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Escape on all fours

Escape strategy: Ford's small SUV gets a makeover for 2008.

Ford banishes Escape V6 to prop up Territory sales in last-gasp compact SUV serve

2 Apr 2008

JUST as it said it would three weeks ago, Ford used today’s Adelaide motor show opening to launch a new-look Escape model “range”, comprising just one automatic four-cylinder variant priced at $31,990.

The move drops an axe on the V6 version of the Ford’s compact SUV, which was priced well into Territory turf at $37,190 for the 3.0 XLT Sport and $42,490 for the Limited.

Naturally, Ford hopes the single Escape strategy will help stem the steady decline in popularity of its mid-sized homegrown SUV, as well as provide a shot in the arm for its seven-year-old Escape until it is replaced by the chunky new Focus-based Kuga compact crossover, which went on sale in Europe this year.

The revised Escape’s sub-$32,000 starting price brings it in line with market-leading compact off-roaders like Nissan’s X-Trail, Subaru’s Forester, Honda’s CR-V and the top-selling Toyota RAV4 which, in a reverse of the slimmed-down Escape nameplate’s “model realignment”, in December became available with a 201kW 3.5-litre V6, priced from under $40,000.

27 center imageAs confirmed by new Ford Australia president Bill Osborne in his first monthly sales briefing with media last month, the new-look Escape will focus on fuel economy and safety. The highly-specified ZD Escape, with a carryover 2.3-litre petrol engine mated to a new floor-mounted four-speed shifter, effectively replaces the ZC Escape XLT auto ($33,490).

The Escape’s 2.261-litre DOHC under-square inline four still develops 109kW at 6000rpm and 199Nm of torque at 4000rpm and returns the same Falcon-matching 10.5L/100km average fuel consumption figure.

Towing capacity also remains unchanged at 750kg unbraked, increasing to 1000kg for braked loads, while the part-time AWD system continues to offer push-button centre differential locking, with a 50/50 front/rear torque split.

Presenting new front-end styling from last year’s production-ready Adventure Concept, which was designed by Ford Asia-Pacific and Africa chief designer Paul Gibson, the updated Escape also features a revised interior and the addition of front seat side/head thorax airbags as standard.

Inside the 2008 Escape, which goes on sale this month, an exclusive new Piano Burgundy trim for the centre console and door trims aims to offer “elegant sophistication”, while a new Ellipse seat trim with ebony bolsters continues the more luxurious interior theme.

In addition to front and side/head airbags, also now standard is an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), plus cruise control and climate control.

As we reported when it was revealed at the Tokyo motor show last October, the Escape makeover includes a new grille, bumpers, headlights, foglights, (body-coloured) wheel-arch and door cladding, tail-lights, tailgate, wing mirrors and alloy wheels.

The chromed grille comprises three horizontal bars and a bigger Blue Oval logo, while a new front bumper features a matt-black air-dam and foglight surrounds, above new horizontal-eyebrowed headlights. Also helping shift the design focus forward are new front quarter panels with side vents and Escape badging, and turn indicators integrated into the side mirrors.

Blackened B-pillars, new 10-spoke 16x7.0-inch alloy wheels (including spare) with 215/70-section tyres, a new rear bumper with fresh reflectors and LED tail-lights complete with restyle, which is accompanied by the addition of Ambition Grey paint, which sees the ZD Escape’s colour palette stretch to six hues, including the previous Hot Red, Panther Black, Moonlight Silver, Metallic Sand and Atlantis Blue.

It is the fourth change during the current Escape’s model life, which began life as the BA series in North America in 2000 and in Australia in February 2001. Minor changes came as part of the ZA upgrade in April 2003, and the ZB Escape was made available with new four-cylinder power from early 2004, before the Taiwan-built ZC arrived in 2006.

“We've made these changes to better differentiate between our two SUV model lines,” said Ford Australia’s vice-president of marketing and sales, Mark Winslow.

“There is now a clear-cut discernable difference between what Escape and Territory represent and what they offer our customers. The two models now complement each other in the showroom better than ever before.

“With on-demand all-wheel-drive, automatic transmission and front seat side head/ thorax airbags as standard, the changes announced today have further strengthened Escape's overall appeal and make it one of the best value-proposition SUV packages available,” said Mr Winslow.

Read more:

Ford to kill Escape V6

GoAuto can help you buy a new Escape

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