Ford showed a Ford Escape concept car at the Tokyo Auto Show named the “Equator”. Why an Escape-based concept? And this point in the production cycle of the Escape (already several years old, and showing it’s age)?
Note that the Escape is offered in several worldwide markets as the Maverick, by Mazda as the Tribute, and by Mercury in North America as the Mariner. So the exact same package (differing in grill, bumpers, and back hatch) is offered in more markets than any other Ford SUV.
My conclusion: a freshing of the current product is coming. You’ll note that the Equator is based on the current Escape – in fact coverage of the Tokyo show makes it clear that the chassis and drivetrain is identical to the current production Escape. The engine is an improved 3-liter (now available in 221-HP form thanks to the Fusion) with a 6-speed auto (a very functional step up from the current and dated 4-speed automatic). The front grill adapts the current Ford truck theme that is slowly making it’s way across all the Ford SUVs.
1) Note the production sheet metal – keeping expenses down.
2: Same for the rear. An inexpensive Explorer-esque technique makes for the more modern appearance of a wrap-around window, but is actually just some paint and mouldings. Notice the rear suspension lower control arms – same as the current vehicle.
3) Production-based dash, dressed up with some paint and a nav system.
4) Seats and console are a concession to show-car “flash”. Door panels are production.
The Escape is probably Ford’s best SUV – it actually has a very capable chassis and suspension. You may remember the road test Car and Driver did for the launch of the Escape- they noted the excellent brakes and handling dynamics. Since then, the brakes have been enlarged even more and the AWD system has been improved.
- It will be necessary to offer the 3.5 DOHC V-6 for competitive purposes. GM is already moving in that direction. Toyota offers a brilliant 268-HP 3.5 V-6.
- I’d like to see some further major engineering. The driving position is awkward, particularly the placement and angle of the steering wheel.
- The 4-cylinder engine will contirenue to be offered as a base model… it’s been improved and offers a nice economical and sporty package.
- Ford’s main focus will be to improve the Hybrid package, probably with better protection of the battery (an add-on in the current chassis, requiring special provision for cooling) and “version 2” rethink of the engine harness and accessory routing. I’d also like to see a “version 2” of the engine with improved battery life, more electric power, and (for we Texas drivers) improved hybrid operation while the air conditioner is being used. Because this same Hybrid package will be offered in the Fusion, it would make sense economically that Ford is working on these improvements before the Fusion is to receive them. I’m assuming the Fusion Hybrid package will be the identical engineering.