When most people that I know are asked about the Ford Escape, they think of two things. First, they think, "Oh, the little boxy trucky Ford?" Next they ask, "It's a hybrid, right?" Well, the redesigned 2013 Ford Escape Titanium is no longer boxy nor a hybrid.
These days, the Escape is built on Ford's global C-Platform -- the very same platform that underpins the Ford Focus. The truckishness of the previous-generation Escape has been replaced with the carlike handling of a crossover. The vehicle looks smaller, handles better, and has had its boxy design replaced by Ford's new Kinetic design language.
There's also no hybrid variant of the Escape for this generation. Drivers who are interested in getting more miles per gallon than the Escape's three gasoline engine options should look to the new C-Max Hybrid and Energi to fill that need.
But enough about what the new 2013 Ford Escape isn't; let's get into what it is.
A door that opens itself
Our Escape Titanium was equipped with a few interesting convenience features. By far, the most interesting of the standard features is the hands-free liftgate.
For example, if you're approaching the rear of the vehicle and your hands are full -- maybe you're carrying bags of groceries, a bulky box, or an angry toddler -- you can open the rear power liftgate by simply kicking a foot under the rear bumper. There's no need to free a hand to fish keys out of your pocket or to pull a handle. This kicking motion also works to close the liftgate in the event that you're taking something bulky out of the Escape and need to lock the vehicle up. The hands-free liftgate works in tandem with the keyless entry system, so you'll need to have the smart-key transponder on your person, say in a pocket, to activate the system, which prevents strangers or passing cats from just kicking your rear hatch open.
Other convenience features that come alongside the hands-free liftgate as part of the Titanium trim level's technology package include HID headlamps with automatic illumination when it gets dark, rear proximity sensors with audible obstruction alerts, a 110V power outlet, and a few other touches such as a roof rack with crossbars and a retractable and removable Tonneau cover for rear-storage-space privacy.
Automatic parking robot
Things really get interesting when you option the $995 Parking Technology package, which sort of turns the Escape's standard electronic power-steering system into an automatic parking robot. We've seen some bad automatic parking systems in our day (the recently discontinued Lexus system springs to mind), but Ford's system is remarkable in its simplicity. It works only for parallel parking and there's only one button to deal with.
To use the system, simply push the Active Park Assist button on the dashboard and then drive down the street. Ultrasonic sensors located on the side of the vehicle will scan the roadside as you roll, looking for spaces that are long enough to accommodate the Escape. This takes all of the "Do you think it'll fit" guesswork out of looking for a parking space. When the system finds a spot that the vehicle will fit into, you'll receive a message on the vehicle's screen asking you to stop driving and shift into reverse. At this point, you can remove your hands from the wheel and ease off of the brakes and let the Escape handle the steering, guiding the vehicle perfectly into the parking space. Then, just shift into park and get on with your day.
The same ultrasonic sensors that are used to measure parking spaces during Active Park Assist come into play when reversing out of standard, perpendicular parking as part of the cross-traffic alert system, which notifies you of approaching vehicles that you may not be able to see, and the BLIS blind-spot detection system that notifies you of vehicles in the rear-quarter blind spots when changing lanes at highway speeds.
The Parking Technology Package rounds out its list of upgrades with a rearview camera that activates while reversing and features dynamic trajectory line overlay that swings left and right with the steering wheel.
Sync with MyFord Touch
It's no secret that we here at CNET Car Tech have historically been disappointed by the MyFord Touch dashboard interface, and the infotainment system in our Escape Titanium is no exception. The system has had some issues with responsiveness and stability in the past, but I'm happy to report that the optional MyFord Touch with navigation system seems to have gotten a few improvements with this generation.