In season four of Dexter, our favourite serial killer Mr. Morgan, drives a rental-fleet blue Ford Escape, but, for one feature alone, Dexter should consider an upgrade to the 2013 Ford Escape Titanium. Though, much like Mr. Morgan, at its core, the Ford Escape Titanium is cutting and precise — you have to hack away at the onion layers of technological neurosis to find the vehicle’s heart.
Slicked up, wedge shaped, and aerodynamically friendly, the 2013 Escape is a sharp looking vehicle. The Escape’s looks are now a far cry from the slab-sided, truck-like utility of a rental fleet doldrum that was the previous generation. The benefit is that the Escape’s design language, upswept and creased sided, is now utterly ubiquitous. The Ford is suave and white-collar in a police lineup market full of suave and white-collar soft-roader suspects. That you can easily mistake the Escape for the same class of Kia, Hyundai or Toyota is just cover.
Out on the roads though, the Ford shines in providing you options for escape.
This third generation Escape’s DNA is distinctly European in its handling, being built on Ford’s global C1 platform, also used for the Focus and C-Max. That makes the Escape a car-base cross-over largely engineered by Ford in Cologne, Germany. As a result the Louisville, Kentucky built Escape offers get-away sharp handling, aided and abetted by confident and direct electric-assist power steering, a sportingly small-diameter steering wheel, and the Titanium package’s 19-inch low profile tires.
Then there’s the all-wheel drive; rather than gravel road utility, the system analyzes wheel speed, accelerator position, and steering angle and distributes power as needed to improve handling; Curve Control automatically slows the Escape if drivers enter a turn too hot; Torque Vectoring Control helps accelerate through a turn.
Making a bolt for it in a straight line? Tromp the gas pedal, there is a moment of turbo spool up, and the 240hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost launches past traffic quite nicely thanks. Acceleration and passing power in the 3,732-pound vehicle is more than adequate, but not so outlandishly quick as to attract undue attention.
It’s stalking the freeways where the Escape goes wrong. Labeling the 240hp 2.0-liter engine with “EcoBoost”, is a case of false identity. This engine, when paired with the all-wheel drive system, delivers distinctly non-Eco fuel consumption for what is essentially a “Ford Focus Tall”. Driving like saints, we achieved an un-Eco-nomical 12.2 L/100km (~19.3 mpg) in mixed driving.
Considering more innocuous people moving around town? Perhaps you’d be content to forgo the all-wheel drive and downsize to the 178hp 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine in order to pocket the savings in fuel?
People moving, though, is something the Escape excels at. Four full grown men and hiking gear are comfortably accommodated, as I found out on a recent OutBoundBC.com hiking trip. The interior is a massive improvement over previous models; the 90s are gone, and the Escape looks future forwards with panels of affirmative and well-built switchgear, soft-touch materials surfacing the dash and doors, optional leather and heated seats, adjustable cabin mood lighting, and visually striking blue and white gauges… someone hand me some glow-sticks and cue up BPM on the SiriusXM satellite radio.
Other elements of the Titanium edition’s electronic smothering are harder to justify due to a “beta” feeling. The parallel-parking assist succeeded one in three tests; potentially explaining the marred rear-right rim on the press fleet loaner. The blind-spot detection with cross-traffic warning (the system will alert you to cross traffic as you back out of a parking space) periodically offered warnings when no danger was present. Then there is the dreaded Microsoft SYNC system mated to MyFord Touch – a touch-screen interface for navigation/audio/climate/phone and a crime in its own right.
If Ford were a technology company and Microsoft noted for user-interface design this could be a cartload of cool — alas they are not. The touchscreen is a reach, the virtual “buttons” small to the point of being nearly un-targetable while driving, and the menus deeply layered and over-complex. The voice interface likewise is a fail, to be unable to call one of your contacts after bluetooth pairing with a phone. Indeed, calling any contact would have been a win. Instead, MyFord Touch and SYNC are so recalcitrant, inflexible and ultimately unusable as to provide motive.
There is one indispensable option to have on your Ford Escape – the hands-free liftgate. In this one full bodied gesture based interface, Ford salvages its technological future; holding the remote, do a kick like action to the Escape’s over-designed tush, step back, and the liftgate opens. Paired with rear 60/40 split seats that fold flat for a 68.1 cubic foot cargo area, loading the Escape is easily achieved… Say if your arms are full, like with the unconscious body of a Microsoft SYNC engineer on his way to a bitter and hateful end.
I hear the system even works with groceries.
At its core, the Ford Escape is an entirely competent and likable accomplice in cross-city exploits. Even with the mediocre of fuel economy, I’d likely take the option of all-wheel drive for getaways, hiking and skiing, and other adverse conditions. Cut through the technical facades of options and the 2013 Ford Escape offers a synchronous harmony of driving experience in handling, comfort and capability… Someone hand me an axe.
Vehicle: Ford Escape Titanium 4WD
Type: 4-door cross-over
Engine: 2.0-litre EcoBoost turbo in-line 4-cylinder
Power: 240 horsepower at 270 lb.-ft.
Transmission: six-speed automatic with Select-Shift
Price base/as tested: $37,499/$42,299