Story first published in the Calgary Herald’s Driving.ca section January 23, 2008.
All photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company and Wieck Media Services, Inc.
Calgary driver Jo Ann Kogawa says she is a truck driver.
Not a long haul, 18-wheel kind of truck driver — but a pick up truck and SUV enthusiast. Her first vehicle was a 1995 Nissan crew cab pick up, which she bought brand new. She learned to drive a standard transmission in the truck.
“I like sitting up higher,” Kogawa says, and of her affection for pick ups, she adds; “My dad’s an electrician, and he always had trucks — I like having a pick up truck box.”
But when marriage, a dog and then two kids entered the picture, she had to move to something a bit more family friendly.
“We need a vehicle with a cargo area and a mud mat,” Kogawa, 36, says. “With some room for a stroller, a backpack or a wagon, a sled or skis.” They also tow a speedboat in the summer, and need an SUV with some pulling power. Currently, the family maintains a 2002 Honda CRV and a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder. Kogawa drives the V-6 equipped Pathfinder on a regular basis, and that’s the truck that pulls the family boat.
Kogawa was chosen to drive Ford’s 2009 Escape XLT, a vehicle that was first introduced in 2001. The compact Escape fits in Ford’s SUV line up just below the automaker’s larger Explorer.
The first generation Escape ran from 2001 to 2007, with the second generation (2008) vehicle debuting at the Los Angeles International Auto Show in 2007. Design cues from its larger siblings were incorporated in the Escape, and the redesigned compact SUV featured a new grille and head lamp treatment and interior upgrades.
New for 2009 is a more powerful 2.5-litre inline four cylinder Duratec engine, a powerplant that is supposed to be more fuel efficient than the 2.3-L four cylinder it replaced. Also new is a six-speed automatic transmission, while a five-speed manual gearbox is standard fare. Optional in the Escape is a 3.0-L V-6.
And it was the Escape’s new four-cylinder engine that proved to be a sticking point for Kogawa. Her tester was fitted with the 2.5-L Duratec and optional six-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately, she found the powerplant noisy, and criticized it for a lacklustre performance.
“I loved zipping around in the Escape,” Kogawa says. “But the engine was noisy, and you really heard it when you hit the gas.” Of the performance, she says: “Around town and in the city it’s fine, but my concern would be entering on and off ramps on the Deerfoot and highway passing.”
The Escape is only the second Ford product Kogawa has driven. When she was in high school her parents owned a four-cylinder Mustang, and she says the Escape’s engine reminded her of the Mustang.
Kogawa also had trouble with the Sport Blue Metallic finish, calling it a ‘fad’ colour that wouldn’t be popular a few years down the road. But once she got past the paint she gave the Escape thumbs up for its boxy and edgy styling.
“(The Escape) had a stubby, muscular stance that makes it look kind of rugged, and I liked the wheels,” Kogawa says.
She was surprised by the height Escape is. She noted that it was easy to access the rear seat to install child booster seats, but felt the Escape needed running boards to make it easier for kids and adults alike to get in and out of the SUV. Running boards are available from Ford as an accessory.
Kogawa, at 4’11 3/4″, found the power adjustable driver’s seat and the tilt steering wheel and controls fit her perfectly. She could adjust the seat so she was close enough to the pedals, but didn’t feel she was sitting too close to the steering wheel. She called the interior clean and modern, and praised the Escape’s fit and finish. She liked the charcoal leather interior, and appreciated the optional $1,200 moon roof. Her husband Geoff Kneller, at 6′ tall, also didn’t have any trouble getting comfortable in the Escape.
The ride was smooth, with plenty of bump absorption. Having never owned a car, Kogawa could only compare the ride to her truck-based experiences, and thought the Escape fared well in suspension and steering comfort. In fact, the light and almost loose feel at the steering wheel was one of Kogawa’s favourite features.
“The steering was so soft, and that made the Escape easy to parallel park,” she says. “And the side mirrors were awesome — I’m not sure if it was their design or their size, but they were great.”
