Great Escape: Ford has thrown off the shackles of its eponymous mid-size sports utility vehicle in an extended range. Mundane has made way for some sparkle with the MY21 Escape.

The aim, Ford says, is to off the buyer more distinction in the model he or she plumps for, particularly relevant in the advancements in performance and technology over the previous Escape.

Kicking off with the Escape entry-level front-wheel drive at $35,990, plus on-road costs, the ST-Line follows with both front and all-wheel drive variants, while the range is topped off with the newly-coined Vignale AWD at $49,590. All are powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

These will be joined later in the year by the ST-Line 2.5-litre plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, selling for $52,590, plus ORCs.

An ST-Line Pack rolls hands-free tailgate, front heated seats and technology pack into a single option for $2800.

Front-wheel drive models can be optioned with a Technology Pack ($1000), which includes matrix glare-free headlamps, with adaptive lighting and head-up windscreen display.

A five-year, unlimited distance warranty is standard across the range, and brings with it a Ford Service Benefits program, which includes a loan ca during service, auto club membership, including roadside assistance, and sat-nav map updates.

One of the better-looking mid-size SUVs: the ST-Line doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. However, based on the Eclipse, it is imbued with unique 18-inch alloy wheels and grille. And has sports-style front and rear bumpers.

Neat and sleek in profile, thanks to sports side skirts and lowered sports suspension, the look is emphasised by a unique rear spoiler and black roof rails.

The new Escape is 44 mm wider 89 mm longer than the model it replaces. The wheelbase is up by 20 mm, translating. The result is 43 mm more shoulder room and 57 mm added hip room in the front seats. Rear seat occupants have 20 mm more shoulder space and 36 mm hip room.

Despite the new Escape being lower overall there’s 13 mm more head room for front seat occupants and 35 mm more in the back.

The second row of seats can also be moved forward or back to increase leg room or boot space (412 to 526 litres). A remote release folds the seat backs to increase volume to 1478 litres.

Black figures big in the passenger cabin, with same-colour seat mouldings and dark headlining. The driver benefits from a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, an Escape ST-Line flat-bottom steering wheel with red stitching, metallic faced pedals complete the sporty theme.

Every new Escape carries Ford’s SYNC 3 system, with an 8-inch touchscreen for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice activated satellite navigation, with apps including Spotify and Waze.

The screen displays full-size images from the reversing camera, aided by front and rear parking sensors.

FordPass connects to roadside assistance, service history and booking online, plus access to Ford Guide for help with connected services.

The 2.0-litre EcoBoost Escape engine, developing 183 kW of power at 5700 rpm and 387 Nm of peak torque at 31 revs, makes use of an integrated intake system, combined with high pressure fuel injection.

A five-star safety rating is based on 2019 testing. It features autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, evasive steering assist, forward collision warning, traffic sign recognition and blind spot detection.

There is also lane departure warning and lane keep assist, driver impairment warning, tyre pressure monitor, emergency assist and cruise control with speed limiter.

Passive safety includes six airbags – driver, front passenger, front seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain – with seatbelt reminders and IsoFix child-seat anchorage points.

Occupants benefit from Escape’s height increase with ample head room and an open feeling from extensive glass surrounds. Doors open wide for easy access and leg and knee room on the generous side. Cup holders, however, have gone missing in the rear.

Although it’s larger all round that its predecessor, the new Escape is 90 kg lighter, producing performance improvements, such as driving dynamics, and greater fuel economy.

There is a question of whether the powertrain is too responsive. Pedal action needs some concentration to stop the ST-Line being jerky.

The variant’s sports suspension tuning adds a further minor quibble. Ride is on the firm side of comfortable, with potholes springing up in the recent wet weather, all too often sought out. The all-wheel drive system is competent in coping with the slippery conditions.

Gearshift is sans lever, by a knob on the centre console, making room for cup holders and large storage tray, and mentioned above. There is no shortage of driver assistance technology.

Combined urban / highway fuel economy is put by Ford at 8.6 litres per 100 kilometres. The test vehicle came up with over 9 litres per 100 under similar conditions.

The Escape ST-Line is a toss-up between family comfort and sporty performance. If you can live with the dilemma, this could be the car for you. There are plenty of rivals to choose from, but Ford designers have nailed it with stand-out looks.

Escape 2.0L FWD $35,990
Escape ST-Line 2.0L FWD $37,990
Escape ST-Line 2.0L AWD $40,990
Escape Vignale 2.0L FWD $46,590
Escape Vignale 2.0L AWD $49,590
Escape ST-Line 2.5L PHEV FWD $52,940
Premium paint $650
Technology Pack $1000
Power liftgate $1300
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Ford dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Ford Escape ST-Line 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder petrol, 8sp automatic, AWD SUV)

Capacity: 1.999 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 183 kW @ 5700 rpm
Maximum Torque: 387 Nm @ 3100 rpm
Fuel Type: Premium unleaded petrol, 98 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.6 L/100km

DRIVELINE: Eight-speed automatic, AWD

Length: 4524 mm
Wheelbase: 2690 mm
Width: 1838 mm
Height: 1713 mm
Turning Circle: 11.1 metres
Kerb Mass: 1700 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
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