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Original MSRP: $19,140 - $21,685
MPG: 22 City / 28 Hwy
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2008 Ford Escape Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Ford Escape was new.

The 2008 Ford Escape's driving dynamics get mixed reviews, leading to a score in the bottom half of the class. While USA TODAY calls out "lackluster performance" and "sad" mechanics, the Chicago Sun-Times finds "a firm-but-supple ride."

The review also calls the 2008 Escape "a good crossover, with quick new steering, neutral handling balance, reassuring braking and a-firm-but-supple ride."

Acceleration and Power

A few reviews express disappointment that of all the enhancements made to the 2008 Ford Escape, nothing much changed under the hood. 2008 Ford Escapes come with either a Duratec 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine or a 3.0-liter V6 engine, both of which Automobile Magazine categorize as "coarse and painfully slow off the line," while USA TODAY notes them as "unsatisfying," and "raucous," respectively. The Orlando Sentinel says that compared to competitors like the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Hyundai Santa Fe, the Ford Escape's powertrain "feels older than it looks."

The Detroit News had a better experience testing the V6, noting that "it performed everything it was asked" and "offers more than enough power to accelerate onto a highway or pass some slow poke on a country road," adding that "it creates 200-horsepower -- though that power only comes if you floor it to hit 6,000 rpm." With the four-cylinder engine's 153 horsepower, the "Escape is lively up to 60 mph but doesn't have much punch above that speed," the Chicago Sun-Times comments. "However, steady 70 mph highway cruising is no problem."

The Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2008 Ford Escape with a four-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 24 on the highways. The Escape's V6 rates at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 22 miles per gallon on highways. These are numbers Edmunds reports as "mediocre," but the Detroit News disagrees and notes the numbers as impressive. "Remember, these are the new 2008 EPA standards, meant to reflect real-world driving," its reviewer defends.

Although Edmunds thinks the 2008 Escape's four-speed automatic transmission is "aged" and blunts the efforts made by the V6 engine, USA TODAY finds praise: "The continuously variable automatic transmission, CVT, uses planetary gears instead of a belt running between two pulleys of variable diameter. The gear system, also used by Toyota, feels much better to drive." The 2008 Escape's base model comes with a five-speed manual transmission.

Handling and Braking

Even those reviewers who are down on the Escape's engine find positive remarks for the SUV's independent MacPherson front and independent double lateral and semi-trailing arm design rear suspension. As Automobile Magazine explains, "the 2008 Escape retains the previous model's neutral handling balance, stiff structure, and good ride," while USA TODAY finds the suspension "handled bumps and corners with nonchalance."

There are a few nits, according to Edmunds, who finds the suspension "absorbs larger bumps without drama," but thinks "smaller road imperfections can make the small SUV feel busy." Likewise, the Orlando Sentinel notes the Escape "seems confused by bumps and potholes, and the ride is a little jittery on rough pavement." Nonetheless, the Orlando Sentinel still thinks the 2008 Escape qualifies as "a viable alternative to the competition."

The 2008 Ford Escape's upgraded speed-sensitive, electric power assist steering is first rate, according to the majority of auto writers. Edmunds says the steering helps the Escape deliver "surprisingly good road feel and response." However, reviewers worry about the 2008's trade of upgraded steering for downgraded brakes -- while previous Escapes featured rear disc brakes, it now has four wheel anti-lock brakes that are front power discs but rear drums. Competition-wise, this is a serious mistake to USA TODAY's reviewer, who notes that key competitors for the Escape still retain disc brakes for all four wheels.

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

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