The 2018 Ford Escape does its best to deny its company’s sterling truck credentials. It’s a crossover SUV in mission, but the Escape wants to be driven like a sporty hatchback.
Ford sells the Escape in S, SE, SEL, and Titanium trim. All offer all-wheel drive, and Ford fits a range of powertrains that range from frugal to frothy.
It’s a long way from its rugged family truck roots, but we think the 2018 Escape is good for a 6.7 out of 10 on our scale of all vehicles. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
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The Escape still looks firm, taut, even nubile if you line it up against something as dowdy as a Subaru Crosstrek. It doesn’t toe the blocky-SUV line at all–a big turnaround from the first-generation Escape and its mini-Explorer shape. Today’s model is handsome and pert, six years into its lifespan, and a new front end applied last year only made it better-looking. The cockpit? We’re less convinced by it. Lots of undulating surfaces and complex cutlines turn it into a busy place and nibble into valuable passenger space. Send it back to edit and we’ll take another look.
We’ll pass on the 168-horsepower inline-4 in the base Escape, thanks. It’s neither efficient nor quick. The smaller-displacement turbo-4 with 179 hp makes more noise but kicks in more low-end grunt and better EPA numbers. Make no mistake, if we bought an Escape, it’d have the 245-hp turbo-4 that creams rivals in acceleration and passing power: it’s a brilliant companion for the Escape’s sharp steering and very firm ride.
The Escape’s in the CX-5 league of commanding road feel; it’s easy to needle through a favorite list of winding roads with paddle controls shifting its 6-speed automatic, all-wheel drive doling out power front to back as its wheels slip through tight corners.
Your passengers may feel differently about the Escape’s very tightly controlled ride and the thumps induced by the biggest 19-inch wheels. All riders will sense Ford’s devotion to spec-sheet details: The Escape’s seats are firm and thin, as if Ford had carved out every half-inch it could find to boost head and leg room numbers. The seats support us very well, but the initial impression is institutional. Cargo space is fine, and so is small-item storage–and the Escape’s gesture-controlled tailgate is a nice new-car party trick, same as its automatic park assist.
The Escape lets down safety shoppers with relatively poor crash-test results. It overcompensates with features: leather, navigation, a tow package, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking. It’s made big gains in infotainment by dumping the old MyFord Touch interface for a new one with clear readouts, quick responses and lovely touchscreens. We should all be so bright and sensitive.