2006 Ford Escape Review (2023)

The Ford Escape is America's best-selling compact sport-utility. And it's a good choice. The Escape offers comfortable seating for four and plenty of space for stuff. Folding down the rear seats reveals a moderately sized cargo area with a flat floor. Its smooth ride and agile handling make for enjoyable driving, and its compact dimensions make it easy to maneuver and park when you get there.

Propulsion comes in several forms including a 200-horsepower V6. It's quick and enjoyable and communicates very well with the automatic. The Escape is also available with a gas/electric hybrid system. The Escape Hybrid is one of the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicles in its class (see separate review) and driving one is easy and enjoyable, very little different from a regular Escape.

But the standard four-cylinder engine may be all you need. It was updated, beginning with 2005 models, and it offers decent power and works well with the automatic.

Four-wheel drive is also available, offering good wintry weather capability.

The Escape lineup has been broadened for 2006, but is otherwise unchanged. It was significantly revised for 2005, which brought a new face, a brightened interior, a new 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and a revised suspension.

Model Lineup

The 2006 Ford Escape comes in three trim levels, XLS, XLT, and Limited. Each is available with front-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard on the XLS and XLT. The 3.0-liter V6 comes standard on the Limited and is optional on the XLT. The Escape Hybrid is fitted with a 2.3-liter gas engine with an electric motor.

The XLS ($20,070) and XLS 4WD ($21,820) come standard with air conditioning, low-back cloth front bucket seats, illuminated remote entry, power door locks, windows and mirrors, tilt steering column, speed controls on the steering wheel, privacy glass, 15-inch steel wheels and AM/FM/6CD. The 2.3-liter four-cylinder comes with a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic ($690).

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The XLT ($22,535) and XLT 4WD ($24,285) are upgraded with premium cloth upholstery, a power driver's seat, privacy glass, a power moonroof, cruise control, floor mats, a cargo cover and convenience net, fog lights, an in-dash six-CD changer, P235/70R16 tires on 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels. Safety is enhanced with the addition of anti-lock brakes (ABS).

The XLT V6 ($24,880) and XLT V6 4WD ($25,140) come standard with the automatic transmission.

Limited ($24,930) and Limited 4WD ($26,630) get premium leather seats, seat heaters, dual front sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated exterior mirrors, a reverse sensing system, and a MACH Audio in-dash six-CD changer with automatic volume control. The Limited is distinguished by its monochrome exterior with body-colored trim and bright machined 16-inch aluminum wheels. Limited models are upgraded with front side-impact air bags designed to offer torso protection.

A Safety Package ($595) for all models adds Ford's Safety Canopy rollover protection system and front side air bags. We strongly recommend getting it as it can provide head protection in side impact or rollover accident.

Option packages are available for each trim level. A Luxury Comfort Package ($1,095) for Limited models includes a 320-watt Audiophile stereo with six-disc in-dash CD changer, six speakers plus subwoofer; heated front seats, heated side mirrors, and Reverse Sensing System.

The XLT No Boundaries Package ($1,055) adds all-terrain OWL tires, 16-inch bright machined aluminum wheels, black painted step bars, Class II trailer towing, and wheel lips. The XLT Sport ($24,185) and XLT Sport 4WD ($25,935) boast all the XLT standard equipment plus 16-inch bright machined aluminum wheels, P235/70R16 tires, painted Dark Shadow gray fascias, bodyside cladding, wheel lip moldings and black step bars.

A Leather Comfort Group ($595) is available for XLT and XLT Sport models, and Class II towing preparation ($395) can be ordered for XLT, XLT Sport and Limited models. A Cargo Convenience Group ($150) for all models adds a retractable cargo area cover and rear cargo storage bin. Stand-alone options include power moonroof ($585) on XLT, XLT Sport and Limited models; side step bars ($350) on XLS and XLT models, and a roof rack with horizontal bars ($40) on the XLS.

The Escape Hybrid ($26,900) and Hybrid 4WD ($28,525) are equipped similarly to the Limited models.

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The Ford Escape is wide for the class (compact SUVs), giving it a well-planted road demeanor. Its forward-poised stance, large wheel lips, wide body cladding, and integrated bumper guard lend a functional appearance, while its short front and rear overhangs add to its sporting appeal. The Escape has a family resemblance to the Ford Explorer and Expedition, and looks bolder and more aggressive than the Honda CR-V.