Kogawa found the Escape to be smaller in the cargo-carrying department when compared to her family’s Honda CRV. She’s right, too. Her 2002 CRV has almost 949 litres of cargo space with the rear seats in the upright position, while the 2009 Escape features 827 litres.
At the end of the test, Kogawa says she was sad to let go of a brand new vehicle. But for her tastes, she says the Escape really needs the optional V-6 engine. She felt the Escape would be great for a young couple, or grandparents. In fact, Kogawa’s mom really liked the Escape, and that’s who she thinks would best suit the vehicle.
“There’s enough cargo room for shopping and city driving, but it’s not a family long haul touring vehicle,” she concludes.
Engine: 2.5-L DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 171 @ 6,000 r.p.m.
Torque: 171 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 r.p.m.
Wheelbase: 2618.74 mm
Overall length: 4437.38 mm
Curb weight: 1512.7 kg (Auto/FWD)
Price as tested: $34,029
JO ANN KOGAWA’S DRIVING JOURNAL
(I like) the box-like exterior — makes the vehicle look bigger and more rugged than it actually is. The electric (adjustable) seats are nice as I am short (4’11”) and like moving the seat to its highest position. All the controls etc. are within reaching distance and I can tilt the steering right down. Good functionality/design for shorter people.
Vehicle engine is very loud — the sound reminds me of the four-cylinder Mustang that my family had when I was in high school. Boy, sure can hear the engine, turn the radio on to muzzle the sound. Have to really press the gas pedal to get going — not used to this. Get caught on Deerfoot trying to merge — not a whole lot of power — must remember that.
Easy to install the car seat and booster seat, this is a plus. Good leg room behind the passenger and of course driver’s seat.
Pick up three girlfriends and head into downtown for late dinner. Very easy to parallel park — side mirrors are tall and big — LIKE this. Great side mirrors, really makes it easy to back up the vehicle and if you position the mirrors right you really don’t have to turn your head too much to shoulder check. Girlfriends like the vehicle.
The seat warmers in the front get hot really fast which is nice, would be nice to have in the back seat too as they are leather as well.
With the two car seats tossed in the rear, there is not much room left — definitely would not be able to fit in the jogging stroller. Not a whole lot of room in the back.
Drive back downtown for a doctor’s appointment.
Vehicle is very easy to drive, great views out the front window — feels like you are driving in a tall rig. Manoeuvres on city streets, inner city streets and parking areas quite easily — I can turn the steering wheel with my pinky finger! I like the ability to change the stations/volume control on the steering wheel — have it in the Pathfinder.
Very easy to find the vehicle in a filled up parking lot, and one set of grandparents like the bright blue color.
Drive down to Inglewood at night. Not many blind spots because of the windows. Sure is easy to drive just not a whole lot of power. Can’t find the ignition switch to start the vehicle when it is dark — there is no neon circle around it like the Honda/Nissan. A game of ‘poking’ trial and error.
Take the kids (4 and 2) with us and head to Phil’s Pancake house, they have a hard time climbing into the vehicle as it is higher and there is more rounded slippery plastic on the bottom of the doors. The jogging stroller takes up all the room in the rear and I really have to lift and reach in put it down in the rear. The rear bed is high (unlike the CRV). Kid #1 falls out of the vehicle as she is trying to get out of the vehicle on her own. There really should be a running board — the truck stands quite high. Lots of space makes it easy to get kid #2 out of the back seat. Good clearance above her head and behind the passenger seat. (I always bump #2s head in the Pathfinder as I unload and load her into the car seat). Husband is 6′ and he has good head clearance in the front seat even with the motorized sun roof — that’s a plus. Liking the touch screen media system (GPS, radio, DVD, Blue tooth etc)
We all like the windows as they allow for lots of light and everyone can see out quite well.
Short drive to Southland Leisure center for kids dance class. Friend’s mom likes the vehicle and sits in it. She too is impressed with the front window — says she feels like she is flying on top of the road.
