"We bought this in 2002 new, from the Ford dealer. We now have 58k miles on it, and very little trouble. We replaced the master cylinder (@ 34k mi. still under warranty). The Escape is great for off road use as it has great ground clearance and goes through mud with ease, the 4 wheel drive is seldom needed, its front wheel drive design gives it good traction in snow, rain, ice, etc.
The Escape is a great size for our family, we can fit 4 adults in the vehicle with relative comfort, we can put a cooler full of drinks and a couple small luggages in the cargo area, and still tow a jet ski! The towing capacity is actually quite impressive, it can tow its own weight (3500 lbs.)!
The Escape is good for the daily commute as well, it routinely gets 28 mpg in a mix of city/hwy driving.
It has plenty of power for freeway acceleration, up to 70 mph from zero, it has 200 hp, and I think 200 lb. of tq., which is good for its size. It rolls on knobby 16" continental tires, which provide smooth ride, and good grip in all weather conditions as well as good mpg.
For about $24k it was a good deal. Even with our now 58k miles its still worth roughly 60% of new, which isn't bad considering its 6/7 years old.
We have the XLT with the leather seats and moonroof/sunroof combo, its quite the perfect vehicle for us (or any family)."