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Ford evalutes facelifted Escape

Escape package: Ford is hoping to bolster Escape sales in the short term with the Freedom pack.

Ford evaluates the merits of an Escape in Japan fitted with Mazda's MZR engine

30 Aug 2002

FORD Australia product planning chief Don Pearce will soon jet to Japan to evaluate the Escape compact off-roader fitted with the new Mazda MZR 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine.

If Mr Pearce gives the car the thumbs-up, the model would undergo further evaluation in Australia and then probably go on sale here no sooner than late 2003 as part of an Escape facelift.

When it launched the Escape here in February, 2001, Ford elected to make it a V6-only model, judging the entry level 2.0-litre four-cylinder version not up to scratch in performance terms.

That engine produces 97kW at 5400rpm and 183Nm at 4500rpm. The MZR, which is now on sale here in the Mazda6, knocks out 122kW at a peaky 6500rpm, but more promisingly 207Nm at 4000rpm.

However, the Escape has not been a big seller, shown up dramatically by the sales of its under-the-skin twin, the Mazda Tribute. July was a low point with just 196 Escapes sold compared to 604 Tributes.

Adding further insult, it was a stellar month for compact 4WDs overall with the Subaru Forester selling 1193, the Honda CR-V 1025, the Toyota RAV4 994 and the Nissan X-Trail 909.

While Tribute sales are virtually all V6, the other models mentioned come only as four-cylinders. Ford does not believe it made a mistake omitting a four-cylinder from its Escape launch line-up but it certainly wants one now.

"Given there is a new four-cylinder engine coming - we'd want to re-assess it," said Mr Pearce, Ford Australia's director of product and business planning.

"We took the decision with the present four-cylinder engine that we weren't going to offer it and I think we have made the right decision, but we clearly want to do better with Escape than we have been doing.

"A four-cylinder would certainly help the selling point and we think with the right four-cylinder engine with the right performance we could do better, although I think it's not going to be 50 per cent of the volume or anything like that."In the short term Ford is hoping a new Freedom pack will boost Escape sales, which offers up to $1500 extra value for no charge.

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