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May 2, 2006 > 2006 Ford Escape

2006 Ford Escape

by Dick Ryan

Our most recent road test vehicle was a 2006 Ford Escape SUV with 700 miles on the odometer.  The Escape is Ford's smallest SUV and competes against Saturn's Vue, Honda's CRV, Toyota's Highlander, and Chevy's Equinox.  The Escape is also sold as the Mercury Mariner.  The Escape has been in production since 2000 and was redesigned in 2005.

It's a four-door body with a rear door that opens upward for easy loading of the cargo area.  The rear door opens high enough that it might be difficult for shorter people to close.  This Escape had the optional step bars (running boards) that made entry and exit easier for height-challenged people.

Our Escape was an XLT model with the optional 3.0-liter (193 HP) V-6 and an overdrive automatic transmission.  A 2.4-liter, 153 HP four-cylinder engine is standard.  Four-wheel disk brakes with ABS are standard equipment on the four-wheel drive models.  The two-wheel drive Escape has drum brakes on the rear.

We didn't get a chance to test the four-wheel drive system off the road, but I would guess that only a tiny fraction of Escapes have seen or will see any real off-road usage.  A true off-road enthusiast would not buy a vehicle like this.  However, this system is perfect for the typical California winter trip up to the mountains for skiing or just playing in the snow.  To facilitate these trips, the Escape was shod with 235/70-16 M&S (Mud & Snow) tires.

The rear cargo compartment is about 49" wide, 34" long, and 38" high.  It can be extended another 24" by easily folding the rear seats forward and down.

Ford offers a very interesting option on its SUVs.  The "Rear Sensing System" uses sensors mounted in the rear bumper to measure if any objects are within six feet of the rear of the vehicle.  As you slowly back up and get within six feet of your house, a child, or a parked car, an alarm goes off to warn you.  The Escape has good rearward vision, but I would definitely buy this system; it is well worth its $395 price tag to prevent one dented fender or contact with a pedestrian.

The Escape's driver's seat has enough power adjustments that tall and short drivers can feel comfortable.  The controls and gages were easy to see and understand.

The Escape didn't drive like a large SUV or pick-up truck.  It drove more like a car and had a firm but smooth ride.  Its road manners were stable and well refined.  This would be an easy choice for a five or six hour trip to SoCal.

Our only negative observation was the Escape's straight-line stability on grooved sections of the freeway.  The rain grooves cut into the concrete caused the unsettling feeling of a left/right hunting motion.  Many vehicles exhibit this motion on the grooves, but the Escape seemed to wiggle more than most.

The MSRP for the two-wheel drive, manual transmission Escape is $19,995.  Its EPA numbers are 22 MPG for city and 26 MPG for highway driving.  Adding an automatic adds about $700 (20 city, 24 highway).  The four-wheel drive system costs $1,650.  Ford is offering $3,000 rebate on new Escapes purchased by July 5.

With the increasing cost of gasoline, more and more SUV buyers are looking at smaller vehicles.  Ford's Escape has been and still is a strong contender for a large share of this market.

Dick Ryan has been an automotive journalist for 15 years. He and his wife Connie have been racing sports cars for more than 35 years. His current mount is a vintage Formula Vee, a small, open-wheel car that looks like a one-quarter scale Indianapolis racecar. Dick is a member of the Western Automotive Journalists. For more information contact Dick at RRYAN@FRK.COM.

 
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