I kept my 1993 Mustang 5.0 for 19 years. In the second half of its life, there were constant and unexpected repairs. I had three different tow truck outfits on speed dial. But I wanted my wife to drive a worry-free car, one not likely to leave her sitting stranded by the side of the road. Leasing was the perfect answer. Her first leased vehicle was a 1999 Mercury Mystique, but then she shocked me by moving to the Ford Escape in 2004. In those days, the Escape was much more truck-like, a boxy affair that sat up high on its axels. She really enjoyed the SUV experience, and so leased another Escape in 2007. And 2010. In 2013, not keen on the Escape’s new redesign, she moved to a Focus (major surprise!), but then came back to the Escape for the 2016 model, for its higher seating position.
For the 2012 Focus makeover, Ford relied heavily on its German and U.K. design teams for an all-new Focus generation. They turned a rather lackluster economy car into a good-looking vehicle that was actually fun to drive. The Focus was one of the top-sellers in the world, when it wasn’t THE top seller in the world. Having spent 3 years driving both the 2013 SE and 2013 base model S sedans (one auto, one manual), I can say without hesitation that Ford nailed it with that Focus. Steering and handling were tight and predictable, though still forgiving of driver error. The car had very much a European feel to it. The manual transmission could have used a 6th gear, but it shifted “like butter.” The cabin was intimate and nicely appointed.
And the current Escape benefits greatly from that Focus redesign.
After driving a Focus, you would immediately recognize the current Escape as the “big brother.” Built on the same platform, the Escape’s dimensions are virtually identical to the Focus (except height), and the interior is strikingly similar, so it’s just like driving a larger version of the Focus hatchback. Our 2016 Escape SE model (www.tfrog.com/tfrog) featured the 1.6 liter turbocharged (Ecoboost®) four-cylinder engine at 178HP. It had a respectable amount of power on demand and that engine proved to be a steady powerplant over its three years. It never gave us pause over the 60,000 miles we put on it.
Our White Gold 2018 Escape Titanium has medium light stone heated leather seating surfaces in a handsomely furnished cabin. A couple of high-gloss black pieces complement the dashboard’s high quality plastics. The feel of the leather-wrapped steering wheel (also heated) is excellent. This Escape was ordered with the optional Class II trailer towing package, so it also has “paddle shifters” on the steering wheel. Shift the 6-speed automatic from Drive to Sport mode and the paddle shifters offer (pretend) full manual control. I’ll play with that after the first 1,000-mile break-in period, when this Escape gets its first oil change.
Forget keys. Get used to carrying a keyfob, a black controller about 3½” long. Hit the Unlock button, and the Escape turns on front and rear lamps, along with courtesy lamps under both side mirrors, a welcome sight at night. When you carry the keyfob on your person, just a touch of the driver door handle unlocks all doors. Slip into the driver seat, put your foot on the brake pedal, and a one-touch button starts the engine. The electronics immediately come to life, including the dominant 8″ display that is your direct communication with the Escape. With the available Remote Start (featured on the accompanying FordPass cellphone app), I can start the Escape while I’m in the kitchen fixin’ my morning coffee, and the car will warm up before I get down to the garage. Without a keyfob inside the car, however, you cannot shift out of Park. The keyfob also allows you to raise or lower the rear liftgate (which is also operated by sliding your foot underneath the rear bumper – cool, when your arms are full of packages).
The Escape ST
The base level S model is your entry point, ready to go out of the box, but with a 2.5 liter inline-four rated at 168HP. The next step up, the SE, comes with a bunch of appealing extras and a 1.5 liter turbocharged four (179HP). A new SEL model packs even more, with plenty of available options to upgrade. The Titanium edition is the top of the line for the Ford Escape, and it comes with more goodies than I can describe here (window sticker reproduced below). Once we were done “building our own Escape” on the Ford website, there were very few remaining options available for the Titanium, and those are the ones designed for people who probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place – accident avoidance systems like lane-keeping, autonomous braking, etc. We ordered none of those. The car does have proximity alarms, which warn when you come too close to something. Unfortunately, these alarms go off every time we pull into the garage. But, between these alarms and the generous 8″ rearview camera display, backing into a parking space is simple and easy. The Titanium also has Parking Assist which steers for you into a parking space, horizontal or vertical.
