Classic SUV styling meets a crossover driving experience with the 2011 Ford Escape. It's a formula that has been extremely successful for Ford; the Escape remains popular late into its production life, though incentives may be playing a part in that story. Competition has become fierce in the compact crossover segment in which the Escape battles. Since the revised Escape debuted a couple model years ago, the segment has seen new entries from Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, and even Mini. Few compact crossovers can offer the attractive and boxy styling of the Escape, though that's really the only category in which this Ford leads the segment.
The 2011 Ford Escape, which seats five, offers a choice of three engines. A 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine starts the lineup with 171 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 171 pound-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. A five-speed manual is standard (good luck finding one) and a six-speed automatic transmission is available. Next in line is the 3.0-liter V-6 engine that has been updated to meet modern standards of V-6 power. The V-6 engine produces 240 horsepower at 6550 rpm and 223 pound-feet of torque at 4300 rpm, using a six-speed automatic. At the top of the 2011 Escape lineup is the Hybrid model, which boasts high mileage in SUV form for those who can't afford to buy a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The Escape Hybrid uses a CVT and makes 177 net horsepower from its gas engine and electric motor and 136 pound-feet of torque.
Four-wheel-drive is available no matter the engine, and regular unleaded keeps costs at the pump to a minimum. The four-cylinder Escape is reasonably efficient, though those looking for V-6 crossovers and fuel efficiency might find better choices than the V-6 powered Escape. That model is rated 18/23 mpg city/highway with four-wheel drive and 19/25 mpg in front-wheel-drive form. The most efficient Escape without a hybrid powertrain is actually the front-wheel-drive manual transmission model, at 23/28 mpg. The automatic gets 21/28 mpg while opting for four-wheel drive means losing one mpg in the city and two on the highway from those numbers.
If you can afford the 2011 Escape Hybrid's $30,825 base price, enjoy combined city/highway efficiency that's second to none in the compact crossover class. The front-wheel-drive model is rated 32 mpg combined and the four-wheel-drive model gets 29 mpg combined. Interestingly, the Escape Hybrid's batteries have a minimal effect on cargo capacity, shrinking less than a cubic foot in space from the regular models' 31.4 cubic feet behind the second row and 67.2 cubic feet with the second row seats folded down. Those numbers are respectable, but not at the top of the class.
When Motor Trend magazine first tested the Ford Escape following its refresh in the 2009 model year, the editors appreciated the four-cylinder model's engine noise that's moderately refined and smooth under most conditions. The suspension was said to be stable and reasonably comfortable over rough roads as long as drivers take it easy around the curves. Once you get to your destination, the optional $395 Active Park Assist can make parallel parking easier than you ever thought possible. Using ultrasonic sensors and the electric power steering, the Escape will steer itself into the space as long as you control the brakes and gas pedal.
Performance in safety tests isn't the Escape's strong suit, though there are no egregious scores. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the Escape good in front and side impact tests but only marginal in roof strength tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't tested a 2011 Escape under the now more stringent crash tests, but a 2010 Escape did receive five stars (out of five stars) for all front and side crash tests but three stars in rollover tests.
The Escape is an older player in a hot segment. It still has what it takes to compete, though at this point in its life cycle, you will probably be able to negotiate an excellent deal with your local dealer.