First introduced eight years ago as the corporate stable mate of the Mazda Tribute, the five passenger 2009 Ford Escape is one year removed from a full body make-over that brought it stylistically into line with its bigger brother in the Ford camp; the Expedition.
This 5-passenger compact SUV displays an aggressive stance, evident in its rugged grille, bulging fender flares and 17-inch chrome clad alloy wheels fitted with all season tires. With 8.1 inches of ground clearance and available all-wheel-drive, the Escape backs up its design with real-world functionality.
There are three trim levels; the base XLS, up-rated XLT and top of the line Limited Edition, which we had the pleasure of driving.
For 2009, the Escape's base engine is more powerful. The new 2.5-liter inline-4 puts out 171 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. The 3.0-liter V6 puts out 240 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. The old 4-speed automatic transmission has been swapped out for a new 6-speed auto that adds 1 mile per gallon of fuel efficiency to both engines. New fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon city and 26 miles per gallon highway on the 4-cylinder, and 18 city, 23 highway on the V6.
All models are available in front-wheel-drive or 4-wheel drive. A 5-speed manual transmission is available on the base XLS front wheel drive model.
Access to the rear cargo area is provided by the 60/40 split rear folding seats or via the rear lift-gate that includes a separately opening glass panel. Cargo space is 29 cubic feet behind the rear seats or 66 with the seats folded flat.
Another feature on our test Escape was the 320-Watt entertainment system that shared space in the center console with Ford's DVD-based navigation system. Leather seats and a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel round out interior appointments.
Base MSRP for the 2009 Ford Escape is $19,715. A V6 4-wheel drive Limited with full options can top out at just over $30,000. All 09 Escapes come with the factory 5-year, 60,000-mile power train warranty.
For around town or the occasional off-road "escape" to the country...the 2009 Ford Escape may be just the right choice for your next compact expedition.