy includes side-curtain airbags that deploy in the event of a side impact or impending rollover situation.Exterior
The 2008 Escape shares a strong family resemblance with Ford's other truck and SUV models, giving it a rugged appearance worthy of a quasi-off-road warrior. The Escape's small dimensions make it easy to park and maneuver, while the large side-glass panels permit a nearly unobstructed view for both driver and passengers. Unlike more stylized crossovers, the Escape's squared-off roof line creates a tall hatch opening that permits maximum cargo cramming. Bling junkies can opt for the Limited's Chrome Package, which adds reflective trim to the grille, rear hatch and roof rails.Notable Standard Equipment
The most basic Escape is powered through its front wheels by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual transmission. Creature comforts include rear defroster, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, 60/40 split-folding rear seats and a four-speaker CD player with auxiliary audio input jack. Standard safety features include traction control, stability control, front seat side-mounted airbags, side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes (ABS).Notable Optional Equipment
Options vary by trim and include a 3.0-liter V6 engine, four-wheel drive, 320-watt Audiophile sound system, GPS navigation, 17-inch chrome wheels, six-way power driver's seat, leather seats, heated front seats, 110-volt power outlet, power moonroof, fog lamps, keyless entry pad and the Reverse Sensing System.Under the Hood
The base 2.3-liter four-cylinder isn't much on power, but it does return impressive fuel economy figures, especially when driven at highway speeds. If you desire a manual transmission, this is your only engine choice. The larger 3.0-liter V6 is a carry-over from last year. It provides better acceleration and the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds, but its fuel economy ratings are in the high teens and low twenties.
2.3-liter in-line four
153 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
152 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (FWD, manual), 20/26 (FWD, automatic), 19/24 (4WD, automatic)
200 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
193 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4850 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (FWD), 17/22 (4WD)
2.3-liter, four-cylinder with electric motor
133 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
124 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 34/30 (2WD), 29/27 (AWD)
The 2008 Ford Escape XLS' Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $20,000 for the front-drive, manual-transmission model and jumps up to around $22,500 when equipped with an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The XLT models range from $22,000 to about $31,000 with all the options, while a fully-loaded Limited tops out around $33,000. To find out what other people are paying for the Escape in your area, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. Across the board, the Escape remains competitive with others in this class, including the Honda CR-V, Suzuki Grand Vitara and Jeep Liberty. Resale values, however, fall in the middle range, a bit below the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, but better than the Jeep Liberty and Suzuki Grand Vitara.