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A very capable small SUV thanks to its powerful V6 engine, spacious cabin, handsome looks and car-like handling. The 2002 Ford Escape is one of our favorites.
Strong V6 engine, comfortable cabin, plenty of cargo space, car-like road manners.
Lacks the off-road capability of a truck-based SUV, barely adequate base engine, shoddy build quality, unimpressive interior materials.
Available Escape Models
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Additional standard equipment makes the 2002 Ford Escape an even better value. XLS models get a dual-media cassette/CD stereo, while XLT adds a V6 engine, privacy glass, power driver seat and an in-dash six-CD changer. New Sport packages also debut. The XLS Sport includes 15-inch alloy wheels with larger tires, side-step bars, Sport-embroidered floor mats and dark tinted privacy glass. The XLT Sport, new for 2002, provides, in addition to XLS Sport equipment, a special No Boundaries roof rack system and unique 16-inch alloy wheels with meatier rubber. Four new colors are also available.
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 has done with the appealing Escape sport-utility.
Designed to battle the Honda CR-V, Jeep Liberty, Nissan Xterra, Toyota RAV4 and others of the small-SUV ilk, the five-passenger Escape's calling cards are a large, comfortable interior and a powerful available V6 engine. As an added bonus, it's also priced competitively. These factors position the Escape for tremendous success in a growing market. Developed in partnership with Mazda, which sells a version called the Tribute, Escape comes in XLS or XLT flavors with either two- or four-wheel drive.
Base models have a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 127 horsepower and 135 pound-feet of torque. Burdened with people and gear, a four-cylinder Escape is bound to be rather weedy. Fortunately, there is an available 3.0-liter V6. With 201 horsepower and 196 lb-ft of torque, it is one of the most powerful engines in its class, and accelerates the four-wheel drive Escape to 60 mph in less than 9 seconds. 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.
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.
Ford hopes that with its sporting, rugged good looks, 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.
Inside, the Escape offers a big allotment of space for passengers and cargo. This is truly a five-passenger SUV. With the rear seats removed, the Escape offers 64.8 cubic feet of cargo. Cabin highlights include air conditioning, an available six-disc in-dash CD changer matched to an optional 300-watt sound system and optional side airbags.
Ford claims affordability and durability were top priorities during the engineering and design phase of the Escape. Mazda's input should have been of help here, but a rash of well-publicized first-year recalls sullies the image of this otherwise fine SUV. Regardless, Ford's Escape should be on your list when shopping for small sport-utes.
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