Plan your Es­cape strat­egy

Peo­ple reck­oned Ford fo­cused too much on the Ter­ri­tory at the ex­pense of the smaller SUV

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Used Car - GRA­HAM SMITH grah.smith@big­pond.com

YOU have to evolve if you want to stay ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion. Fail to keep pace and you’ll lose. That’s what hap­pened to the Ford Es­cape, as new and bet­ter SUVs over­took it.

Part of the prob­lem was that Ford was do­ing its best to flog the Ter­ri­tory and didn’t push its smaller SUV.

The up­dated ZD model launched in 2008 was con­ceived to sep­a­rate the Es­cape from the Ter­ri­tory in the hope of gen­er­at­ing sales for both mod­els.

Of most sig­nif­i­cance in the up­date was that Ford dropped the thirsty 3.0-litre V6, leav­ing the Mazda-sourced 2.3-litre four-cylin­der as the only choice, cou­pled to a four-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

The on-de­mand all-wheel drive pri­mar­ily turned the front wheels. If they started to slip, up to 50 per cent of drive went to the rear.

To dis­tin­guish the ZD from its pre­de­ces­sors, Ford’s de­sign­ers waved a cos­metic wand over it, which re­sulted in more pro­nounced, body coloured wheel arches, up­dated guards, new grille, head­lights, tail-lights and al­loy wheels and in­di­ca­tors in the rear view mir­rors. In­te­rior fin­ishes and trim also got a touch-up.

It was feared that drop­ping the V6 would leave the Es­cape gasp­ing for go. It wasn’t sports car swift but there was suf­fi­cient urge to make it a nice, com­fort­able driver.

If there was a down­side it was the four-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion the Es­cape was lum­bered with.

That apart, the Es­cape han­dled quite well and rode with im­pres­sive com­fort.

At the time, there was a per­cep­tion that Ford was more in­ter­ested in push­ing the Ter­ri­tory and it wasn’t so wor­ried too about the Es­cape.

NOW

Be­ing based on the Mazda Trib­ute gives the Es­cape a de­gree of me­chan­i­cal cred­i­bil­ity. Mazda en­gines, gear­boxes and chas­sis are gen­er­ally ro­bust and re­li­able, and re­ports from own­ers and the trade tell us that the Es­cape shares those traits.

The four-cylin­der isn’t as brisk as that of the 3.0-litre.

An­other trans­mis­sion ra­tio would have im­proved the four­cylin­der’s fuel econ­omy and per­for­mance. It was a com­pro­mise — the V6’s fuel con­sump­tion was one of the things ear­lier Es­cape own­ers com­plained about.

OWN­ERS SAY

Den­nis Clarke bought his Es­cape sec­ond-hand in 2012 when it had done 148,840km. His only com­plaint is about the au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, which is hard-shift­ing when cold and, af­ter it’s warmed up, has trou­ble se­lect­ing gears when down­shift­ing. A Ford dealer has checked it, so too has an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion me­chanic, but nei­ther could find the cause of the prob­lem.

Re­tired Queens­land sign­writer David Toal bought his Es­cape new in 2010 and says it is one of the best cars he’s owned. He likes the com­fort, vi­sion, ease of ac­cess and car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity. His only com­plaint is about its re­laxed per­for­mance on take­off or when over­tak­ing.

Some own­ers com­plain of hav­ing to re­place the brake ro­tors at rel­a­tively low kilo­me­tres, about the same time they have to re­place the pads. Most get 40,000km-plus from their brakes.

Most are more than happy with their cars, a good rec­om­men­da­tion for any­one think­ing of buy­ing an Es­cape.

SMITHY SAYS

Dated de­sign in a mar­ket awash with bet­ter cars but it’s re­li­able, com­fort­able and roomy.

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