@Ford Escape after 5 months July 27, 2013
2013 Ford Escape
I purchased a 2013 Ford Escape in February 2013. I've driven the car for 5 months and 3,500 miles (well, 3,000 miles plus a rental 2013 Escape for 500 miles). Here's my report.
The Escape is the best car I've ever owned. I highly recommend the Escape.
The Escape is a very well designed, well manufactured car. The materials are all very high quality given the price of the car ($30K after rebates and discounts). A friend who was test-driving cars test drove a Lexus RX-350 and then drove my Escape to an Acura dealer. She could not tell the difference in quality of materials or workmanship between my Escape and the Lexus. I can tell the difference and it's not worth the $20K price difference between the cars.
The Escape is an entirely new model for 2013. There's only one build issue with the car: there's one squeak in the headliner... it's something that the dealer can fix in 5 minutes. This is fewer warrantee issues than I had with my 2004 Acura TL, another first-model-year car, and the previous "best car I've ever owned."
The quality of the leather, the dash materials, the paint, the mechanics is all awesome. The way the car is put together is solid.
The car's structure is rock solid. It feels like my BMW 540i felt... like my MacBook Pro feels. Rock solid. Like a single piece of metal machined into the shape of a car.
A benefit of the solid structure is that the car is always planted on the road. It's solid and unflappable. Even when the road surface is uneven, the car stays planted. Most of my driving is around the San Francisco Bay Area where there are a lot of roads that get "out of shape" via the many small earthquakes that are constantly reshaping the terrain. The Escape is always solidly planted driving over these roads.
The steering has a very good feel. It's weightless at low speeds and it's perfectly weighted and gives nice feedback at speed. It makes spirited driving easy... the handling is confidence inspiring, even taking tight curves very fast.
The brakes are solid and benefit from the firm planting of the tires. Need to stop, the Escape does. Need to shave off some speed while approaching a curve, no worries. The brake pedal is linear and predictable.
The feel of the controls in the car is just super. The turn signals, the wiper controls, the climate controls, the radio controls, the window controls, all the controls feel "just right." They are placed perfectly.
The car's layout from the driver's position is ideal. I lack words for how beautiful and functional the primary dashboard is. The speedometer and tachometer have hints of my 1968 Mustang as well as hints of Lexus. They are easy to read in all lighting conditions and very, very pleasing to the eye.
Power to Spare
The 250HP 2.0 liter turbo has lots and lots of power. The transmission is perfectly tuned to the engine. Need power, it's there. The transmission unlocks to locking torque converter or downshifts perfectly when you need more power. Like the Acrua TL, there's always perfectly smooth power whenever you want it.
There may be too much torque for a FWD car... maybe my next Escape will be AWD.
The seats in the Escape are better than the last "best" seats in a car: the seats in my 1997 SAAB 9000 Aero. The seats are comfortable, firm, supportive, and simply amazing. I did an overnight drive from Chicago to Munising, MI (7 hours) after a 4 hour flight. My back-side never felt tired. The seats were totally amazing.
Between the materials, the workmanship, the design, and the flow of the car, it's nearly perfect. Plus the plethora of "goodies" like rain sensing wipers, automatic headlights, the "parking robot" (it parallel parks the car for you), the back-up camera and sonar, the push-button start, the excellent sunroof, the magic "kick-to-open" hatch, and much, much more. The other goodies are stuff found on much more expensive cars and Ford seems to have managed to put them on a $30K car without sacrificing quality. Wow!
The Less Than Good
There are some aspects to the Escape that are less than good.
The gas mileage is no where near the EPA ratings. Dunno how Ford managed to get a 22/30 rating on the Escape, but that's pure fantasy. Even a 60 MPH drive on cruise control doesn't yield 30 MPG. 22 in the city... NFW. The car gets 17 in the city when I try really, really hard with all the driver coaching stuff that the Escape offers. And when I'm not trying, the Escape gets 16 MPG in the city.
And yes, the car is broken in.
I did an long-range drive on flat highways through Wisconsin in a rental Escape and got 26 MPG. The rental had AWD and 9,000 miles. It should have easily turned out the 28 MPG rating.
The front sonar is not useful. It takes way too long to detect stuff in front of the car. There's no indicator as to where the obstacle is... where on the Mercedes I rented in Europe had an LED on the dash indicating the direction of the obstacle. In the Escape, there's an image of the car in the center of the driver's console... this could be used to indicate where the obstacle is.
The low speed sonar beeps when the car is stopped and a pedestrian walks in front of the car. This means that you're grooving to tunes and then someone walks in the cross-walk in front of the car and the awesome tunes you're grooving on get muted and you get a loud beeping. Oy.
The low tire pressure indicator is not helpful as it does not indicate what tire has low pressure.
