Bought new Apr 05, this is my wife's daily driver. It has 70k miles, and runs like new again after repairing damage to the front susp (wheel bearings and sway bar links) caused by the harsh upstate WNY roads at 58k. I was disappointed that the Uni joints failed shortly afterwards (61k), along w/ the rear wiper (63k), and ABS sensors and rear shocks (67k) - $$$! But it's great in the snow, and gets pretty good gas mileage w/ the 2.3L 4 cyl 5-spd manual. Replaced the orig General tires w/ Goodyear Fortera SilentArmors at 41k, though I probably could have gotten 4k-10k more out of the Generals (which weren't anywhere near as bad/noisy as the reviewers claim the Continental Contitracs are)
5-spd manual tranny, exterior styling & color (vivid blue), smooth ride for a small SUV, roomy interior for 4, v. good gas mileage (avg 22 MPG highway+city).
Replace the low-budget cloth material for the seats on the XLS that get stained by everything - the selling dealer admitted the fabric was a problem on the XLS! Could use a more powerful 4-banger - I wish you could buy a new Escape AWD w/a 5-spd. I don't care much for the fnt/rear wiper controls.
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