My 2004 Escape WAS a trooper even with 2WD and without ABS it drove well all through the year.
The V6 powers the car well and the RPMs can really rev up to give you a big boost past 70mph for 2-lane and highway passing.
5 hour drives were no problem, AC/Heater worked well always.
I paid $9000 for it in 2007 with 60K on the engine, I put on another 70K and began having engine issues.
An airhose needed to be replaced but even after that was done the RPMs would drop to 500 and it would feel close to stalling out, sometimes it did.
Even with normal maintenance the rod and bearings seized meaning I needed a new engine.
This, after $700 for new front suspension (at 131K not bad).
The storage and passenger room was excellent for a small SUV, strong engine (although mine died it worked well while I had it).
Good view of traffic.
Improve suspension, make ABS standard, improve MPGs (I averaged 20 with 80%highway).
Improve metal - rusting wheel wells are common on these cars (rear driver side especially).