Somehow Ford made Sync worse. Not a little worse... two orders of magnitude worse than the Sync in my 2011 Fusion.
My initial impression of the new Sync was positive because Ford spent a lot of effort making the screens look like something out of the 2000s rather than something out of Windows 95.
But the functionality of Sync on the 2013 Escape should mean that everybody at Ford and everybody at Microsoft who was involved in the project should be fired. Today. Right now.
I've got friends at Microsoft and I've got friends in Detroit. When I wrote my last, particularly unflattering, review of Sync in my 2011 Fusion, I got private messages from different people pointing the finger at the "other guy." The Ford guys pointed the finger at Microsoft. The Microsoft guys pointed the finger at Ford.
Organizationally, the relationship between Ford and Microsoft is entirely dysfunctional and the dysfunction shows in the resulting Sync system.
The Sync system crashes and reboots pretty randomly. Sometimes 3 times in a week. Sometimes it'll go a few weeks without rebooting.
When the system reboots, the backup camera doesn't work until the 5 minute reboot cycle is done.
The radio is initially silent and then returns to whatever it was playing at whatever volume was set when the car was last driven. This means that if I was rocking out at high volumes, the radio comes on at high volume... but the volume control is non-reponsive until later in the reboot cycle... so for 30 seconds, you're stuck with very loud music. And if the radio is tuned to an NPR report on nuclear terrorism, I've gotta explain that to my kids... I can't change the station until late in the reboot cycle... and I can't turn off the radio until late in the reboot cycle.
To add insult to non-functionality, during the reboot, the system displays:
Sync is performing Schedule Maintenance. Um... no... it's
not scheduled. It's random reboots because Sync is a poorly written
piece of software. If it was scheduled, I'd get a message saying:
The next time you start the car, Sync will be non-functional for 5 minutes while it performs maintenance.
Sync is slow as molasses. Change the radio station and wait 1 - 5 seconds for the station to change (this is not satellite radio... this is FM station). And wait 2 seconds for the display to change after the station has changed.
Change from "Entertainment" to "Phone"... wait. This pretty much means that Sync can't be used by the driver because the screen changes are too slow... the system is too non-responsive because it takes seconds for the screen to respond to a command.
And the voice command system is useless. Yeah, they're all useless... but at least when you have a responsive UI, you only need to take your eyes off the screen for a short period of time, rather than many second that Sync requires.
The audio system sounds great, but the controls are useless.
Trying to get your fingers to the right place on Sync's screen to change from Radio to iPod is really difficult. The only way to deal with the audio settings is at a stoplight.
The iPod functions simply don't work. The system defaults to playing the songs on my iPod alphabetically. Sometimes the "shuffle" command works, but 9 times out of 10, it does nothing. 9 times out of 10, the shuffle-by-album does nothing. And sometimes the system will change to the "shuffle" or "shuffle-by-album" 5 minutes after you select the option. But the option is forgotten the next time you start the car.
Worse Nav EVER
The Nav system in the Escape is the worse I've ever, ever used.
The UI is insanely clumsy. The Point-of-Interest feature is non-functional. The system doesn't find SFO when I look for nearby airports when in San Francisco!!!
I use my phone to look up the address of where I want to go, enter the address into the nav system, and then have the nav system guide me... I use the Ford's nav system because the screen is safer to read than my phone's screen.
But the nav system will randomly freeze. So, I'm driving and getting navigated and all of a sudden, the nav system will freeze and it'll take 5 minutes for the system to "find itself" again and continue with the navigation.
Oh, and never shift into reverse while the system is calculating the route because if the back-up camera displays over the navigation system while the system is calculating a route, then it stops calculating the route and forgets where you want to go. So, you enter the address, wait the bunch of minutes for the route calculator to calculate and then put the car in gear and go.
I Could Go On
I could go on for another 5 pages about the absolute and utter piece of crap that Sync is. But you get the idea. I could talk about a horrid bluetooth implementation. I could talk about a useless WiFi hotspot. I could talk about the phone interface that gets in the way of the call. I could talk about every single design and implementation detail about Sync being wrong.
And Sync being so bad is in such sharp contrast with how well thought out the rest of the Escape is. Sitting in the driver's seat having everything feel right, be in the right place, work so well... and then there's Sync. It's just a huge, horrid nightmare.
And it's not because I don't know how to use Sync. I am a computer guy who has used hundreds of interfaces to hundreds of computer systems over the years. Sync isn't just a matter of a lot of complexity... it's complexity mired in horrid interface implemented as a buggy pile of crap slathered with intentionally slow transition screens.
Buy This Car
Buy the Escape. If you are looking for a fun, excellent handling, wicked well made car that does everything well, buy the Escape. Just put a paper bag over the Sync system and pretend it isn't there.