Go to mom’s house for dinner. Both parents like the style of the car. Actually probably a good vehicle for them as they don’t need a whole lot of space — only need to be able cart the grandkids around. They don’t want a four-cylinder — told them that it comes in a 6 cylinder and because it sits up high it is very easy to drive the city. Kids have finally got a handle on getting in/out of the vehicle without a running board. Parked on a hill (incline) and I cannot reach the back hatch to close it so I have too jump (nothing new there). Too bad it does not have a handle as it is easier to grab — the slotted inside handle under the hatch door is too slippery to grab when jumping.
Take kid #2 to Gymboree in Midnapore early morning. Leather seats sure make the vehicle feel colder — good thing for those heated seats. In no time the vehicle is warm and the kid wants it cold again.
Drive up to Tuscany for dinner — hit the rush hour. Stopped behind another new Escape — like the backside — tail lights are bright and distinctive. There are actually quite a few Escapes old and new on the road. They must be reliable and the different model styles are still appealing. This radio staying ON after the engine has shut off is still confusing as you wonder if the vehicle is still running but I am getting used to it — shuts off after the driver’s door is open. Grandpop agrees that there sure isn’t a lot of room in the back rear cargo area. Packing a dog, stroller, bags etc would be very limiting.
Go to Costco. I like driving and parking this vehicle — sure is relaxing and I feel like I am seeing the whole road. Definitely not a lot of room in the rear cargo area with a stroller and now the Costco ‘goods’ tray. Honda definitely has more room and because the bed is lower, taking items in/out is a lot nicer. Pants get dirty from having to lean against the back bumper to reach for the groceries.
Drive back into the downtown core for dinner/desserts. Not too worried about finding parking as the vehicle is easy to parallel park as you have good vision from the rear/side mirrors. Get complimented on my ‘parallel’ park job from a couple of ladies. Told them that the vehicle has great mirrors to aid you.
Gas tank is pretty much empty. Did a lot of city driving from Woodbine to the inner city and back. Gas tank would pretty much be empty on my Pathfinder too so I am kind of surprised. Husband thinks that I should have gotten better mileage. (Kogawa drove about 500 km and it cost her $36 to fill the tank.)
Return the vehicle. Kind of glad as I miss my Pathfinder even though it does not have a GPS media system or the leather interior.
Overall, this Escape does not have enough rear cargo room for us to take along kids, accessories and a dog. Plus, the height of the vehicle is an issue without running boards to aid the kids getting in/out of the vehicle.I think though that it would be a great vehicle for couples (grandparents) as it would be a good alternative to driving a car. It is very easy and comfortable/relaxing to drive in the city as it does sit up quite a bit higher than a car. Accommodating different heights shouldn’t be an issue as the vehicle’s seats enveloped us both to our liking and for our driving pleasure.
IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL
Calgary driver Patricia Markin was driving a 2003 Pontiac Sunfire, a bare bones no frills four door car that was nearing the end of its lease. She started looking for a vehicle to replace it more than a year ago, and she drove a Chevrolet Avalanche and a Saturn Vue before deciding to buy a metallic grey 2009 Ford Escape XLT 4×4 late last year from Woodridge Ford. She picked up the vehicle on Dec. 19, and she?s got 596 km on the odometer. So far, Markin has driven mostly around town. She uses the Ford to commute from the northeast into downtown, and also travels to Moose Jaw, Sask., three or four times a year.
WHY THE ESCAPE?
I liked the compact size of the Escape, and I thought I could handle the vehicle better than the others. With such a good car I’m planning on driving more on the highway, and will visit family in Moose Jaw even more often. I’m 5’7″ and I wanted a little more headroom, and thought that with the Escape I wouldn’t have to bend down to get into it, like I did with my Sunfire.
My Sunfire had nothing, so I wanted this to have power windows, cruise control, air conditioning — all the niceties. I didn’t specifically ask for a sunroof, but mine has one and I like that, too.
No, no, no, none whatsoever. There’s just enough power for me with the V-6, and the four wheel drive has helped give me more confidence driving in these kinds of winter conditions — and I’m aware that four wheel drive won’t help slow me down! I like the ride and the way it handles, I really enjoy driving the Escape, and am so in love with it.