What's New for 2001
The Escape is Ford's new SUV. Smaller in size than the Explorer (and dwarfed by an Excursion), the 2001 Ford Escape competes in the same class as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Its main calling cards are an optional V6 engine and a large interior.
One of the benefits of coming late to the party is that when you do arrive, you can make a big splash. That's what Ford is doing with the 2001 Escape.
Designed to battle the Honda CR-V, Nissan Xterra, Toyota RAV4 and others of the small-SUV ilk, the five-passenger Escape is marked by a larger interior and a more powerful optional engine. As an added bonus, it's also priced very competitively.
These factors position the Escape for tremendous success in a growing market. Developed in partnership with Mazda, Escape comes in XLS or XLT flavors. Base models have two-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter Zetec four-cylinder engine making 130 horsepower and 135 foot-pounds of torque.
Burdened with people and gear, a Zetec Escape is bound to be rather weedy. Fortunately, there is an optional Duratec 3.0-liter V6. With 200 horsepower and 200 foot-pounds of torque, it is the most powerful engine in its class. Equipped with the V6 and the standard four-speed automatic transmission, the Escape can tow up to 3,500 pounds. Both the four-cylinder and V6 engines are LEV compliant.
The Escape also comes in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. As opposed to Ford's larger SUVs, the 2WD Escape is front-wheel drive. The 4WD system can be set to either "4x4 automatic" or "4x4 lock" mode. In automatic mode, power is applied to the rear wheels only when a loss of traction occurs. In the locked mode, the Escape applies power to all four wheels at all times. The Escape does not have a low-range transfer case, however.
Sporting rugged good looks, Ford hopes the Escape will appeal to young families and people with active lifestyles. Don't let the outside fool you, though. Underneath, the Escape is more car than truck. The unibody chassis is equipped with rack-and-pinion steering, a four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel ABS through a front disc/rear drum arrangement. One particularly cool feature is the sturdy roof rack that slides rearward and hinges down to make loading and unloading up to 100 pounds of cargo easy. Attachments for skis and bikes will be available from Ford dealers.
Inside, the Escape offers a big allotment of space for passengers and cargo. Rear passengers get 36.9 inches of legroom. With the rear seats removed, The Escape offers 68.5 cubic feet of cargo. Cabin highlights include an optional six-disc in-dash CD changer and a 300-watt sound system, standard air conditioning and optional side airbags.
Ford claims affordability and durability were top priorities. Mazda's input should be of help here, but it is always difficult to determine reliability on a totally new platform such as the Escape. Regardless, Ford's Escape should be on your short list of mini-SUVs to look at.