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2005 FORD ESCAPE Review - Base Price $19,265

Fresh looks, more power, better ride, and the first gas-electric SUV.


2005 ford escape Review

Ford Escape is the best-selling of all the small, affordable sport-utilities, and it's a solid choice among these so-called cute utes. The Escape offers agile handling, a smooth ride, and comfortable seating for four average Americans. It also offers brisk acceleration when equipped with the optional V6 engine. It's compact but practical. Folding down the rear seats reveals a flat, moderately sized cargo area. Best of all, its prices are relatively low, up only an average of 1 percent over 2004 prices.

For 2005, Escape has a fresh new face, new headlamps, and a brightened interior. The new base 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine is a big improvement over the old 2.0-liter, and it's available with an automatic transmission for the first time, a benefit of its increased power. The 2005 Escape offers a fully automatic four-wheel drive option that operates transparently in the background. The standard manual transmission is new, with lighter shifting efforts and shorter throws. And a revised suspension improves the ride.

But the biggest news is that the Escape Hybrid has finally arrived, using a special version of the 2.3-liter gas engine teamed with an electric motor. It's designed to deliver quick response while delivering excellent fuel economy.


The 2005 Escape gets a redesigned interior. The shifter on automatic models has been moved off of the column and onto the floor. Other changes include new gauges, upgraded seats, new fabrics, and more interior storage.

The Escape is a compact SUV, so the front seats are nearly as roomy as the Explorer's. However, getting in or out of the front seats is made easier by low door sills and wide door openings. The XLS has manually adjustable seats trimmed with cloth. XLT gets premium cloth trim. Leather is optional.

Ford upgraded Escape's interior for 2003 with improved interior materials, but for 2005 a substantial interior restyling includes a standard console and floor shifter. (Apparently the voice of the customer was heard.) Illuminated switches for the power windows and power locks make them easier to find.

White-faced instruments are set in a simple, easy-to-understand instrument panel. The audio system and heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls in the center stack are angled slightly toward the driver for easier access while driving.

Side-impact airbags are standard on Limited, optional ($345) on XLS and XLT. Pretensioners combined with load-limiting retractors are standard on front-seat belts. In a crash, these pretensioners automatically tighten the belts, while the load limiters are designed to reduce the risk of chest injuries in severe collisions. (We strongly recommend always wearing seatbelts as they are the first line of defense in a crash; more than half of the nation's approximately 42,000 traffic fatalities each year are people not wearing seatbelts.)

The rear seats offer good knee room. The rear cargo area offers 69.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down, 33 cubic feet with the seats in place. The rear seats are split 60/40 for greater versatility. The rear-seat cushion can be removed for more load-carrying capacity. The flip-up rear glass offers easy access to the rear cargo area for small items.


Ford Escape's jaunty exterior is fitted with new headlamps, new fog lamps, a new egg-crate grille, new front and rear fascias and new 15- and 16-inch aluminum wheels. The lower bumpers now have ribs in them. The result of all this is a fresher, more contemporary look for Escape. New paint colors include Sonic Blue, Norse Blue, Silver Metallic and Titanium Green.

Escape is wider than other compact SUVs, giving it a well-planted road demeanor. Its forward-poised stance, large wheel lips, wide body cladding, and integrated bumper guard lend a functional appearance, while its short front and rear overhangs add to its sporting appeal. The Escape has a family resemblance to the Ford Explorer and Expedition, and looks bolder and more aggressive than the Honda CR-V.

Being able to see the leading edge of the hood from the driver's seat makes the Escape easier to maneuver in tight places. Its 7.8 inches of ground clearance may help clear some obstacles, but not big rocks. Outside door handles are easy to grab and feel like they're going to last.

Accessories from Ford Outfitters include a snap-in pet barrier and a system to haul two mountain bikes in the cargo area. Bike racks can also be mounted on the roof; the standard roof rack with crossbars holds up to 100 pounds. Foot rails are designed to make it easier to lift kayaks, snowboards and other toys onto the roof rack. The rear bumper is also designed to aid roof access.

The No Boundaries Rack System features a sliding rail that can be repositioned from the roof to the rear of the vehicle, locking into the bumper. This provides two separate loading surfaces: a traditional roof rack and a vertically oriented rack across the rear. When not in use, the sliding rails can be stored within the conventional roof portion of the rack system.


