2011 Ford Escape Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 4, 2011

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2011 Ford Escape Buying Advice

The 2011 Ford Escape is the best compact SUV for you if you want to drive a relic, albeit a popular one.

The 2011 Ford Escape adds HD Radio capability for receiving higher-sound-quality broadcast programming where it’s available. Escape otherwise carries over intact from 2010, with 2011 representing the final model year – thank goodness -- for a vehicle that dates from the Clinton administration. Escape went on sale in summer 2000 as a 2001 model, and despite some new engines and styling revisions, its basic engineering and structural design are original. Ford’s kept Escape priced right and relevant to enough buyers to make it America’s No. 1 best-selling compact SUV. Crash-test ratings are good, a hybrid version is available, and Escape can even park itself. But the interior is cramped, road manners archaic. This SUV was OK in its day, but its day has passed.  

Should you buy a 2011 Ford Escape or wait for the 2012 Ford Escape? No question -- hold out for the 2012 Ford Escape. The 2012 Escape will be an all-new and fully contemporary crossover with European-bred engineering and world-class design credentials.

2011 Ford Escape Changes back to top

Styling: There are no changes to the 2011 Ford Escape’s old-school styling. While its grille, headlamps, and front fascia have evolved since 2001, the wheelbase – the distance between its front and rear axles and the key chassis dimension – is unaltered. And Escape’s square-rigged body shape hasn’t changed in a decade.

That’s not to suggest this is an unsightly vehicle. To the contrary; the 2011 Escape has a handsome face and classic proportions. For many buyers, this is what an SUV ought to look like and what virtually all of them did before an era of jelly-bean crossovers, those ballooned-up family wagons a little insecure about their station in the automotive pecking order. Interestingly, the 2001 Escape was one of the very first crossover SUVs. It combined a four-door body shell with a front-wheel-drive, car-type chassis to form a single, unibody structure. It was space-efficient and lightweight and was among the first SUVs with an all independent suspension. Before that, most sport-utility vehicles – including the top-selling Ford Explorer -- were essentially enclosed pickup trucks with a body bolted to a separate rear-wheel-drive frame. With their solid rear axles and leaf springs, they could tow heavy loads and withstand the rigors of off-roading. But they were heavy and rode like the trucks they were. Today, body-on-frame SUVs are a nearly dead breed. Even the Explorer, one of the last holdouts, became a unibodied crossover for model-year 2011.

Still, today’s Escape rides rougher than newer rivals. Its handling isn’t as fluid, its engines not particularly smooth. Poor isolation from road and mechanical vibration are additional geriatric drawbacks. The 2011 Ford Escape returns as a five-passenger wagon with a rear liftgate – same as it always was. The 2011 Mazda Tribute remains at least through model-year 2011 as a slightly retrimmed duplicate of the Escape. The third triplet to come from this basic design, the Mercury Mariner, is being phased out along with the rest of the Mercury brand, though some remaining stock should be available through at least the end of 2010.

The 2011 Ford Escape comes in base XLS, midline XLT, and top-level Limited trim. Hybrid versions are offered in a base form that’s roughly equivalent to XLS equipment, and in Limited trim.

Mechanical: The 2011 Ford Escape repeats with a choice of two gas engines and a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. All versions are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). The AWD system normally operates in front-drive but automatically reapportions power front-to-rear to quell tire slip. Though it has 8.4-inches of ground clearance – more than the average crossover – the 2011 Escape is not intended for severe off-roading and its AWD system lacks low-range gearing.

The base engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 171 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Also returning is an available 3.0-liter V-6 that nets 240 horsepower and 223 pound-feet of torque. The base front-drive XLS model comes with a five-speed manual transmission. Optional on that version and standard on all other models is a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2011 Escape Hybrid again combines the four-cylinder engine with an electric motor for 177 total horsepower. This is a true hybrid, able to run exclusively on electricity at low speeds, on the gas engine alone, or on both power sources in combination. It self-charges the on-board battery system, no plug-in required. The 2011 Escape Hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A CVT assumes the role of an automatic transmission but with a rheostat-like delivery of power rather than set number of gears.