The Titanium edition is also the only Escape that gets the 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that powers the Focus ST (previously available as an option on the SE model). Here, it is rated at 245 HP with a corresponding dip in fuel economy. But the difference over the 1.6 liter Ecoboost four is definitely noticeable. It is smooth, it is confident, and its power puts it in the top of the class for small SUVs. Combined with excellent driving characteristics, the Escape Titanium is a pleasure to drive, as well as a utilitarian vehicle for all situations. With the optional Intelligent Four Wheel Drive setup, winters will be no problem for us. (Of course, I can always turn off the Traction Control System if I just want to spin the tires.) This is why I call it the “Escape ST.”
The steering wheel includes the standard cruise control, phone and audio controls, and driver display menu controls. Add paddle shifters, and there’s a lot going on here. The leather-wrapped wheel is contoured to fit the hand well, and it can be adjusted in and out, up and down to your liking. The dash in front of the steering wheel has large speed and tachometer (RPM) gauges, fuel and temperature gauges, and a digital display with quite a few options (average MPG, trip meters, miles since fueling, miles until empty, etc.).
The main 8″ display sits front and center on the dashboard. The home screen is split into three sections – realtime navigation map, audio source, and connected cellphone. Inside the menus are a crazy amount of options that will have to be explored. For now, we have three banks of five FM presets, two of five AM presets, a single-CD player that sits above the display, an AUX port (my iPod Nano, tucked inside the voluminous storage bin under the center armrest with its own USB port/charger), and cellphone all offering source media for the audio player. (Also Sirius Radio, but I’m not a fan.) Radio includes HD AM/FM. The SYNC®3 system allows voice commands for almost everything.
Tap the map and it expands to fill the screen. We asked the system to find our home address (which it did, quickly) and then we had prompts all along the route (“turn left 1/10th mile ahead”… “turn left now”) until “You have arrived at your destination.” I’m sure this will come in handy one day.
Between navigation, audio, and connected cellphone, there is much that this electonics hub can do, and a week spent thumbing through the manual may be in order. It will take a bit of time just to become familiar with all of the voice commands available. The display itself is touchscreen, so paging through the menus is quick and easy. But this is best left to your copilot/navigator, of course.
Below the central display/audio unit is the dual-zone climate control. Yes, separate settings for both driver and passenger! A/C and heat can be directed to windshield, person, or footwell, any combination, or all three at once. On a cold day, press a button to heat the rear glass, and the outside mirrors, front and back windshields, and front wipers are all heated and de-iced. Not really looking forward to trying this out.
Thought: I was the guy who bought a 1993 Mustang 5.0 with no options. All I wanted was a small-block American V8, a stick shift, and a comfy seat. A stereo unit was the only plus I needed. Anything else would have just gotten in the way. Today I drive an Escape with everything in the book!
[photo of seat controls]
The driver seat has a 10-way power adjustment regimen (including lower lumbar support… ahhhhhh), and the front passenger seat has 6-way adjustment. Three memory presets on the driver-side door will return your seat and outside mirrors to your preferred settings each time.
[photo of rear seats with center section down]
The rear seats do not offer a lot of room, BUT the rear seats do recline! There are additional vents back there for heat and A/C, and there is an actual 110-volt powerport for charging laptops, tablets, etc. There are “map pockets” (who uses maps anymore?) on the backs of the front seats, extra lighting for rear passengers, and a panoramic vista moonroof overhead that spans both front and rear seats. A middle section of the rear seats folds down for extra cup holders. Both seats fold down fully and lay flat, 60/40 split, for plenty of space for cargo. We had two bicycles laid flat in our 2016 Escape, front tires removed. With the rear seats upright, there’s still plenty of room in the back for our weekly trip to the grocery store.
Our Titanium has 18″ silver-painted wheels (sparkly!) that remind me of wagon-wheel spokes. I’ll point out that they’re not easy to clean (too many nooks and crannies), but they do look really nice when washed. The spare tire is under the cargo floor and it’s the usual shrinky-dink, suitable only for driving to the tire store. There’s also a funnel here, if you get caught out of gas and have to use a gas can to refuel. The fuel door hides a capless fuel intake. Hint: When done fueling, hold the fuel filler handle for an extra 5 seconds, then remove. This allows any vacuum to dissipate.
