2013 Ford Escape’s new face, 1.6L EcoBoost and more debut in L.A.

2013 Ford Escape

2013 Ford Escape

Well, it’s about time. Long after compact SUV rivals began changing from traditional boxy SUV shapes to sleeker, more crossover-ish shapes, the 2013 Ford Escape bowed at the Los Angeles Auto Show with a modern shape that blends an arched roofline and a Focus/Fiesta grille with a taller profile. There’s a lot more sport to Ford’s new small sport utility vehicle.

But despite the slinky new shape, the new 2013 Escape has more cargo capacity—the utility part of the SUV equation—than its predecessor. The new Escape has 34.3 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the back seat—half as much again as the traditional full-size American family sedan—and doubles that with the rear seat folded, maxing out at 68.1 cubic feet.

Boosting utility—and for that matter, sport—even more is the availability of two EcoBoost engines for the 2013 Escape. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost four is already offered in the U.S. in the Ford Edge, and now for the first time, a 1.6-liter version of the engine will also be available here. Both engines are options over the base 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated four cylinder engine. EcoBoost combines turbocharging and direct injection for more power from a smaller engine, better fuel economy and improved emissions.

1.6 liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine

New 1.6 liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine makes more power and gets better fuel economy than larger engines.

The 2.0-liter EcoBoost four is rated at 237 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. That’s three horsepower shy of the outgoing 3.0-liter V-6 but the 2.0 trumps the 3.0 on torque and does so with a broad spread muscle, which would definitely make the boosted two-liter the trailer-towing pick from the 2013 Ford Escape offerings.

The base 2.5-liter engine continues as the entry-level choice, though updated to save weight, improve fuel economy and quality. Ford didn’t announce the output of the two-five, but last year’s base engine was rated at 171 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. That’s almost on par with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost, which actually comes in stronger than the bigger engine, with 173 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. The real advantage of the 1.6 over the base engine is fuel economy, which Ford says will be as much as five more miles per gallon, and that’s after the base engine is upgraded by two mpg. Ford says changes to the 2.5 will increase lower rpm torque, which will provide better around town drivability.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the 1.6-liter EcoBoost will share an unusual fuel economy device. An “Active Grille Shutter System” is exactly what the name suggests, grille slats that will open when extra engine cooling air is required, such as low-speed and stop-and-go driving, and close automatically for high speed driving, improving aerodynamics and thereby better fuel economy. Grille shutters are already in use on the Ford Focus, Ford Taurus and Ford Edge in North America, and Ford has plans to increase their use in Ford vehicles.

Both EcoBoost engines will come with Ford’s SelectShift Automatic transmission, an automatic that can be operated manually via a switch on the left side of the shifter.

Ford certainly hopes 2013 Escape owners will get a kick out of their SUV, but owners will also be able to give a kick to get into Escapes equipped with a hands-free power liftgate. Escapes with Ford’s Intelligent Access proximity key system, which includes pushbutton starting and unlocking by pulling on the door handle, will now have the rear hatch open on its own simply by making a kicking motion under the rear bumper. We’ve tried it. It works. And it will seem like excess until the first time someone comes up to the back of the Escape with arms full and no free hands for pushing key fob buttons.