All Escape models come with four-wheel disc brakes with an antilock system to enhance control in emergency stops and with an antiskid system to mitigate sideways slides. With the four-cylinder engines, Escapes can tow trailers weighing up to 1,500 pounds. With the V-6 and towing accessories, Escapes can pull up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped, about par for a compact-crossover SUV. Hybrid Escapes are rated to tow 1,000 pounds.       

Features: OK, Escape feels old on the road and dated inside. Its squared-off cabin shapes and too many hard-touch surfaces are far less charming than the throwback exterior. But few SUVs of any vintage match its array of gadgets and features. These include electric power steering, which saves gas by eliminating a hydraulic system’s drain on the engine. It also makes possible two pretty slick features.

The Active Park Assist option employs sensors to measure a suitable parallel parking space and then uses the electric steering to back Escape into the slot while the driver – hands off the wheel -- controls the speed with the brake. That’s a neat trick, but more useful and important is that the electric steering makes possible Ford’s Pull-Drift Compensation. This feature reduces driver fatigue and increases steering control by automatically compensating for drift-triggering factors such as strong crosswinds or severely crowned roads. Also available is Ford’s MyKey system. Billed as a teenage-driver safety feature, MyKey lets Escape owners program the ignition key to limit top speed to 80 mph, limit audio volume to 44 percent, and nag with alarms until seat belts are fastened.

Available as well is Ford/Microsoft Sync infotainment. The basic Sync setup can deliver turn-by-turn directions and other information through the audio system. Teamed with the optional voice-activated, hard-drive navigation system, Sync expands to incorporate Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, iPod USB interface, and more detailed mapping and information services. It also includes a rearview camera that displays on the navigation screen. You can still get the added safety of a video view aft even without the navigation system through an optional review camera that displays on a portion of the inside rearview mirror. For 2011 HD Radio capability is added for receiving and playing digital radio stations (where available) that boast CD-like sound quality – the difference is pronounced with AM-band HD stations. All Escapes come with Ford’s Easy Fuel capless fuel-filler system and with head-protecting curtain side airbags for both seating rows.

2011 Ford Escape Prices back to top

The base-price range of the 2011 Ford Escape is $21,785-$34,850. That represents a nominal increase over their 2010 Escape prices and, especially since this is the final year of Escape’s outgoing design, expect to see discounts get deeper and sales incentives get more generous as the model year wears on in anticipation of dealers receiving redesigned 2012 Escapes by summer’s end. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Ford’s fee for the 2011 Escape is $725.)

The base XLS 2011 Ford Escape has a base price of $21,785 with front-drive and $23.535 with AWD. Automatic transmission adds $1,200 to the 2012 XLS.

The 2011 Ford Escape XLT starts at $24,775 with front-drive and $26,525 with AWD. The 2012 Ford Escape Limited versions are priced from $26,355 with front-wheel drive and from $28,105 with AWD. Expect to pay $1,000 to equip an Escape XLT or Limited with the V-6.

The 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid base model has a base price of $30,410 with front drive and $32,340 with AWD. The 2011 Escape Hybrid Limited starts at $33,100 with front-drive and $34,850 with AWD. Gas or hybrid, Limited-model Escapes come standard with leather upholstery, power sunroof, and high-watt audio; these features are also available on XLT models as options.

Among notable options, Sync has been is a bargain at around $400 for the basic system. Unfortunately, the navigation system is an option available only on the Escape Limited models, where it adds about $2,000.

2011 Ford Escape Fuel Economy back to top

The four-cylinder 2011 Ford Escape is EPA-rated at 23/28 city/highway with a manual transmission and 21/28 with the automatic. Four-cylinder AWD versions are rated 20/26.

With the V-6, the 2011 Escape is rated at 19/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 18/23 with AWD.

The 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid remains the fuel-economy leader among SUVs with ratings of 34/31 mpg with front-wheel drive and 30/27 with AWD. Note that the Hybrid’s city fuel-economy ratings are higher than its highway ratings, reflecting the greater use of the electric motor in around-town driving.

