Following our appearance on the BBC TV program Wanted Down Under, which gave my wife and I a taste of the Aussie lifestyle, we moved to Perth, WA in 2017. I decided I would need to buy a car almost as soon as I landed.
One of the things I had noted in our two-week visit to Australia in 2016 was that many Aussies prefer their cars larger, and often think nothing of a fairly long commute to and from work, driving 50–60km in each direction from the outer suburbs to the CBD. More like the USA than the UK, where road congestion makes longer journeys a bit of a nightmare.
I wanted something with a bit of carrying capacity so I could chuck the odd bit of flat-packed furniture in, comfort on the highway for those potentially long commutes, and a bit of off-road ability in case I wanted to go exploring.
I have always liked my tech, and as someone who uses an iPhone, CarPlay was fairly high on my list.
Not a priority, but always in the back of my mind, was a desire for something with a bit of get up and go. Not a roaring V8, nice though they are, but something I could put my foot down in and still feel a sense of urgency when overtaking.
The above was pointing towards an SUV, which I understood from CarAdvice was one of the fastest-growing segments and so there would be plenty of choice.
Eventually, after considering several different makes, I settled on the new (okay not new, per se, more rebranded) Ford Escape, previously Ford Kuga. I went for the engine I felt would give me that bit of urgency, the 2.0-litre turbo with 178kW of power and 345Nm of torque. Not a fire-breathing performance vehicle by any standard, but reasonably comparable to a hot-hatch, and better than most of the other similar vehicles in the segment.
One of the other reasons for choosing the Escape was that it is not as common on the road as many other higher-selling SUVs, and I liked the look of it, particularly in the Deep Impact Blue I chose.
Specification-wise, I went for the mid-level Trend automatic AWD plus two option packs that gave me things like AEB, keyless entry, blind spot alert, hands-free tailgate, etc. And, of course, it came with the CarPlay I wanted.
The handover of the vehicle was pretty much what you would expect with any new car: nicely presented in the showroom and they went through all the controls, in excruciating detail, to the point where I just wanted to leave and drive the darned thing away. To be fair the salesman did eventually say, “If I’m boring you, just say so and you can read about it later in the manual”. So I did…
Then I wondered if I had been a bit rude, especially after he handed me a bag with two rather nice bottles of wine!
For the first week or so, I used the built-in Ford Sync technology for the satellite navigation and music, but then I tried Apple CarPlay and haven’t gone back since. I found the built-in Sync voice activation to be very fussy and non-intuitive. Apple’s Siri has its fair share of faults as well, but I found it superior to Ford’s solution for setting destinations for example.
This was my first experience of CarPlay, and what I still find frustrating is that you have to choose one or the other – either the built-in Sync system or CarPlay. What I would have liked is to use the car’s built-in radio at the same time as the CarPlay navigation. I can play the radio, but it involves backing out of CarPlay, selecting the radio station I want to listen to, then going back into CarPlay – a bit long-winded. I know this isn’t exclusive to Ford, it is the same in all cars. What I would like is for the car’s in-built systems to link more directly with CarPlay.
Okay, so this is a car review website not a technology one, so enough of the tech. What about the car itself?
I had a rather unfortunate incident after only seven days of ownership. Stopped at the traffic lights, at around 4:00pm on a Friday afternoon on my way to a friend’s house to watch the rugby, when a Holden Commodore drove at full speed (Police estimated over 70km/h) into the back of the line of stationary cars. There were several cars behind mine, but the impact was such that they were all shunted forward and eventually the car behind me crunched into the driver’s side rear of the Escape.
A couple of the panels were a bit bent out of shape, but fortunately the car was driveable. Not so fortunate were some of the other cars. Four cars were a complete write-off and another two needed to be towed away. Luckily, although there was a bit of blood and some very shaken people, nobody was seriously injured, including the Commodore driver. Just shows how good modern cars are at absorbing impact damage.
As a result, my car was off the road while they replaced the damaged panels. I was loaned an old Holden Barina for a couple of days. It really made me appreciate just how good the Escape was!
Having now had the car for nearly nine months, what are my thoughts? I find the Escape comfortable on both short and longer drives. I’m glad I decided on the Trend with its 18-inch alloys, rather than the sharper-looking 19-inch ones on the Titanium, as I think they are probably more absorbing of ruts and bumps in the road.
I'm very glad that the Escape has a reasonable, for Australia, service requirement of every 15,000km or annual, whichever comes first. I am finding that I am racking up the kilometres quite fast due to my commute. It came as a bit of a surprise just how frequently cars need servicing, in comparison to the UK. My last car in the UK, a Peugeot RCZ, needed servicing every 20,000 miles (around 32,000km). I guess it has to do with the climate, which is much better than the UK of course, so no complaints on that front.
Although the engine has a reasonable amount of go, I find I leave it in the S (sport) mode all the time, as without it can feel a bit asthmatic in the ‘normal’ D mode. I also find the engine note under hard acceleration to be a bit ’screamy’. It doesn’t have the nice deep acceleration noise of a good V8, or even V6 for that matter.
I have found upgrading the Sync tech a pain in the butt. In theory, I should be able to connect the car to my wireless NBN system and it will upgrade to the latest version, if one is available. In practice, while it connects okay as my router is fairly close to where the car is parked, the on-board system is incredibly slow and always ends by saying 'update not available', although I know one is! I have tried doing it the ‘old-fashioned way’ by downloading the update to a USB thumb drive, but it fails every time with an error message and so far I have had no response from Ford’s support.
While the car has AWD, I don’t think I would trust it on anything more than a gravel road, not least as the tyres are not really designed for anything but the road. Having said that, it is fine for the occasional trip to a campsite.
Nine months later and with the benefit of hindsight, would I still buy the Ford Escape? Yes, the answer is probably yes. I still find myself sometimes look longingly at the previous-model Holden Commodore V8 Redline, which had some good deals at the time I bought the Escape. But, it would have cost more, would not have been as economical to run, and would probably have been less flexible as a practical mode of transport. But the sound of that V8 engine…