2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

Titanium edition pricy as a near premium small ute

Let’s start with the shocking part, the price. The tested Ford Escape listed at $34,735.2013 Ford Escape

Granted this IS the top-of-the-line 2013 Escape Titanium 4WD, but that price is near premium small-ute territory, one where you expect a luxury nameplate. By adding the Titanium moniker it means you get a LOAD of tech features and the horsy 2.0-liter GTDI I4 EcoBoost engine that cranks an impressive 237 hp.

EcoBoost is a turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers monster power and normally delivers better gas mileage than a V6 with equivalent power. That may be, much of the time, but I got a ho-hum 20.5 mpg in about 60% city driving. The EPA has rated this model at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, so I expected better.

By comparison, I got 24.5 mpg in a Honda CR-V earlier this year, and it is rated 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for its 185-horse I4. My driving in the Honda was tilted slightly more toward highway driving.

Still, if you like power in your small SUV, the Escape delivers in excess. You can zip away from stoplights and the 6-speed SelectShift automatic is fairly smooth. You also can select your own gear shifts, if you want.

This feels pretty upscale, as the interior remains quiet too. Likewise the handling edges toward sporty, but with a heavy wheel feel. There is some lean in turns though, so no, this isn’t a low-cost BMW substitute.Ford Escape profile

Ride is on the firm side too despite Escape’s 105.9-inch wheelbase. Part of that may be its 19-inch low-profile tires. Low-pros deliver a notoriously stiff ride.

Braking comes from four-wheel discs, the front being vented, and this model comes with full-time all-wheel drive. Properly equipped, Escape can tow up to 3,500 lbs., allowing you to haul a small camper or aluminum fishing boat.

But what of that Titanium trim?

Well, it upgrades you to partial leather seats, these being a black leather and cloth mix. And the tech upgrades include rear parking sensors and a power hatch. There also are fog lamps, roof rack and rails, a 10-way power driver’s seat with 3-memory settings, heated front seats (5 levels), remote start, heated side mirrors, a premium sound system, Sync voice-activated stereo system and tire pressure monitors.

Yet even with all that and the Titanium’s higher entry price of $32,130 plus $825 destination charge, the test ute added MyFord Touch/HD Sirius radio with navigation system for  $795, and a parking technology package that includes blind-spot detection, active park assist and a rear-view camera for $995. That accounted for the tester’s nearly $35 grand sticker.

If you can do without some electronic doodads, a base Escape S with front-wheel drive starts at $22,470. It’s powered by a 2.5-liter I4 that creates a reasonable 168 horses and earns it a 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway rating. Moving up to the SE model with AWD puts the price at $26,820.

Ford Escape interior controlsInside Escape those partial leather seats are powered and easy to adjust, but feature a somewhat narrow butt pocket. Larger drivers will find the seat snug. Yet there is a power lumbar support and headroom is good up front while legroom is limited in back, especially if a front seat is moved most of the way back. But the Escape will carry four average size adults comfortably, with generous luggage space (34.3 cubic feet) behind the second seat. I like the power hatch too.

Escape’s attractive gauges feature neon blue needles that offer great visibility day or night. There’s a tilt-telescope steering wheel too, with the usual assortment of controls on the hub, including flat round TV remote-style buttons for the radio and trip computer. Large clunky plastic controls hang off the hub for phone and cruise controls though.

Escape gaugesThe radio here, as in many newer cars, is less than intuitive and a pain to operate while driving. There is the Sync system created by Microsoft that allows you to call up tunes, etc. by voice command. That could help alleviate the complicated audio control situation.

Ford’s large navigation/radio screen is easy to see too, but the touchscreen buttons for radio channel selection are tiny, making them hard to use while driving. Ford gets a few points for including sliding visors overhead though.

Never underestimate the power of good design either. The new Escape is snazzy looking with more aggressive styling than the old boxy model. Some say it looks like Kia’s Sportage, and there is some similarity. But you’ll get some looks driving this model.

You may be surprised to find out though that Ford no longer makes an Escape hybrid. But a gas-electric version is expected and for now the hybrid is replaced by a 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine that creates 178 horses and is rated 24 mpg city and 33 highway. The former hybrid Escape was rated 34 mpg CITY though. That’s a pretty big gap.

One final note: As of this writing there have been three recalls on the 2013 Escape since it was introduced in July. Ironically, that echoes what happened when the original Escapes were unveiled years ago. The latest recall is on models with 1.6-liter engines and is for a cup plug in the cylinder head possibly coming loose, allowing coolant to spray on the hot engine and ignite. Not a good thing. By the way, this is the second recall for possible engine fires in the new Escape.

FAST Stats: 2013 Ford Escape Titanium 4WD

Made in: Louisville, Ky.

Engine: 2.0-liter GTDI I4 Ecoboost, 237 hp

Transmission: 6-speed SelectShift automatic

Weight: 3,769 lbs.

Wheelbase: 105.9 in.

Cargo: 34.3 cu.ft. (67.8 cu.ft. rear seats down)

MPG: 21/28

Base Price: $32,120

Dealer’s Price: $29,953

Major Options:

MyFord Touch/HD Sirius/Nav, $795

Parking technology package (blind-spot detection, active park assist, rear-view camera), $995

Delivery: $825

Test Vehicle: $34,735

Sources: Ford, www.autos.yahoo.com

Photos: Courtesy of Ford

Hits: Good handling and acceleration in a snazzy looking compact ute with a quiet interior. Loaded with tech, including backup camera and blind-spot warning. Visors slide and gauges feature bright neon blue needles.

Misses: Ouch, that price hurts for an Escape! Low-profile tires make for bumpier ride and narrow bottom seat cushion feels a tad tight. Less than intuitive radio controls and tiny on-screen channel selection buttons. Gas mileage disappoints.

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