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Ford Escape

Sculpted design fronts the youthful appearance of the 2014 Ford Escape.

Consumer Guide Automotive ranks the 2014 Ford Escape Sport Utility Vehicle a ‘Best Buy’ for its practical packaging and $22,700 entry price.

Newly restyled for 2013, Escape breaks the mold of vanilla design with chiseled contours in S, SE and Titanium trim levels making it Ford Motor Company’s best selling SUV.

The compact 5-passenger Ford Escape arrives in front- and available all-wheel drive powered by a trio of fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines.

“Among our Escape customers are new families looking for more space than they have in their current sedan,” says Justin Kinnis, sales consultant for Smith Ford in Lowell. “All-wheel drive is popular with 40-percent of our Escape buyers.”

Escape comes with a 2.5-liter engine for 168 horsepower that reels boulevard mileage of 22 miles per gallon accompanied by 31 mpg on the Interstate.

Ford also offers a pair of turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder engines: a 1.6-liter with 178 hp and 2.0L that builds 240 hp.

All engines share a 6-speed automatic transmission.

The 1.6L returns 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway (FWD) and 22/30 (AWD). By comparison, the 2.0L is rated 22/30 (FWD) and 21/28 (AWD) respectively.

According to Kinnis, the front-drive Escape SE is Smith’s volume leader in the segment outfitted with the 1.6-liter engine for optimum gas mileage. “The 2.0-liter is a good choice for Escape with all-wheel drive.”

I tested the 2014 Ford Escape dressed in Titanium trim with optional 2.0L engine ($1,195) and AWD.

The EcoBoost 2.0L is very lively and cruises easily, with engine noise only noticeable at full throttle.

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Ride quality is excellent – even when loaded with a full compliment of passengers and gear.

The 2014 Ford Escape Titanium comes with a hands-free liftgate that opens to a maximum 68 cubic feet of cargo space with key fob in close proximity to the vehicle and a wave of a foot under the rear bumper.

But the feature requires patience to operate as the sensor renders a momentary delay affording the user time to safely step back before the gate opens upward.

The system does not lower the gate with the same technique, however.

Escape’s hands-free system is eliminated on Titanium models equipped with a towing package that yields up to 3500 pounds of towing capacity when coupled to the 2.0L engine.

Escape tackles winter with an AWD system that monitors over two dozen factors dispatching torque to the front and rear wheels as needed to maximize traction.

In addition, available torque vectoring and curve control improves handling and stability on wet or dry roads.

A rear view camera is standard on all models. So is Ford’s Sync voice activated technology.

When teamed with the brand’s MyFord Touch system, communication and entertainment features can be operated by voice commands via steering wheel mounted controls or with use of an 8-inch touch screen.

The top-of-the-line 2014 Ford Escape Titanium starts at $30,550.

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