Being able to see the leading edge of the hood from the driver's seat makes the Escape easier to maneuver in tight places. Its 7.8 inches of ground clearance may help clear some obstacles, but not big rocks. Outside door handles are easy to grab and feel like they're going to last.

The styling was freshened for 2005 with new headlamps, new fog lamps, a new egg-crate grille, new fascias, revised bumpers, and new wheels. The result of all this was a fresher, more contemporary look for Escape.

Accessories from Ford Outfitters include a snap-in pet barrier and a system to haul two mountain bikes in the cargo area. Bike racks can also be mounted on the roof; the standard roof rack with crossbars holds up to 100 pounds. Foot rails are designed to make it easier to lift kayaks, snowboards and other toys onto the roof rack. The rear bumper is also designed to aid roof access.

The No Boundaries Rack System features a sliding rail that can be repositioned from the roof to the rear of the vehicle, locking into the bumper. This provides two separate loading surfaces: a traditional roof rack and a vertically oriented rack across the rear. When not in use, the sliding rails can be stored within the conventional roof portion of the rack system.

Interior Features

The Escape is a compact SUV, but the front seats are nearly as roomy as those in the midsize Explorer. Getting in or out of the front seats is made easier by low door sills and wide door openings. Overall, the cabin is a pleasant place. The XLS has manually adjustable seats trimmed with cloth. XLT gets premium cloth trim. Leather comes standard on the Limited, optional on the XLT.

A redesign of the interior for 2005 brought upgraded seats, new fabrics, new gauges, and more interior storage. The shifter on automatic models was moved off of the column and onto the floor. Illuminated switches for the power windows and power locks made them easier to find.

White-faced instruments are set in a simple, easy-to-understand instrument panel. The audio system and heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls in the center stack are angled slightly toward the driver for easier access while driving.

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Side-impact airbags are optional, and are part of a Safety Package that includes Ford's Safety Canopy rollover protection system. Pretensioners combined with load-limiting retractors are standard on front-seat belts. In a crash, these pretensioners automatically tighten the belts, while the load limiters are designed to reduce the risk of chest injuries in severe collisions. We strongly recommend always wearing seatbelts as they are the first line of defense in a crash; more than half of the nation's approximately 42,000 traffic fatalities each year are people not wearing seatbelts.

The rear seats offer good knee room. The rear seats are split 60/40 for greater versatility.

The rear cargo area offers 69.2 cubic feet of space with the rear seats folded down, 33 cubic feet with the seats in place. The rear-seat cushion can be removed for more load-carrying capacity. The flip-up rear glass offers easy access to the rear cargo area for small items.

Driving Impressions

On the road, the Ford Escape offers responsive handling and brisk acceleration performance. The suspension has a comparatively taut ride quality, without the roly-poly and mushy ride that characterizes larger SUVs with big off-road tires and long-travel suspensions. The suspension was upgraded starting with 2005 models with larger-diameter front shocks and a new front stabilizer system to better control ride motions.

We've found the Escape handles well. The steering is responsive, direct and accurate with no dead spot in the center, and there's enough feeling in the steering to impart a sense of control. The tires offer respectable grip in paved corners. Transient response is surprisingly good, meaning the Escape maintains its composure in a series of left-right-left lane-change maneuvers. This permits quick, yet smooth, driving that will not upset passengers.

The 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine offers good power, decent torque (that force that propels you from intersections and up hills), very low emissions. And we found it to be a good match for the automatic transmission. The 2.3-liter engine produces 153 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque. It uses a balance shaft for smoothness.

The 3.0-liter V6 engine delivers stronger acceleration performance and we don't pine for power in a V6 Escape. The V6 and four-speed automatic communicate and work well together. The transmission shifts smoothly up and down, and chooses gears appropriately for the situation. The engine's broad power band never lugs or strains. This is neither the smoothest nor the roughest V6 on the market, but it is smoother and more satisfying than the four-cylinder engines found in most compact sport-utilities.

We found the anti-lock brakes smooth and responsive. Drum brakes are used on the rear of all but V6 4WD models, which are upgraded with four-wheel disc brakes. While drum brakes are less expensive, disc brakes dissipate heat better, useful when braking frequently for long, downhill descents. ABS comes into play just when expected and is detectable by the familiar pulsating sensation in the brake pedal. ABS allows the driver to brake and steer at the same time in an emergency avoidance maneuver. Brake Assist is designed to assist the driver by maintaining full braking power when it senses the driver has mistakenly relaxed pressure on the brake pedal in an emergency stopping situation. Also added is electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) for more effective, more stable braking.

