Ford Escape's jaunty exterior is fitted with new headlamps, new fog lamps, a new egg-crate grille, new front and rear fascias and new 15- and 16-inch aluminum wheels. The lower bumpers now have ribs in them. The result of all this is a fresher, more contemporary look for Escape. New paint colors include Sonic Blue, Norse Blue, Silver Metallic and Titanium Green.
Escape is wider than other compact SUVs, giving it a well-planted road demeanor. Its forward-poised stance, large wheel lips, wide body cladding, and integrated bumper guard lend a functional appearance, while its short front and rear overhangs add to its sporting appeal. The Escape has a family resemblance to the Ford Explorer and Expedition, and looks bolder and more aggressive than the Honda CR-V.
Being able to see the leading edge of the hood from the driver's seat makes the Escape easier to maneuver in tight places. Its 7.8 inches of ground clearance may help clear some obstacles, but not big rocks. Outside door handles are easy to grab and feel like they're going to last.
Accessories from Ford Outfitters include a snap-in pet barrier and a system to haul two mountain bikes in the cargo area. Bike racks can also be mounted on the roof; the standard roof rack with crossbars holds up to 100 pounds. Foot rails are designed to make it easier to lift kayaks, snowboards and other toys onto the roof rack. The rear bumper is also designed to aid roof access.
The No Boundaries Rack System features a sliding rail that can be repositioned from the roof to the rear of the vehicle, locking into the bumper. This provides two separate loading surfaces: a traditional roof rack and a vertically oriented rack across the rear. When not in use, the sliding rails can be stored within the conventional roof portion of the rack system.
The 2005 Escape gets a redesigned interior. The shifter on automatic models has been moved off of the column and onto the floor. Other changes include new gauges, upgraded seats, new fabrics, and more interior storage.
The Escape is a compact SUV, so the front seats are nearly as roomy as the Explorer's. However, getting in or out of the front seats is made easier by low door sills and wide door openings. The XLS has manually adjustable seats trimmed with cloth. XLT gets premium cloth trim. Leather is optional. Ford upgraded Escape's interior for 2003 with improved interior materials, but for 2005 a substantial interior restyling includes a standard console and floor shifter. (Apparently the voice of the customer was heard.) Illuminated switches for the power windows and power locks make them easier to find.
White-faced instruments are set in a simple, easy-to-understand instrument panel. The audio system and heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls in the center stack are angled slightly toward the driver for easier access while driving.
Side-impact airbags are standard on Limited, optional ($345) on XLS and XLT. Pretensioners combined with load-limiting retractors are standard on front-seat belts. In a crash, these pretensioners automatically tighten the belts, while the load limiters are designed to reduce the risk of chest injuries in severe collisions. (We strongly recommend always wearing seatbelts as they are the first line of defense in a crash; more than half of the nation's approximately 42,000 traffic fatalities each year are people not wearing seatbelts.)
The rear seats offer good knee room. The rear cargo area offers 69.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down, 33 cubic feet with the seats in place. The rear seats are split 60/40 for greater versatility. The rear-seat cushion can be removed for more load-carrying capacity. The flip-up rear glass offers easy access to the rear cargo area for small items.