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Ford Escape Review

OK, I’ll admit this isn’t necessarily in the theme of this blog but it such was an integral part of my trip that it seemed worth recording.  Perhaps if you are planning a similar trip you might find it useful.

I had pre-checkout my Alamo rental on-line.  This was the first time I had done this and it is rather disconcerting process.  Basically, you wave your home printed agreement at the man and he points at a row of cars.  You peruse the row and drive off with your favorite.  Its sort of GTA without the skill element.  The “Ford Escape or Similar” contained just the one Escape and numerous Or Similars from Kia and Jeep.  The Ford seemed the best sized, was well equipped and was the best presented.  The reason for that presentation became evident when I turned it on.  It had done just 4 miles.  I was about to increase that by 50,000%

I don’t really know which version I had for sure as there wasn’t any literature in the car but I am guessing it was the 3.0l Limited model based on the spec and badging.  This is quite high up in the Escape pecking order for a rental car and meant a very nice spec and decent performance.


It’s hard to judge size in the US because there is just a different sense of scale to UK motors but the Escape seems about Freelander size.  The driving position is pretty good with the usual SUV benefits of good visibily forwards.  The privacy glass on the rear half was almost opaque but this was offset with good mirrors with anti-blindspot inserts.  At first the seats worried me a little.  The were quite flat and hard and my arse was going to be spending a lot of time in them.  However, with a little tweeking of the lumber support, they proved to be good companions on a long run.

There were plenty of cubby holes and pockets for all the rubbish that gathers around you on a long road trip.  As this was me, we were on complete gadget overload with iPhone playing GPS stuck on the window.  A 3D GoPro was stuck on windscreen on the other side while a power monkey USB charged spare batteries for it in the cigarette lighter.  A Solar powered Power Monkey soaked up some rays on the dashboard.  Generally the quality of the materials felt durable but a step behind the european premium marks.

Ergonomics were not a strong suit.  I could afford to block the clock with my solar array because I couldn’t figure out how to change it with no manual.  I viewed the “Powered by Microsoft Sync” sticker on the entertainment system with the suspicion that you would expect from an Apple fanboy.  Sure enough, for a while my iOS devices just sulked only accepting only USB power from their tech nemesis.  After some experimentation I persuaded it work as long as it could chose the songs.  I settled for that as I had been stuck on an 80s channel on Sirius for 2 days and did not want to go back there.  

The hifi sounded excellent when MS Sync and I agreed on the choice and the volume went up.  Maybe years of iDrive or perhaps just age means I could remember or locate all the plethora of buttons reliably.  It did look impressive at night though when al those buttons lit up and this is to someone who had Las Vegas outside the car!

The boot swallowed my two large cases and a big camera bag like they were custom made without obstructing the (insurance essential) parcel cover which was great.  The load floor was pretty high but thats a typical SUV failing but it was a good shape with minimal wheelarch intrusion

On the Road

The roads in the South West test the extremes more than you might expect.  Sure, there are plenty of the stereotypical dead straight two-lane blacktop where you need snooze control.  There is also plenty of mountainous, twisty and distinctly slopey stuff too.  On the US “Loniest Road in America” 50 you get both taking it in turns for 2 days.  The Escape felt distinctly sporty for an SUV - there was little roll and the dampening was well controlled.  This was at the expense of a ride which was pretty hard over rough surfaces.  It was a trade-off I was comfortable with given the size of the drops at the side of the road but then I drive a Beemer on run-flats.  The steering was light, direct and accurate and I am used to the slightly disconnected feel of electric assistance.  When you are winding down the super-twisty roads in Yosemite, trying not to imagine what a Ford Escape looks like bouncing a few thousand feet to the bottom by the most direct route, I only had a couple of criticisms.  The first was the brakes which liked a hefty shove and the second was the gearbox.  You only had the option of drive or low.  Low was pretty much meant for crawling through bogs and was not much use on tarmac.  In Drive, going downhill, high gearing meant zero engine braking.  So you would have to resort to those heavy brakes on the nanostraights between the corners if you didnt want unsettling weight transfer or to trust entirely on Mr Goodyear to keep you from a spectacular end.

The engine was a bit of star feature.  I have driven a fair few rental cars in the US over the years including some sportier options and few have ever felt like they had the power their specs suggested.  Often this was the fault of sleepy autoboxes but, still, few engines have shined.  The Ford V6 in a Mustang Cab of a couple of years back felt and sounded purposefully rumbly at low revs.  Actually try and prod it out of Florida cruise mode though and the noise became louder and much more stressed without generating a great deal more pace.  The gearing on the Escape was still stellar but having 6 of them made a difference especially as the engine loved revs and the gearbox seemed to understand that.  It was perhaps a tad behind a BMW straight 6 on refinement but the equal of anyone else’s V6 I have tried.  A world away from the big but breathless big sixes I have tried in the US before.  I am hoping its bigger brother in the 2011 ‘Stang I have booked for my next trip is equally capable.  From a standing start to highway speed the Escape was very impressive.  Before you judge me as a boy racer, if you are coming out of a photo opportunity turnout and there is a UPS triple trailer bearing down on you its not a good idea to hang around.

At speed the Escape felt stable resisting crosswinds well for something that is essentially square.  There was a fair bit of wind-noise especially until I discovered Alamo had missed some tape strips which should have come off.  At the speed my limit aware GPS would start nagging me, the composure was starting to go but this was mainly down to tyre balance.  It is ever so on rentals, I think they unbalance them deliberately to limit over-enthusiasm.

Overall my Escape was an excellent and capable companion over nearly 2500 miles in just 10 days displaying no new car foibles.  It could do the mile eating job necessary in a US car effortlessly enough but showed decent poise and a surprising sporty nature when the occasion arose.  I am happy that I ignored the Or Similars.

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