OUR contributor Richard Lofthouse has just returned from an American road trip. Here’s his thoughts on driving a Ford Escape rental car.
Pleasurably, I have just driven a Ford Kuga (called the ‘Escape’ in America), from Salt Lake City to British Columbia and back via Wyoming, a 2,500 mile odyssey including some ferocious gravel tracks and many back wood camp sites.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
1. You still can’t hire an estate car from a main stream US rental company…
2. …which explains how I ended up in a Ford Escape: it’s the only way to get a hatchback configuration.
3. Bizarrely, AVIS still list a Toyota Prius as a ‘Special Category’ vehicle, costing extra. That’s a taste of just how clunky and conservative America is.
4. Car makers are throwing their luxury spec vehicles at the rental fleets instead of loading them with poverty spec also rans that no one wants to buy, realizing that punters often end up buying the cars they’ve rented…
5. …which is why my Escape came in Titanium X equivalent spec, with a reversing camera and 18 inch wheels, leather and nice touches such as a sun glasses holder above the driver.
6. What makes for a great handling road car also translates (up to a point) into a great handling off road car. A really rough, cratered gravel road had a big Ford F150 pick-up crabbing sideways in no time, because of its crude, bouncy ladder chassis, whereas the Ford tracked faithfully wherever you pointed it despite only being front wheel drive.
7. The 2013- Escape is exactly the same as the UK Kuga, apart from some trim and engine differences, following Ford’s global car policy. This meant that I had the same 1.6 litre, 180 bhp Ecoboost engine that Europe gets. It’s a brilliant unit. Very quiet, very silky, and shove to equal an old school American V6. That’s a quantum leap forward for lucky Americans who will not regret the demise of the last-gen Escape, which was crude by comparison.
8. The EPA mileage estimation is much closer to reality than the unrealistic Euro test we have come to doubt. The official combined EPA figure for my Escape is 26 mpg (assuming the smaller American gallon). But my actual average was 30.4mpg over 2,558 miles, and that using 87 RON petrol, against 93 used in the EPA assumption. That is a cracking result in anyone’s book.
9. The next generation Ford Mondeo is already OTR Stateside as the Ford Fusion. It’s a very beautifully crafted car and there’s lots to look forward to. Alas, AVIS doesn’t have them on it’s fleet just yet, so my bid to drive one was denied…
10. Most journalist colleagues I know routinely spurn SUVs for ‘real cars’, yet the Kuga destroys that false distinction, sitting on a FWD Focus platform and driving nearly as well.
11. If you have a family you’ll need a roof box for holidays. What you gain in height with the Kuga you lose in space – we lowered the seats and filled the entire load bay with camping kit. No room left for kiddos. On this basis the Focus estate is still my ultimate preference.