Ford Escape Titanium 4WD
First off, the 4WD in the title isn’t actual 4-wheel-drive. It refers to the auto-adjusting traction control in the Escape Titanium ($32,120 base), which kicks in on corners and slick surfaces by transferring power levels between the four tires, maximizing traction as the situation requires. This gives the Escape excellent traction on curvy two-lanes and dirt roads, but the resulting body sway makes tipping seem like a disturbing possibility.
Besides that, the Escape’s safety features were comprehensive to the point of annoyance. Sensors on all four sides of the vehicle alerted me to potential danger no matter where it was coming from. Vehicles passing behind me as I backed out of parking spaces caused the car to beep an alert, and it sounded again when it decided I was inching too close to the vehicle in front of me. Meanwhile, the rear-view camera gave me a visual of what I was reversing into. The one nannyware feature I appreciated was the array of LEDs in the side view mirrors — they light up whenever a vehicle triggers the sensors in the car’s blind spots. This came in handy several times during a 300-mile road trip from the Bay Area to Mount Shasta, and the lights are unobtrusive (unlike the front/rear alert beeps), yet impossible to miss when you check your rear view mirror.
The on-board computer is simple to use, and the voice-recognition controls are spot on. But the touchscreen is just out of reach, and drivers without simian arms have to lean forward to operate it. This is a minor issue when parked, but it can be a terrifying thing to try to adjust your choice of music while doing 80. Thanks to the extremely responsive steering, subtle shifts in weight (like leaning forward to fiddle with said touchscreen) sends the car veering into other lanes. Luckily, the LED blind spot alert on the side-view mirrors helped me avoid sideswiping that Camry while trying to queue up another Radiolab.
get-gadget Headlights move to anticipate turns. Remote start will also engage the A/C to pre-cool the car for you. Blind spot and backup motion sensors. Ties Outback for the most storage space.
TIRED Touchscreen is out of reach. Lots of sway in high-speed turns. Bluetooth connectivity is spotty.