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Established 2004

Ford Escape, 2008: The Weekly Driver Car Review

Ford debuted a smaller, less expensive alternative to The Explorer, its vastly popular sports utility vehicle, in 2001. In North America, it was called The Escape and in Europe it was called The Maverick. The new compact SUV was developed in conjunction with Mazda, which in turn is owned in principle by Ford. Thus, the Escape, the Mazda Tribute and Ford’s Mercury division SUV, the Mariner, are not surprisingly quite similar.

A hybrid version of the Escape was introduced in 2004 and this year with the 2008 model, the Escape and its SUV siblings have all been redesigned.

Why? The SUV market has expanded so dramatically in recent years, even industry leaders have had to adjust to retain their share of the market, particularly against the influx of luxury Suva and impressive lower-priced offerings of Japanese and Korean manufacturers.

The updated Escape received some of its redesign highlights from the Edge and Ford Expedition, the manufacturer’s jumbo-sized SUV.

There’s a new grille with larger headlamps in the front fascia. The sides of the Escape has also been revised with cleaner lines and wider wheel arches. The interior also has a new, clean look and a navigation system is now available.

My weekly test drive was the four-wheel drive, limited edition, the most expensive of six available Escapes. It features a 3.0-liter, 200-horsepower V6 and it’s available only with an]]> automatic transmission. A manual transmission is available in other Escape models.

Safety features include curtain side airbags, front side airbags, and an antilock braking system. Traction control and an anti skid system are standard on all Escapes except the hybrid.

In addition to its new interior and exterior design, the 2008 Escape has a new noise-reduction features, which includes a new laminated windshield, thicker side glass, and additional sound insulation.

My test vehicle also included several option packages, including efficiently positioned, leather seats, which includes a six-position driver’s seat. Other optional equipment includes: class II trailer towing, a chrome appearance and roof bar package, power heated mirrors and front seats and 17-inch chrome clad wheels.

The Escape has a solid, efficient if not overly powerful feel. I also like the easy-to-operate split folding back seats. Three head rests must be removed for the rear seat to fold flush, but the task is easily accomplished with pull levers and a seat pully system.

Safety Features — Front, front side and side curtain airbags.

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/50,000 miles; Roadside Assistance, 5 years/60,000 miles.

Gas Mileage (averages) — 17 mpg (city); 22 (highway).

Base Price — $25,520.

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