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Ancient SUV could Escape the gallows

Nip and tuck: The new-look Escape at the Tokyo motor show.

The Adventure Concept at the Tokyo Show previews yet another Escape facelift

6 Nov 2007

FORD’S Escape Adventure Concept hints heavily at yet another facelift of the long-lived SUV.

Company officials deny it, but the so-called ‘concept’ displayed at last month’s Tokyo motor show is set for production at Ford’s Taiwan and Philippines assembly plants during 2008.

As the Taiwan facility has provided Ford Australia with the Escape since the last facelift in mid-2006, we can expect to see the aging junior SUV score its next nip and tuck in the latter part of next year, or early 2009.

However, there is also a chance that Ford Australia may elect to switch to the much more modern and sophisticated Kuga – the Focus small car-based compact SUV that debuted at September’s Frankfurt motor show.

Ford Australia president Tom Gorman has already indicated to GoAuto that he would like to see the Kuga launched in Australia.

Like the current ZC Escape, the Adventure Concept is the work of Australian Paul Gibson, who is now chief designer for Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa.

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27 center imageThe Adventure Concept’s nose and tail treatments are new, featuring redesigned headlights, grille, bumpers and bonnet, to give the Escape “a wider, more aggressive horizontal stance”, according to Ford.

Aiming for a tougher appearance, new horizontal style tail-lights, turn signals in the exterior rearview mirrors, and a host of trim changes inside and out complete the facelift.

GoAuto understands that the interior will also undergo some change, but Ford would not divulge what this might run to. The company has also remained mum on any mechanical alterations, but the current 2.3-litre four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V6 powerplants are likely to continue.

A Ford insider did reveal that investment in the Escape facelift has been kept deliberately low, as Ford aims to offer the compact SUV as a low-cost entry level vehicle in emerging markets.

With the current Escape’s basic architecture dating back to 2000 in North America, the 2008/9 facelift model would make it (and its Mazda Tribute twin) the oldest compact SUV on sale in Australia if Ford elects to introduce it here.

Against a hive of new compact SUV activity led by the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V and now Nissan’s X-Trail II, there is a chance that Ford Australia might even take up a two-way bet and import both the Escape and the Kuga.

Mazda would not comment on whether the Tribute would also undergo a facelift next year, but we expect it to.

Ford Australia released the original, BA-series Escape back in February 2001.

After a few very minor alterations with the ZA in April 2003, it received a new four-cylinder engine option and some trim upgrades when the ZB update arrived in early 2004, before Ford introduced the Taiwan-built ZC two years later.

Meanwhile, the North American Escape, which underwent a re-skin this year, remains much the same vehicle underneath as our Escape, despite its fresher appearance.

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