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Aussie assault for Ford Escape

City slick: The baby in Ford's off-roader family was developed along with Mazda's Tribute.

Australia will be one of the Escape's biggest markets when it finally arrives early in 2001

12 Jan 2000

FORD has finally unveiled its contender in the hot-selling light four-wheel drive off-roader segment. Twinned with the already revealed Mazda Tribute (due on sale in Australia later this year), the keenly awaited Escape is on Ford Australia's wish-list.

The Escape is sized to compete with Subaru's Forester and Honda's in-demand CR-V.

Like the Honda, the Escape uses unitary construction, but has the choice of four-cylinder 2.0-litre or V6 3.0-litre power plants. The four uses a manual gearbox and the V6 has an automatic.

While sales of light 4WD vehicles continue to climb in Australia, they have doubled to 500,000 vehicles a year in the US since 1995.

"The 2001 Escape provides a logical extension of the Ford SUV family and will help us maintain our proven leadership by providing customers with a bold new choice in the small SUV market," said Mr Jim O'Connor, Ford Division president and vice- president of Ford Motor Company.

"The new Ford Escape, smaller than the Explorer, is designed to appeal to younger buyers as well as the young at heart - drivers who want fun, agile, sporty, durable yet affordable transportation for their active lifestyles." The Escape can be bought as a front-drive or full-time four-wheel drive model in the US but Australian versions are expected to be four-wheel drive only in order to qualify for import duties for trucks rather than cars, which is vital to keep the price down.

The all-wheel drive system comes with a driver-determined switch to select four-wheel drive automatic or "4x4 lock".

It will be certified to low emission vehicle standards and its emissions will be among the cleanest in its class, Ford says.

The Escape will be built at Ford's Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo., and goes on sale in North America this summer. The new off-roader will be sold in more than 150 countries.

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