2014 Ford Escape Titanium AWD - Parallel Parking Houdini - Video Review

Each time "Drive...He Said" ventures to Chicago city neighborhoods to satiate the thirst for the unique cultural offerings breathing quickens, collective palms and brows perspire profusely, and hearts nearly palpitate over the limited parking situation.

Back-up cameras with passive park assistance are nice and becoming more common. Soon our federal D.O.T. may mandated these in all SUV's and Crossovers. But let's face it. You are still "eye-balling" through a distorted fish-eye lens, exposed to rain droplets and other "droppings."

Our last excursion with a fancy active self-parking system happened in the  Toyota Prius V  hybrid wagon.  Toyota's Advanced Guided Parking System was prone to erroneous use. One mis-aligned icon on the touch screen, and "smack" against a curb. Bundled with a $5000 technology package it dings wallets, too.

Our next serious parallel parking challenge happened in the Focus derived, redesigned 2014 Ford Escape cross-over utility vehicle. In our Ingot Silver Metallic Titanium Ecoboost 2.0L edition, Active Park Assist come bundled with Blind Spot Warning for a "reasonable" $995. So expectations weren't quite K2 high.

That's Right. "We Be the "Parallel Parking Man":

With 94 year old "Drive...He Said" contributor and technical historian, Melvin Erickson aboard, we wowed ourselves with Ford's "Active Park Assist." Unavailable in any 1915 Model T Mel had driven. First came parking  spots that an 18-foot tractor-trailer could fit in. Eventually we plopped the Escape into mere parking "nooks," formerly the domain of SmartForTwo's.

Engage the Active Park Assist button on the center console to activates the Escape's sonar. Drive forward slowly. Wait for the signal that a suitable space has been located. Drive until the center stack display broadcasts a STOP sign. Place the transmission selector into "R" for Reverse. Remove all hands from the steering wheel. Release the brake keeping your foot atop the pedal to keep back-up to a crawl. Watch the steering wheel whip first counter-clockwise, then clockwise (or vice versa for the left curb). Neither Foyt nor Fittipaldi could do it that fast. Audibles notify "Park Assist is Complete," whence you fully depress brake and shift into "Park".

More Than A One Trick Act:

Adding almost $9000 in options to a base Ford Escape nets a premium crossover-ute. Pricing for the Titanium edition of our 2014 Escape AWD tester came to $35,000. It included all-wheel drive, HID headlights, moonroof, a 10-way power highly articulating driver's seat, tilt and telescoping steering, power lift-gate,  remote start, comfort keyless entry and ignition. Leather trimmed seats means velour-like inserts. Intelligent cruise control and adaptive headlights are but a sugar-plum dream.

The  "Ecoboosted" drivetrain is the premium set-up used in other Ford's, such as the  Ford Fusion Titanium  we recently tested. Power ratings are a potent 240-horsepower/ 270-pound-foot from the aluminum alloy turbocharged direct-injected twin-cam 2.0-Liter gasoline inline-4 powerplant.

A deliberate 6-speed autobox, which loves to bounce off the 6000 rpm rev-limiter, rips off repeated low-7-second 0-60 miles-per-hour runs. Mid-19 miles-per-gallon of combined efficiency in the Escape Titanium AWD is 18% better than the 3.6L DI gas V6 in the GMC Terrain Denali.

Escape's optional AWD involves on-demand, front to rear through an  electronic multi-clutch differential torque splitting. Lacking any "crawl" transmission gearing or transfer case, "Escape acts" will be  limited to slippery pavement and preventing major under-steer.

Hot Hatch With Height:

Low profile 235/45 Kumho tires mounted on 19" polished honeycomb alloy wheels betray sporting intentions. The 750  greater poundage over the Focus rides on a beefed up front strut/ rear independent quad-link suspension. The Escape rides firmer, usually responding  with a "So what" to more abrupt bumps. Larger brake (12.6" front rotors) and wheel hardware incur require an SUV like 38-feet, some 3.5-ft more than in a Toyota RAV4 with 17" wheels.

Steering features the responsiveness of a quicker ratio front drive car. There's little freeway lane-change slop. Any tendency to step out  gets reigned in by stability control. Escape Titanium braking is progressive without being reprimanding..

Tastefully Useful:

Outside the re-designed Ford Escape "Crossed Over" from the boxy qualities of it's Mazda Tribute-based forerunner. Escape begs for public attention with tweezed headlights, a narrow familial egg-crate grille, with large lower air-dam inlet, deeply sculpted side panels and raked profile. And it gets it.

Inside the Ford Escape there is an abundance of Focus. The twin-pod cockpit, trapezoidal climate dash vents and twin TFT analog turquoise-on-white-on black gauges are sporty. Thick rimmed fully adjustable steering wheel with thumb buttons for system settings and hands-free communication while keeping hands locked at 10 and 2 O' Clock. Where they belong. Most of the time.

Moved up from the center console to center stack is the Selectronic transmission shifter now blocking the view of the blue LED automatic climate control. Had Ford offered a sliding-rear seat option, Escape rear-seated would bump fewer knees. With 36.8" of rear legroom there is less stretch-out room than in a Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5.

A deep rear bumper and near-off-road 7.9"-inches of ground clearance make it a stretch to load cargo. A flat folding seat back and power liftgate are welcome.

The Escape Titanium features that versatile, conversant communicator/ controller called Sync. The Ford My Touch LCD display with HDD navigation, now shrunken to 6.5"-inches, offers only about a 1-in-3 chance of making direct contact with an icon. A 10,000 word voice-command repertoire is surely enough for blabbers like us. Will "Selfie" make the next Sync update?

Need more than "plain old" Bluetooth or USB entertainment? Third party infotainment apps need but a paired smart wireless data device. The latter turns the Escape cabin into a"Wi-Fi" zone.

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Being "Ingot" in color emphasizes the "ingot-like" build which the Ford Escape approaches. Beyond the deep spatial sound of the Sony hi-fi, it's a shake free, placid mobile environment. By the seat-of-our-pants, you realize that "hot hatch" enthusiasts who require that extra utility will feel welcome here.

Able to sneak in and out of the tightest parking spots, the 2014 Ford Escape Titanium, with Active Park Assist, sure does a "mean appearing/ disappearing act."

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