We’re more than prepared to forgive the shortcomings of the new Ford Escape
XLS 4-cylinder. Sure, it does lack power and it misses out on some interior
features, but with a current price of just AUD$29,990, it’s excellent value.
Based on the Mazda Tribute, the new ZB-series Ford Escape introduces a
2.3-litre four-cylinder in the entry-level XLS. (A 3.0-litre V6 is available at
extra cost.) The two-point-three is essentially the same all-alloy DOHC engine
as you’ll find in the Mazda 6, but it’s tuned to deliver a more conservative
201Nm torque peak at 4500 rpm and 108kW at 6000 rpm.
We know what you’re thinking - how can a medium-size 4WD cope with so little
power and torque?
Well, it helps that the Escape weighs a modest 1527kg. As a result, it
performs quite adequately in urban driving – there’s decent response and useable
torque. It’s only when you want to overtake on the open road, climb a hill or load
‘er up that you’re left wanting more kilowatts. The engine is also noisy when
you’re trying to wring everything out of it.
The Escape is only sold as a 4-speed auto. It’s one of those column-shift
jobs, which means you don’t have tiptronic-style control over the ratios.
Fortunately, the trans is pretty well behaved – although it wants to drop
into top gear too early. (This can be avoided by switching off the overdrive.) We
also noticed a strange hesitation when the trans kicks back from second to first
gear while accelerating rapidly from a slow speed.
When you get used to the decent urban driving characteristics of the
4-cylinder Escape it’s surprising to learn that it’s so slow in the 0 – 100 km/h
increment. We recorded mid 13s, which is significantly slower than anything else
in its class – the Hyundai Santa Fe 2.7-litre V6 manages to reach 100 km/h in
around mid 11s.
But there is an upshot to the base Escape’s 4-cylinder driveline.
Ford claims 10.3 litres per 100km fuel consumption (ADR 81/01 standard) and
we averaged 11.1 litres during our test. Considering our mix
of driving, this is impressive. Note that normal unleaded is all that’s required to satisfy the
engine’s 9.7:1 compression ratio. The Escape 4-cylinder also receives the same
61-litre fuel tank as the V6 versions, which means you enjoy a 550 – 600km
Overall, the Escape’s four cylinder/auto trans combo is quite acceptable. If
you spend most time driving in urban conditions, the lack of power is barely
noticeable. On the other hand, if you regularly carry a heavy load or you spend
a lot of time in hilly terrain, we’d suggest paying extra for the 3.0-litre V6
Note that the 4-cylinder XLS is rated to tow up to 1000kg while the V6
version can haul up to 1600kg (with trailer brakes).
So how serious is the Escape as a recreational vehicle?
Well, it bridges the gap between the small, weak-at-the-knees soft-roaders
and the Pajero and Prados of this world. The Escape is normally a
front-wheel-driver but when tyre slip is detected, up to 50 percent of torque
is automatically channelled to the rear wheels. In other words, it’s a 2WD
vehicle with all-paw traction only when needed. Unlike many smaller competitors,
the Escape also features a switchable centre diff lock. The centre diff lock
operates seamlessly and can be engaged while on the move. We tested the diff
lock driving in dirt and mud and we never came remotely close to getting
The Escape’s 2620mm wheelbase gives good stability, there’s 205mm of
clearance and it can manage 28.4 degree approach and 27.5 degree departure
angles. Note that V6 models ride slightly higher and have a 10mm wider front and
rear track. A full-size spare wheel is accessible beneath the cargo area’s false
On the road, the Escape has the awkward ride jitter that’s often associated
with off-road vehicles that have a relatively high unsprung mass. This aside,
the ride is firm but comfortable – a happy compromise between comfort and load
With 215/70 16 Bridgestone tyres beneath it, the Escape offers decent
steering response. The only criticism is the steering becomes slightly imprecise
at high road speeds.
With smooth steering inputs, the Escape offers a very high level of handling.
Standing on MacPherson front struts and a multi-link IRS, it does roll and pitch
but the chassis remains composed. It will understeer when pushed - but not
as early as some comparable vehicles. Note that there is no stability control –
it’s not even an option on any of the Escape models.
The Escape is an easy vehicle for most people to drive. All-round visibility
is very good and its elevated ride height gives a useful line-of-sight
advantage. But not everyone will
slide behind the wheel without any problems...
Amazingly, the base Escape doesn’t have front seat height adjustment and
you’re forced to sit low in relation to the dashboard and armrests. Sure, the
steering wheel is angle adjustable but we never felt completely satisfied.
Another gripe is that the handbrake lever is mounted on the left side of the
centre console – this is very awkward to access.
The cabin has a high roofline, which results in plenty of headroom. There’s ample space in the front and the rear and the
Escape can be employed as a very roomy 4-seater or a decent 5-seater. There is
no fold-out third row seat.
The rear cargo area is big and the load lip is low – but it’d be
nice if the tailgate lifted slightly higher. By removing the rear headrests and
tilting the bottom cushion forward, the 60/40 split rear backrest can be folded
flat for extra carrying capacity. The tailgate glass can also be lifted for
extra carrying flexibility and greater load access.
The Escape 4-cylinder’s overall NVH level is reasonable but the tyres are noisy on certain road
surfaces and there’s a low-frequency in-cabin resonance when cruising at very
low rpm. This can be avoided by switching off the overdrive.
Considering the AUD$29,990 price tag, the Escape XLS cabin is well appointed
– with a few exceptions.
Standard kit includes air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, a single
CD/tuner (which sounds up to standard), remote locking, dual 12-volt outlets and
cloth trim. There are also plenty of grab handles for 4WDing. The instruments
get the popular white-face treatment, which works well in daylight but the green
night illumination lacks contrast. The dashboard also looks very ‘90s.
The noticeably absent features are cruise control, a trip computer, map
lights (a vehicle like this should have them!) and, of course, adjustable
driver’s seat height.
Occupant safety is addressed with dual front airbags, seatbelt
pre-tensioners, four adjustable headrests, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
Unfortunately, the Escape employs old-tech drum brakes on the rear, but it still
pulls up rapidly and with excellent stability – even on a loose surface. The
brake assist function also triggers quite early, meaning reduced pedal effort
from the very first moments of an emergency braking manoeuvrer.
The ZB update of the Escape brings only mild styling changes. It’s nothing
exciting to look at, but it does score flared wheel arches, side cladding, a
high-mount brakelight, roof racks and attractively balanced proportions. Sixteen
inch steel wheels come standard on the base XLS – upmarket models get alloys.
The fog light blanking plates are another obvious base-model give away.
Take a look at today’s ever-expanding 4WD marketplace and you’ll discover the
Ford Escape XLS 4-cylinder is almost without rival.
In terms of size, the nearest competitor is the Hyundai Sante Fe 2.7-litre
V6, which retails from AUD$32,990 – nearly 10 per cent dearer than the Escape. And the
Toyota Kluger? It’s way out of the
price range. Even the much smaller Honda CR-V is dearer than the Ford.
Of course, we mustn’t forget the Mazda equivalent of the Escape – the base
4-cylinder Tribute. This retails for around $35k – about $5k more than the Ford
Clearly, the Escape 4-cylinder is a lot of vehicle for the money.
Want More Power?
If you need more power than the 4-cylinder Escape XLS there is the option of
a V6 Escape. The base-model V6 XLS comes with all the same features as found in
the 4-cylinder model but boasts 150kW and 266Nm – that’s 39 percent more power
and 32 percent more torque.
You’ll pay AUD$33,990 for the Ford Escape XLS V6.
The Ford Escape XLS 4-cylinder was provided for this test by Ford