What does Ford’s new Es­cape have that puts it in lead of the SUV race?

Friday - - Contents - PHO­TOS BY STE­FAN LIN­D­EQUE

With the likes of the Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tuc­son, Mazda CX-5 and Toy­ota RAV4 oc­cu­py­ing the com­pet­i­tive com­pact SUV seg­ment, you’d have thought it’d be rather dif­fi­cult to stand out in such es­teemed com­pany. How­ever, Ford has found a way to do just that by up­dat­ing the Es­cape. It is bet­ter look­ing and is packed with some se­ri­ously good kit.

The ba­sic body work doesn’t change but the front and back fea­tures the Blue Oval’s lat­est de­sign lan­guage giv­ing it a closer re­sem­blance to the smaller EcoS­port and larger Edge. The big­ger trape­zoidal grille con­ceals ac­tive shut­ters and is flanked by squin­tier LED head­lights mak­ing for a bold and sporty nose re­plete with stylish new fog lamps, while the rear gets a re­vised tail­gate and restyled tail­lights. The facelift and tail tweak aren’t the only up­dates to the ex­te­rior – there’s also a new range of 1718and 19in al­loy wheels to choose from (and they’re avail­able in a va­ri­ety of fin­ishes in­clud­ing Lus­ter Nickel) and a re­drawn alu­minium bon­net to help give the Es­cape more vis­ual re­fine­ment.

The in­te­rior has also been re­fined and offers pas­sen­gers a more com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment; it’s easy to find a comfy driv­ing po­si­tion in the re-con­toured front bucket seats (they’re not only sup­port­ive and keep you locked in place but they’re well-padded too which makes them ideal for long jour­neys) while the num­ber of but­tons and switches on the dash has been re­duced giv­ing it a cleaner look. Most of the con­trols are buried in the Sync 3’s 8.0in touch­screen, which can be a lit­tle tricky to con­trol when the car is mov­ing.

The gear lever has been repo­si­tioned leav­ing room for two cup hold­ers and a new USB con­nec­tion point for in­te­grat­ing and charg­ing mo­bile de­vices, along with a more user-friendly mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel and a larger cen­tre arm­rest. Over­all, the cabin isn’t found want­ing at all and even at highway speeds, it is well in­su­lated and keeps road and tyre noise at bay. There’s plenty of the stan­dard equip­ment (in­clud­ing key­less en­try and a rear-view cam­era) and some of the new safety fea­tures in­clude lane keep as­sist, a driver drowsi­ness mon­i­tor, and adap­tive cruise con­trol with for­ward col­li­sion alert plus auto brake boost.

Our top of the line Ti­ta­nium tester came with a full leather in­te­rior, rear cen­tre arm­rest, roof rails, au­to­matic head­lights, panoramic sun­roof, voice-ac­ti­vated nav­i­ga­tion, dual power front seats, and a 10-speaker Sony premium au­dio

sys­tem. None of which im­pressed half as much as the Es­cape’s sur­pris­ingly peppy per­for­mance. P ack­ing a twin-scroll tur­bocharged, di­rect-in­jected 2.0-litre four­cylin­der EcoBoost en­gine, it’s smooth, re­spon­sive and pow­er­ful. It pro­duces 245 horses and 366Nm of torque, mak­ing mince meat of over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vres and it can ac­cel­er­ate briskly from a stand­still. In fact, I’d go as far as say­ing its ac­cel­er­a­tion is sim­i­lar to some lux­ury SUVs.

It’s mated to a six-speed au­to­matic (with pad­dle shifters) which rarely picks the wrong ra­tio (even if it did it wouldn’t mat­ter – with so much torque at your dis­posal at low en­gine speed it could prob­a­bly main­tain a taller gear on gen­tle ac­cel­er­a­tion). With Ford’s In­tel­li­gent All Wheel Drive which ad­justs the amount of torque sent to each wheel to op­ti­mise han­dling and trac­tion, along with Torque Vec­tor­ing Con­trol which ap­plies a small amount of brak­ing to the in­side wheels to as­sist sta­bil­ity when cor­ner­ing, the Es­cape proves rather en­joy­able to throw around. In fact, with a finely tuned chas­sis re­sult­ing in com­pe­tent han­dling it feels a bit like a hot hatch.

It can hit 100kph from rest in 7.6 sec­onds (leave the gear lever in Sport to hold on to the cogs longer be­fore shift­ing up to max­imise the fun quo­tient) and in spite of its new­found zest for life it isn’t thirsty ei­ther, sip­ping back just 10.2 litres per 100km.

It isn’t the re­vised looks or the tech that helps the Es­cape to, er, es­cape the rest of the cross­over pack, it’s this sub­lime 2.0-litre

The 2.0-litre four-cylin­der EcoBoost en­gine is smooth, re­spon­sive and pow­er­ful, mak­ing mince meat of over­tak­ing ma­noeu­vres

The repo­si­tioned gear lever means there’s space for two cup hold­ers and a USB con­nec­tion

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