2011 Ford Escape Release Date back to top

The 2011 Ford Escape went on sale in August 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Ford Escape back to top

Few vehicles undergo the sort of transformation that awaits the Ford Escape with its model-year 2012 redesign. Ditching blueprints drawn up in the 1990s, the 2012 Escape will move to a structure being prepared for the next-generation of what’s sold elsewhere in the world as the Ford Kuga crossover SUV. That guarantees myriad advances over the outgoing Escape -- and promises improvements over the outgoing Kuga, itself considered a top Euro-crossover since going on sale during 2008.

Expect dramatic new sheet metal from Ford’s Euro-contemporary “kinetic” school of design. The 2012 Escape will have a precision-cut character to its exterior lines and should look and feel more upscale inside. Road manners will improve thanks to adoption of updated architecture that Ford is readying for its global armada of “C-class” vehicles.

“C-class” is a term long used overseas to describe a vehicle-size category. The term is coming into vogue in the U.S. as carmakers increasingly spread development and engineering costs by using a single basic platform design to serve international markets. A-class cars are tiny two-seat urban runabouts. D- and E-class vehicles are mid- to-full-size models. C-class identifies the compact-car field that includes such familiar names as the Honda Civic and the Ford Focus. Indeed, the 2012 Escape will share its platform with the redesigned, global 2012 Focus. Early reports say this next-generation Escape will be slightly smaller than today’s model but should have more usable interior space and a far more sophisticated suspension system.

Under its curvaceous new hood, the 2012 Escape is expected to offer the latest in direct-injection power, with a base four-cylinder engine a certainty along with front- and all-wheel drive. Expect to see a four-cylinder version of Ford’s EcoBoost engine offered instead of the V-6 to help the automaker meet impending fuel economy regulations. The next-generation Escape Hybrid will likely offer plug-in capability at some point. This would allow the batteries to be charged from the general power grid as well as the on-board system and thus further decrease the vehicle’s reliance on gasoline.

The next-generation of what’s now the Mazda Tribute will no longer be related to the Ford Escape; it reportedly be based on a Mazda-developed platform and renamed the CX-5.

2011 Ford Escape Competition back to top

2011 Honda CR-V: Dices with Escape at the top of America’s SUV sales charts on the strength of great handling, exceptional room and comfort, and the good-as-gold Honda-brand reputation. No fireball, it’s offered only with a four-cylinder engine, but CR-V is otherwise thoroughly refined and modern. Front-wheel-drive versions are priced from roughly $23,000-$30,000 and rate some 21/28 mpg. AWD CR-V’s range from about $24,000-$31,000 and rate  21/27. With a minor facelift on tap for model-year 2011, a full redesign is slated for model-year 2012.

2011 Subaru Forester: Rising sales demonstrate that more buyers are discovering what Subaru cultists already know: this is a smartly designed, surprisingly roomy, and satisfying-to-drive crossover. With a lower center of gravity than most in this class – but yet with nearly 9 inches of ground clearance -- Forester is arguably the best-handling entry in its competitive set. And that’s on-road. A healthy 8.7-inche of ground clearance and highly capable AWD (as standard equipment) make it unusually adept in deep snow and moderate off-road conditions. Forester doesn’t offer V-6 power, but is available with a good base four-cylinder (20/27 mpg) starting around $21,000 and with a sprightly turbo four (19/24 mpg) starting around $28,000. A larger base engine is in the pipeline, as is a freshening for model-year 2012 or 2013.

2011 Toyota RAV4: The only one of this grouping available with third-row seating for seven-passenger capacity instead of five, the RAV4 is also the hot rod of the bunch when equipped with the available 269-horsepower V-6. Roomy and reliable, composed and confident, the RAV4 is a thoughtful substitute for even larger SUVs. Four-cylinder models rate a best 22/28 mpg and have a base-price range of about $22,800-$27,200. V-6s rate a best 19/27 and range from about $25,000-$29,500 to start. A full redesign is expected for model-year 2013.

UPDATED BY JIM GORZELANY