PONCE, P.R. — The 2013 Ford Escape, a completely redesigned version of the automaker’s popular and efficient family-oriented SUV, has pulled into the Puerto Rico market looking to strut its stuff on the island’s highways, mountain curves and rural narrow streets.
During a weekend test drive, News is my Business was able to experience the vehicle’s driving capacities and features, which integrate some of the latest technological bells and whistles to make life easier for the one behind the wheel and their passengers.
The stylized crossover SUV comes in four model designs: the entry level S, the intermediates SE and SEL, and the high-end Titanium that feature an array of options and equipment powered by a range of Ford’s fuel-efficent “EcoBoost” engines. Strong fuel economy comes from either the 1.6-liter or 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines, which are making their local debut in the newest incarnation of the SUV introduced to the market in 2000.
Both new engines combine EcoBoost’s core technologies of direct fuel injection and turbocharging and add twin independent variable camshaft timing to deliver better miles per gallon and save money on gas, a consideration that is high on the list of priorities for consumers looking to put the brakes on their expenses at the pump.
While the Escape yields up to 33 miles per gallon with its 1.6L EcoBoost engine, the 2.0L EcoBoost model yields 30 MPG or more on the road. Both engines are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency “as the most efficient compact SUV with an automatic system,” said Ford.
Also aiding fuel economy is Escape’s sleeker design. The new model is nearly 10 percent more aerodynamic than the square design that characterized it in the past.
“This model was designed taking into consideration many details, such as its new sleek and modern design, its vast cargo space and unique technologies in its class,” said Noelle de la Rosa, regional operations manager for Ford International Business Development in Puerto Rico.
“We’re convinced that our product will continue to be one of the favorite models in the compact SUV segment,” said de la Rosa, adding the new Escape is “equipped with elements of efficiency, comfort and technology the Puerto Rican consumer is ardently looking for.”
The Escape’s suspension system, which couples independent McPherson struts in front with a rear control blade stabilizer bar in back, offers a noticeably smooth ride, even on some of the island’s bumpiest roads.
‘Real life’ interior features
Once inside, the Escape is roomy enough to fit five passengers comfortably and hold as much stuff as daily life requires in the vehicle’s 68.1 cubic feet of space behind the first row and 34.3 cubic feet behind the second row.
Its new design has specific storage compartments that let its owners organize the things that are usually scattered throughout the vehicle: an umbrella, cellphone, sunglasses, big water bottles, and even coloring books for the kids.
And for those valuables that should be left unseen, the new Escape comes with a secret storage compartment hidden underneath the floor of the second row of seats.
Managing and controlling information through voice commands, menus accessed through controls on the steering wheel, touch screens, buttons or knobs is made relatively easy through the SYNC with MyFord Touch option.
However, as with most new technologies, interacting successfully with the voice-activated system entails a learning curve and some getting used to. Still, this technology will be useful when the new traffic law banning use of cellphone while driving comes into force in January 2013.
‘Hands-free’ liftgate, smart parallel parking
Among the vehicle’s portfolio of unique features is its hands-free power liftgate. This technology is new in the SUV market and is enabled by motion technology used in today’s video game systems.
A gentle kicking motion under the center of the rear bumper activates, unlocks and raises the liftgate, allowing quick and easy access to the cargo area without needing to set down packages or dig out keys. The same process closes the hatch.
Meanwhile, the 2013 Escape’s parking assist feature makes parallel parking easier for those who would sooner drive around several times around the block rather than wedging their car between two others on the curb. With this feature, the driver presses a button, setting off the system to detect an available parallel parking space and automatically steer the vehicle into the space. Drivers control only the gas and brake pedals.
Two other safety characteristics in the new Escape are: the sensor-based Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), with cross-traffic alert that displays an alert in the side mirror when a vehicle is detected entering a blind spot; and a class-exclusive technology to automatically slow the vehicle when it’s cornering too fast (Curve Control) or help accelerate through a turn (Torque Vectoring Control).
The latter features are especially practical for driving on Puerto Rico’s winding mountain roads and during adverse conditions, typical of the island’s tropical weather. The entry-level 2013 Ford Escape starts at $23,995.