By KBB.com Editors
Recently, Ford put a major effort into overhauling its aging Escape compact SUV with the stated purpose of challenging its much newer rivals. The transformation started in 2008 when Ford gave its popular compact SUV a cosmetic makeover, with a new interior and exterior design, and improved sound insulation and seat comfort. Then, in 2009, Ford completed the two-year renewal process with a major overhaul of the Escape's engine, transmission, suspension and brakes – changes that also applied to the Escape Hybrid (reviewed separately). As a result, the 2010 Escape will exit having recorded the second best sales year ever, no small accomplishment considering both the weak economy and tough new competition. For 2011, the Escape continues largely unchanged, but its mission remains the same: Keep luring foreign car buyers into Ford showrooms and into the Escape's driver's seat.
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 2011 Ford Escape makes a good choice.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for sleek aerodynamic styling, the Escape's boxy exterior stands in stark contrast to the more elegant design of the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue. Unlike the Toyota RAV4, the Escape does not offer a third-row seat option.What's New for 2011
Changes for 2011 are limited to the addition of HD Radio and an updated SYNC audio system featuring the Traffic, Directions & Information upgrade.Driving It Driving Impressions
The Escape's sturdy 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is surprisingly capable of moving the little SUV's weight with relative ease. But, if strong passing power and quick acceleration are more important than fuel economy, we recommend the optional 3.0-liter V6. The available six-speed automatic operates effortlessly and helps the Escape see improvements in both performance and fuel economy. 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. The 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.
Active Park Assist
A feature usually found only on super luxury cars, the Escape's Active Park Assist uses sonar and the electric power steering unit to automatically guide the Escape into an open parallel parking spot. Voice prompts tell the driver when to shift gears and apply power.
The Ford Escape's interior features quality materials, a clean and easy-to-decipher instrument panel, "Ice Blue" instrument lighting and a "top-of-dash" information center. Unlike many in this class, Ford places the Escape's parking brake in the driver's-side footwell, permitting the creation of a wide center console storage space large enough to accept a laptop computer. A thick 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 2011 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 (a task made even easier by Ford's Active Park Assist parallel parking guide), 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 trim, which adds reflective chrome trim to the grille, rear hatch and roof rails.Notable Standard Equipment
The most basic Escape, the XLS, is powered through its front wheels by an efficient 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual transmission. Creature comforts include rear defroster, power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, 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, a six-speed automatic transmission, the SYNC in-car communications and entertainment system (optional on XLT, standard on Limited), GPS navigation with 10GB hard drive music storage and rear view camera, 17-inch chrome wheels, six-way power driver's seat, leather seats, ambient lighting, MyKey programmable key, Active Park Assist, heated front seats, power moonroof, fog lamps, keyless entry pad and the Reverse Sensing System. Also available are remote start and a rear seat entertainment system.Under the Hood
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine employs variable valve timing for improved fuel economy, reduced emissions and maximum horsepower and torque. If you desire a manual transmission, this is your only engine choice. The recently improved 3.0-liter V6 features a high compression ratio that helps produce more horsepower and torque, an important attribute for those who need to tow or haul heavy loads. While the 3.0-liter engine does provide better acceleration and the ability to tow up to 3,500 pounds, its city fuel economy ratings only reach the high teens; on the flip side, the V6 is E85 Flex-Fuel compatible.
2.5-liter in-line 4
171 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
171 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 (manual, FWD), 21/28 (automatic, FWD), 20/26 (automatic, 4WD)
3.0-liter V6, Flex-Fuel
240 horsepower @ 6550 rpm
223 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25 (FWD, gasoline), 14/19 (FWD, E85), 18/23 (4WD, gasoline), 13/17 (4WD, E85)
The 2011 Ford Escape XLS' Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts close to $22,000 for the front-drive, manual-transmission model and jumps up to around $25,000 when equipped with an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The XLT models range from $25,000 to about $34,000 with all the options, while a fully-loaded Limited tops out around $36,000. 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, GMC Terrain and Jeep Liberty. Resale values, however, fall in the middle range, well below the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, on par with the GMC Terrain, but better than the Jeep Liberty and Suzuki Grand Vitara.