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Ford's Escape crossover adds refinements and features for 2014

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With all the snow and slush we’re experiencing, this is the ideal time to own an SUV or crossover. And one of the most popular crossovers that stand out from the myriad that are on the market is Ford’s Escape.

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Escape has been one of Ford’s steady sellers in that the 2014 is a real looker. Probably the most handsome of the group. And you’ve probably seen the TV commercial where a grocery bag laden lady merely puts her foot under the rear bumper of the Escape and the rear liftgate opens. A nice keyless option. And for 2014, Ford is including a rearview camera as standard, a move that beats the proposed government mandate.

As for Escape’s appearance, it strongly resembles Ford’s Focus compact sedan. Perhaps that’s because it’s based on the same platform. Of course Escape is heavier but similarly maneuverable.

Offered in S, SE and Titanium trim levels, we tested the SE with front-wheel drive, not the choice for driving here in the Snowbelt. But it is less expensive than AWD.

Powertrain wise, the SE (and Titanium) come standard with a 1.6-liter, turbo-charged four-cylinder that grinds out 178-hp and 184 lb/ft of torque that sends power to the front wheel via a 6-speed automatic transmission. The combination has been timed at 9.4 seconds for 0-60 mph and carries EPA mileage estimates of 23 city, 32-highway mpg. The mighty four also has a tow rating of up to 3,500 pounds.

For more zip, opt for the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that is offered on SE and Titanium and puts out 240-hp and 270 lb/ft of torque.

With the 1.6L, acceleration was brisk but far from head snapping. On uphill jaunts with two adults aboard, the little four was breathing hard and only a downshift would liven things up. It took a while for the engine to spool up. There was also a noticeable hesitation when shifting from D to R and R to D gears. The shifts were not instantaneous. But for a four cylinder, the engine was relatively quiet.

Ride wise, Escape rides quietly and comfortably and its suspension soaks up road imperfections while maintaining stability. It actually feels like a much larger crossover and similar to a Ford edge in some respects.

Step-in into the cabin is an easy 17.5 inches while cargo load height is a low 28 inches.

Ford did a superb job on the interior in that it looked classy with good fit and finish. The test car had a 7x4.5-inch LCD screen for audio and rearview camera but no GPS nav. Instead, there was a digital compass that showed the street the vehicle was on. This was a never seen before arrangement.

The grey cloth seats in the test car were of the longwearing material and offered supportive comfort. The back seat had ample leg and headroom for two adults and wide opening rear doors afforded easy ingress/egress.

Back in the cargo area, there’s 34.3 cubic feet of space or 68.1 with the 60/40 seatbacks folded. More meaningful, the area measures 33.5 inches deep, 43 wide and 32.5 high. Flipping the seats gives 64 inches of depth. And below the cargo floor, there’s some small item storage space around the space-saver tire.

The SE came loaded with a long list of standard features and amenities including illumination entry, ice-blue interior lighting, MyKey, keyless entry, Sirius radio, floor mats, tire pressure monitoring and SOS Post Crash System to name a few.

For all that and more, Escape priced out at $29,075 with delivery after a base of $25,550. Now this is a tad higher than most of the competition, but in return, Escape earned government safety ratings of four overall stars, four for frontal crash, five for side crash and four for rollover. In addition, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave Escape “Good” ratings for all four categories.

To test an Escape, stop by Haldeman Ford on Lehigh Street in Allentown or Gilboy Ford in Whitehall. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.

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