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Noise, vibration and harshness is well within expectations. Noise reducing measures were upgraded beginning with the 2005 models, helping further reduce interior noise.

We found the Escape comfortable over a variety of on-road surfaces, eruptions and potholes. And this is where most Escapes live. Off road, we found the Escape a bit lacking. Even though it's available with four-wheel drive, it's based on a front-wheel-drive platform. (As with most compact SUVs, the 2WD models are front-wheel drive.) Rough, loose, steep trails leave it spinning its wheels. The suspension does not have the articulation needed for rugged terrain, there is no low-range set of gears, nor is the traction system that sophisticated. For everyday road travel, however, the Ford Escape is an excellent choice. It rides better and handles better than the Jeep Liberty, which is more capable off road.

Snow is not a big problem for the Escape, however. The automatic Intelligent 4WD System provides excellent traction and stability in slippery conditions. The computer-controlled system operates so seamlessly that its engagement is barely noticeable to most drivers, and it's a smooth, fuel-efficient system.

Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds when equipped with the V6 and the Class II towing package; otherwise, it's 1,500 pounds.


Ford Escape is solid choice among compact sport utilities for on-road use. It has a roomy interior, comfortable and convenient with useful cargo capacity. The four-cylinder engine delivers plenty of power for most needs, even with the four-speed automatic. The available V6 engine delivers strong power. A four-wheel independent suspension and unit-body construction make it ride and handle almost as well as a car. It isn't designed for rugged terrain, though it's fine for gravel roads.

NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw is based in Dearborn.

Model Line Overview
Model lineup:Ford Escape XLS ($20,070); XLS 4WD ($21,820); XLT ($22,535); XLT 4WD ($24,285); XLT V6 ($24,880); XLT V6 4WD ($25,140); Limited ($24,930); Limited 4WD ($26,630); Hybrid ($26,900); Hybrid 4WD ($28,525)
Engines:2.3-liter DOHC 16-valve Inline-4; 3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve V6; 2.3-liter Atkinson-cycle DOHC 16-valve inline-4 with 330-volt electric motor
Transmissions:5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic; continuously variable transmission
Safety equipment (standard):dual front airbags
Safety equipment (optional):ABS, side-impact airbags
Basic warranty:3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in:Kansas City, Missouri; Avon Lake, Ohio
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSPR):Ford Escape XLT 4WD ($25,140)
Standard equipment:air conditioning, anti-theft system with perimeter alarm, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, cargo cover and convenience net, center console with armrest, cruise control, front fog lamps, privacy glass, chrome grille, dual visor mirrors, AM/FM/cassette with in-dash six-CD changer, six-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar control, five-spoke alloy wheels, full carpeting, floor mats, electric rear window defroster, power locks, illuminated remote keyless entry, headlights with automatic off/delay, power mirrors, accessory power outlet in rear cargo area, tachometer, power windows with express down for driver's window
Options as tested (MSPR):XLT No Boundaries package ($1,095) includes P235/70R-16 all-terrain white-letter tires, 16-in aluminum wheels, Class II trailer towing package, black step bars, special roof rack system; Mach stereo with 6-CD changer ($595); Cargo Convenience Group ($150) includes cargo cover and storage bin; Safety Package ($595) includes Safety Canopy with air curtain airbags and side-impact airbags; Trailer Tow Package ($395) includes Class II receiver hitch, wiring harness with four-pin connector, oil cooler
Destination charge:$615
Gas guzzler tax:N/A
Price as tested (MSPR):$28585
Layout:four-wheel drive
Engine:3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve V6
Horsepower (lb.-ft @ rpm):200 @ 5900
Torque (lb.-ft @ rpm):196 @ 4700
Transmission:4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:18/23 mpg
Wheelbase:103.1 in.
Length/width/height:173.0/70.1/69.1 in.
Track, f/r:61.2/61.0 in.
Turning circle:35.4 ft.
Seating Capacity:5
Head/hip/leg room, f:38.3/53.4/42.7 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:36.9/49.0/36.4 in.
Cargo volume:69.2 cu. ft.
Towing capacity:3500 Lbs.
Suspension, f:independent MacPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension, r:independent, multi-link, coil springs
Ground clearance:7.8 in.
Curb weigth:3346 lbs.
Brakes, f/r:disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Fuel capacity:16.0 gal.
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSPR) effective as ofDecember 20, 2005.Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-392-FORD - www.fordvehicles.com


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