As part of our great spring Southern California holiday, the kind folk at Ford Motor Company arranged for us to have an extended evaluation drive of a shiny new 2014 Ford Escape, enough time to really put the car through its paces. While we had the vehicle we drove all around Orange County (southern Los Angeles), along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, in heavy traffic (of course) and down to San Diego for some extended highway driving, both in heavy traffic and light.
Most of the time there were five of us in the car: My sister and I in the front seats and my three children (17, 14, 10) in the back seat. The very back had lots of luggage as we moved around, but also stored groceries, soccer balls, beach towels, and, yes, a fair bit of sand as is common in California!
My current car is a 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and at the time it was completely tricked out with every gadget and feature possible. A lot has changed in the intervening six years, however, and the Escape had a ton more really cool tech than my car, stuff that it took us a while to really appreciate.
For example, since the car has a proximity detection radar system installed, it’s aware of vehicles and objects around it. This is helpful for parking as it beeps to let you know how close you’re getting to the garage wall or an adjacent car, but it also means that it has a surprisingly helpful blind spot warning system. On the side view mirrors there’s a tiny orange light that illuminates if there’s an object in your blind spot. Seems simple, but after ten days of that feature I’m finding it’s the one I most miss in my Toyota.
The 2014 Escape is also the first car I’ve driven that has automatic parallel parking, something that was a bit anxiety provoking when I first tried it, but worked pretty darn well. Kinda freaky to have the car control its own steering wheel too, a bit reminiscent of Autopia at Disneyland. I even created a video to show how it works:
The interior was very roomy and comfortable, and the sunroof/moonroof combo on top was really amazing, where the glass portion extended so that the back passengers could enjoy the view, though it did seem like the entire roof should retract all the way back, not just (approx) 24-inches. The weather was gorgeous, though, so the top was open just about the entire time we had the vehicle.
And storage in the back? Well, you can see, we did a good job with the luggage fit puzzle:
Worked out great. Luggage for five!
As configured, the car with the Titanium option package would cost $36,920 to purchase, plus or minus based on your ability to haggle with the dealer. Which seemed reasonable for a tricked out SUV with so many safety and entertainment features, a great design, a comfortable ride and lots of pep for zipping around in traffic or along windy canyons.
Except for one thing. Gas mileage. You can see in this pic how we did:
The top left shows how many miles we’ve driven on this trip, the lower left is instantaneous gas mileage (0.0, of course, since I wasn’t moving when I took the shot), the lower right is miles to empty, and the top right is average gas mileage for this tank of gas. Yup, 21.3 MPG.
The car has a gas mileage rating of 21 city / 28 highway, but we never saw anything better than 21.8 MPG the entire time we drove it and we burned through three full tanks of gas during our ten day adventure. My Highlander Hybrid, an SUV that’s quite a bit larger, gets better mileage than the Escape, which shocked me. Quite frankly, I expected double the mileage from this vehicle: Ford has an entire line of terrific eco-friendly cars with amazing gas mileage (for example, check out the gorgeous Ford Fusion Hybrid with 47mpg).
So at the end of the loaner period I was really sad to park and walk away from the Ford Escape. I prefer it to my existing car, it’s way more fun, more comfortable, and definitely more “gadgety”. But that gas mileage, exacerbated by $4.49/gal prices, that was the Achilles heel of the experience. Same car, same configuration, and 35mpg? That’d be amazing.
Disclosure: Ford Motor Company loaned us the 2014 Ford Escape for ten days for the purposes of evaluation and this review. Which was darn nice of ’em.