Thought: Ford likes to claim a certain level of fuel efficiency for the Escape (20 city, 27 highway, 23 overall), and to meet those numbers they have installed the Stop/Start system. When you come to a stop in traffic with your foot on the brake, the engine shuts off. Lift your foot and the engine starts up again. The feeling can be disconcerting, especially if you’re about to pull out quickly into a small gap in the traffic. We turn this off, and it has to be turned off each time you start the car, as it’s on by default. After a few tankfuls and around 1,200 miles, our average fuel consumption is right around 20MPG. Another contributor to this low mileage is the fact that the 2.0 turbo is just a lot of fun to drive. A little too much fun.
A couple of additional little touches I really like. All four side windows are operated by one-touch up and one-touch down buttons. A touch on the down button and the window goes all the way down. A little practice is in order if you want to stop the window at any point. Push down to start, then pull up to stop the window’s descent. Also, front cup holders have LED lighting that can be set to a range of colors (I like green). All other interior lighting is any color you want, so long as you want Ice Blue.
We would normally have traded our 2016 Escape on a 2019 model, but the 2019s are delayed until November. Our lease ended mid-October, so we had to choose a 2018 leftover.
We went over the Build Your Escape pages at the Ford website, discussing each option, and ended up choosing the Titanium edition (for the 2.0 engine, leather seats, lots of goodies), four-wheel drive version with the trailer towing package (just to get the hitch). We presented our choice to the local Ford dealer, who found exactly what we wanted in his “extended inventory.” The only difference was the inclusion of the Panoramic Vista Roof ($995), that we didn’t order but don’t mind having. Since this will probably be our last leased vehicle, we wanted one that we could happily purchase at lease end.
The White Gold is a color shifter. In bright sun, it appears almost white. At dusk, it looks to be beige, and at night it shows as a dark tan.
2018 Escape Titanium 4WD
2.0L EcoBoost Engine
6-Speed Auto Trans w/ SelectShift
Exterior: White Gold Metallic
Interior: Medium Light Stone Leather Seats
Assembly: Louisville, KY, May 3, 2018
Active Grille Shutters
Easy Fuel Capless Filler
Headlamp Courtesy Delay
Headlamps – Automatic HID
LED Signature Lighting
Mirrors – Heated/Power Glass/Manual Folding/Turn Signal/Memory
Privacy Glass – Rear Doors
Rear Interval Wiper/Wash/Defrost
Roof-rack Side Rails (Silver)
Taillamps – LED
Windshield Wiper De-icer
1-Touch Up/Down Front/Rear Windows
110V/150W AC Power Outlet
4-Way Front Head Restraints
60/40 Split Folding Rear Seats
Ambient Lighting/Illuminated Entry
Carpeted Floor Mats
Dual Illuminated Visor Vanity Mirrors
Dual Zone Automatic Climate Control
Leather Trimmed Seats with 10-way Heated Driver/Passenger (Driver w/ Memory)
Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel & Shifter Knob
Powerpoints – 12V
Smart Charging USB Ports (2)
Steering Wheel: Heated, w/ Cruise & Audio Controls, Tilt/Telescoping
Auto Start-Stop Technology
Enhanced Active Park Assist
Intelligent Access w/ Push Button Start
Power Steering w/EPAS
Rear View Camera
Remote Start System
Reverse Sensing System
Securicode Keyless Keypad
Sony Audio System – 10 Speakers
SYNC®3 w/8″ touch screen
Voice Activated Navigation
Advancetrac with RSC
Airbag – Driver Knee
Airbags – Dual Stage Front
Airbags – Front Seat Mounted Side Impact
Airbags – Safety Canopy
Front-Passenger Sensing System
Latch Child Safety System
SOS Post Crash Alert System
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
3 Year / 36,000 mile Bumper to Bumper
5 Year / 60,000 mile Powertrain
5 Year / 60,000 Roadside Assistance
Equipment Group 400A
18″ Sparkle Silver-painted Aluminum Wheels
235/50R18 A/S black sidewall tires
Panoramic Vista Roof ($995.00)
2.0L EcoBoost Class II Trailer Towing Package w/ Paddle Shifters ($495.00)
$33,490.00 Base Price
995.00 Destination & Delivery
$35,975.00 Total MSRP