On the road, the Ford Escape offers responsive handling and brisk acceleration performance. Larger-diameter front shocks and a new front stabilizer system have been fitted for 2005 to better control ride motions. The suspension has a comparatively taut ride quality, without the roly-poly and mushy ride that characterizes larger SUVs with big off-road tires and long-travel suspensions. The Escape handles better than a Jeep Liberty or Toyota RAV4, and is quicker than a Honda CR-V. Steering is responsive, direct and accurate with no dead spot in the center. There's enough feeling in the steering to impart a sense of control. Though this is not a sports car, the tires grip respectably in paved corners. The Escape offers surprisingly good transient response in a series of left-right-left corners. This permits quick, yet smooth, driving that will not upset passengers.

The new 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine may be all you need to feed. It offers more power (more torque), very low emissions, and the availability of an automatic transmission for the first time.

The available V6 engine delivers good acceleration performance. While there's no such thing as too much power, it never feels lacking in the Escape. The engine and four-speed automatic transmission communicate and work well together. The transmission shifts smoothly up and down, and chooses gears appropriately for the situation. The engine's broad power band never lugs or strains. This isn't the smoothest V6 on the market, nor is it the roughest. But it is smoother and more satisfying than the four-cylinder engines found in most small sport-utilities.

We found the Escape's anti-lock brakes smooth and responsive. Four-wheel disc brakes are now standard on V6 4WD models; rear drum brakes are used on four-cylinder and 2WD models. ABS comes into play just when expected and is detectable by the familiar pulsating sensation. Brake Assist, designed to assist the driver with full braking power when it senses an emergency stopping situation, is added this year. Also added is electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) for more effective, more stable braking.

Noise, vibration and harshness have been reduced for 2005. Additional sound-absorbing panels and tighter sealing on the 2005 Escape reduce interior noise. The balance shaft on the new Duratec four-cylinder engine and new engine mounts on the Duratec V6 make both powertrains sound smoother.

We found the Escape comfortable over a variety of on-road surfaces, eruptions and potholes. And this is where most Escapes live. Off road, we found the Escape lacking. Even though it's available with four-wheel drive, it's based on a front-wheel-drive platform. Rough, loose, steep trails leave it spinning its wheels. The suspension does not have the articulation needed for rugged terrain, there is no low-range set of gears, nor is the traction system that sophisticated. For everyday road travel, however, the Ford Escape is an excellent choice.

When properly equipped, Escape has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

As mentioned, the Escape is the world's first production SUV to offer a hybrid gas-electric engine. The hybrid 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine shuts down at rest (at intersections, for example) to conserve fuel. When traffic moves, the battery-powered 70-kilowatt traction motor generator can launch the vehicle on electric power only. It uses a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, and electric power steering. Under heavy load, the generator starts the gasoline engine in less than 0.4 seconds (immediately, in other words). The hybrid storage battery reclaims energy during braking to be used later for acceleration. The benefits include lower emissions and increased fuel efficiency. Hydrocarbon emissions and oxides of nitrogen are 97 percent less than what's emitted by most other new vehicles. Escape Hybrid also produces half the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) of conventional engines. Ford says the Escape Hybrid is as environmentally friendly as a pure electric vehicle because a pure electric vehicle needs to be plugged in to be recharged. The Escape Hybrid never needs to be plugged in and, in fact, cannot be plugged in. It can be driven up to 25 mph on the electric motor alone, using no gasoline and generating no emissions (and making very little noise). Escape Hybrid is expected to get 35-40 mpg on the EPA city cycle, a 75-percent improvement over the EPA city fuel economy rating of 20 mpg for the V6 Escape.


Ford Escape is a fun, well-balanced on-road SUV. It has a roomy interior and good cargo capacity. A new four-cylinder engine brings needed power and the availability of an automatic. The available V6 engine provides the Escape with strong power. The new interior and suspension tuning make it more comfortable and more convenient. A four-wheel independent suspension and unit-body construction make it ride and handle almost as well as a car, but it isn't designed for serious off-road driving. Styling revisions give the 2005 Escape a fresh face.

The Escape Hybrid is the world's first gas-electric SUV, and can deliver huge mileage gains and greatly reduced emissions, though it adds about $4,000 to the cost.

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