by J.T. Hills
SGN Contributing Writer
• New and improved
2.5-liter four-cylinder engine
• Comfortable, well-designed interior
• Nicely equipped with
a competitive price
• Backseat is cramped
• Some fit and finish details
are a bit cheap
In 2008, the Ford Escape went through its major inside and out redesign. For 2009, Ford gives the Escape a new 171-horsepower 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and an available six-speed automatic transmission. The new engine and transmission combination improves gas mileage by 1 mpg for both city and highway driving while improving performance.
Aerodynamics has also been improved and new low-rolling resistance tires are added to additionally improve fuel efficiency. New features also include Easy Fuel capless refueling, ambient lighting and standard cruise control. ABS and AdvanceTrac with RSC (Roll Stability Control) are also standard on all trim levels. After a week with the 2009 Ford Escape XLT FWD, I’ve compiled a brass-tacks list of highly technical scientific data based upon observations, experimentation, tabulations, inspections and so forth. Here we go:
Ford: The only car company to not need a government bailout
Ford has had a couple of sleeper years that has kept it off the radar as far as product. Starting in 2008, the new products have started to come off the drawing boards and hit the showrooms, and there’s a lot to like. The new Escape is one of those. To be honest, up until now I’ve always been kind of “eh” about it. The redesigned Escape has a more aggressive exterior design and better-thought-out interior ergonomics.
Typically, when it comes to small SUVs, I don’t really get the advantage of getting one without four-wheel-drive. A lot of times they’re rear-wheel-drive, so they suck in the snow and you’d be better off with a sports wagon. Plus, they’re not very good looking. The front-wheel-drive Escape is a little different. It gives you the fuel economy of a wagon (20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway), the front-wheel-drive you need to get around the northwest in the winter, and you still sit up higher than a car for a greater view of the road. I also like the fact that it’s easy to parallel park in the city, and you can fill the back up with a lot of junk. However, the Escape definitely feels a bit more top-heavy out on the road versus a small station wagon.
The new 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine offers the 2009 Escape an 11 percent increase in output versus the old 2.3-liter. This also gives it a 1.7 second improvement in 0-60 acceleration. The efficient new engine combined with the six-speed automatic transmission also improves fuel economy.
One of the few options on the XLT Escape was the new SYNC system. SYNC was developed by Ford and Microsoft that allows users to control most MP3 players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones hands-free using voice commands. I’m a huge fan of the system. It’s easy to use – a novice can get it to work – and it’s great.
OK, for a before-tax price of $24,575, what do you get?
The 2009 Ford Escape XLT comes with a nice list of standard features, with much more sophisticated packaging than comparatively priced Japanese and Korean models. A quick look at the favorites includes:
• 171-hp, 2.5-liter I-4
• Six-speed automatic transmission
• Four-wheel independent suspension
• 16” aluminum wheels
• Dual stage front airbags
• Side curtain airbags
• Safety canopy system
• ABS brakes
• AdvanceTrak with roll stability control
• Tire pressure monitor
• Fog lamps
Comfort and Convenience
• Dual electronic climate control
• AM/FM/MP3 six-disc in-dash CD
with four-speaker audio system
• SIRIUS Satellite Radio
• Steering with tilt and cruise control
• Power windows, locks and mirrors
• Six-way power driver’s seat
• SYNC communications
and entertainment ($395)