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Revised packaging keeps the 2014 Ford Escape competitive

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The Ford Escape is a worthy vehicle in one of the most hotly contested segments, the compact crossover. This third-generation, introduced last season, incorporates the latest technology and style, setting high standards. Main competition includes the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Buick Encore, Honda CR-V, Toyota Rav-4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, and the recently revamped 2014 Nissan Rouge.

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While the 2014 Escape does not receive any significant visual changes, it’s hardly a carryover model; there are worthy refinements that keep this popular crossover competitive in an increasing crowded segment.

This third generation Escape is based on Ford’s Global C1 platform that also underpins the Focus and C-MAX. Built in Louisville, Kentucky, the current generation Escape is based off of Ford’s European Kuga. In the Serb-Croatian and Slovenian language, “Kuga” is the word for plague. However, the name was not changed for those markets.

All-new for last year the 2014 Escape remains visually similar with packaging changes being the most significant refinement. First are the trim levels, which come as S, SE, and Titanium. Last year’s SEL has been replaced by a more-contented SE. To counteract the price of the Titanium has been dropped $1,270 to bring it more in line with the now absent SEL. A rear view camera Integrated Blind Spot mirrors and SYNC are now standard on all three trim levels. This had been a significant weak spot in the Escape’s previous equipment packaging since similar features are included on the Honda CR-V.

The reduced base price of the Titanium comes at a slight penalty, meaning the 231-hp 2.0L EcoBoost engine is no longer standard, whereas the base Titanium 400A now comes with the 173-hp 1.6L Ecoboost. In addition a supplemental heater is also now optional on both engines.

A168-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder is the base engine for the Escape S. All powertrains are paired with a six-speed select-shift automatic transmission.

Also deleted from the content are the standard 19″ alloy wheels (18″ machined aluminum wheels are now standard) and HID headlights with LED running lights. However those items can be added back as part of a new Titanium Technology Package which also includes bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, active park assist, blind-spot information, and front parking sensors. The 19″ alloy wheels now become a $595 stand-alone option. Ford’s exclusively innovative foot-activated power tailgate is standard on Titanium and optional ($495) on the SE trim. In addition a power converter is now standard for the Titanium.

Full-leather seats are now standard on the Titanium package, whereas last year’s model featured leather seating with cloth inserts. However it’s the only way to get leather appointments as the SE is only offered with cloth.

Optional features offered on the Escape Titanium include a Panoramic Vista Roof, satellite radio, SYNC, MyFord Touch, a trailer towing package, heated leather seats, navigation system, auto park with cross traffic alert, Sony audio, MyKey, and an industry first hands-free power liftgate. Standard safety features include seven-airbags with drive knee airbag, passive anti-theft system, AdvanceTrac stability control with anti-rollover technology, four-wheel disc brakes, and tire pressure monitoring.

The Escape S and SE carry over mostly unchanged. To help make up the void of the SEL model there’s a new SE Convenience Package that bundles rear parking sensors, MyFord touch, dual-zone automatic temperature control, perimeter alarm, 9-speaker sound system, and black roof-rails. The SE package now includes a standard 10-way power driver seat, which does away with the previous 6-way manual driver seat.

The base price for the S model has increased $230 to $22,700 and $480 for an SE model which starts at $25,550. All-wheel drive will boost that amount by $1,750, keeping in mind the base S model only comes with front-wheel drive. Though the Titanium’s base price now starts at a lower $29,100, a fully loaded model will still easily set you back in the mid-30s, even over $40K if every available option is checked off. That’s approaching the price territory of the soon to be released Lincoln MKC, which is based off the Escape’s platform architecture.

The Escape certainly has the cache style, luxury, and technology that help justify the premium price tag Ford is asking for. Now with some added standard equipment at the lower end of the spectrum, it looks like the value card has just been moved up a notch for 2014.

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