- New Escape Limited adds content and comfort not previously available in the small-SUV segment
- New interior fabrics and materials with improved quality and feel
- New finish for center stack
- Illumination added to front-door power window and lock switches
- XLT Appearance Package with Dark Shadow Gray painted fascias/cladding, step bars, machined aluminum wheels
- New exterior colors: Aspen Green, Red Fire and Gold Ash
New for 2003
Introduced as a 2001 model, the Ford Escape provides fun and responsive ride and handling, an outstanding interior package, fuel economy and low emissions in a small, rugged SUV. The Escape is designed to appeal to young buyers who want sporty and durable transportation.
The Escape is available in XLS, XLT and, for 2003, Limited trims. It is built in Kansas City, Missouri.
New for 2003 is the XLT Appearance Package, which includes glossy Dark Shadow Gray bumper fascias and side cladding, machined bright aluminum 16-inch wheels and Dark Shadow Gray step bars.
The Escape Limited, also new for 2003, features body-color cladding, fascias, moldings, door handles and liftgate trim for a monochromatic exterior appearance. It also comes standard with bright machined 16-inch aluminum wheels.
New colors for 2003 are Aspen Green Clearcoat Metallic, Red Fire Clearcoat Metallic and Gold Ash Clearcoat Metallic.
Escape has a confidently poised stance with wide body cladding and integrated bumper guards to give it an assured look of off-road readiness. The design delivers a muscular, athletic exterior without an overly aggressive appearance.
The interior design of the Escape is focused on enhancing individual features, both aesthetically and functionally. For recognition of key information at a glance, the instruments are large and legible, with dial-type speedometer, trip odometer, tachometer, fuel gauge and temperature gauge. Stalks on the steering column control the lights and wipers. A tilt-adjustable steering wheel is standard.
The new Limited series brings a level of interior sophistication previously unavailable on Escape, with premium leather seats and standard front side air bags, heated front seats, dual front sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated exterior mirrors, Ford’s Reverse Sensing System and a MACH Audio in-dash six-CD changer with automatic volume control.
All Escapes for 2003 have upgraded interior materials for better appearance and feel. The seat fabrics, floor mats and door trim are of higher quality and are available in new patterns and hues. The center stack, door bezels and window switches are painted for a two-tone interior effect, and the window switches are illuminated for nighttime convenience.
The Escape is designed for maximum comfort, convenience, passenger roominess and cargo flexibility. Escape has four doors and a rear liftgate with flip-up glass for access to the cargo area. The cargo area, with the seats up, offers 33 cubic feet of storage space.
Escape has room to carry five adults and their cargo comfortably. Its low step-in height and wide door openings allow good access, with four assist grips for front passengers on the A-pillar and headliner on each side and two more on the headliner for rear-seat occupants.
XLS has manually adjustable seats trimmed with cloth. XLT vehicles have a premium cloth seating surface. Both front and rear seats have separate two-way adjustable head restraints in the outboard positions.
Both the XLS and the XLT rear seating systems can be folded flat for increased cargo space. The latched seat back can be folded forward and the head restraint removed. The rear-seat cushion also can be removed, further enhancing load-carrying capacity. The flip-up rear glass offers easier access to the rear cargo area for small items. Escape provides easy-to-use interior storage. In automatic Escapes, the console accommodates a storage bin and two forward and two rear pop-out cup holders. The floor console on manual transmission models includes five cup holders, an open storage bin and coin holders. The center stack of the instrument panel incorporates a storage compartment large enough to hold CD cases or sunglasses.
The glove box is lockable, and each front door includes large, deep map pockets. Open storage bins are located in the rear quarter panel on both sides of the cargo area. A 12-volt power point is located in the cargo area. Audio and climate controls are located in the center stack, with the controls logically arranged.
An in-dash AM/FM stereo with single-CD player is standard on base models. A dual-media CD/cassette player is standard on the XLS, while the XLT has an in-dash six-disc CD player.
No Boundaries Rack System
Escape XLT Sport (see sidebar) features an industry first, dual-loading rack system, dubbed the No Boundaries Rack System. The No Boundaries Rack System offers a unique sliding rail from the roof that customers can pull down vertically across the rear of the vehicle and lock into the bumper. This provides customers with two separate loading surfaces – a more traditional one on the roof and an additional one across the rear.
Whether carrying skis or bikes or both, active Escape XLT Sport customers will make sure those racks are never empty. But, if their particular adventure doesn’t require that added functionality all the time, the sliding rails can be stored within the conventional roof portion of the rack system.
The 2003 Ford Escape comes with a standard 2.0L Zetec in-line four-cylinder engine that makes 127 horsepower and 135 foot-pounds of torque. The optional 3.0-liter Duratec DOHC V-6 engine produces 201 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 196 foot-pounds of torque at 4,700 rpm with the four-speed automatic transmission.
Escape has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.
Ride and Handling
The 2003 Ford Escape is a versatile, compact SUV that is responsive and fun to drive. Escape combines convenience and comfort with a unibody design for refined carlike ride and handling.
The two-wheel-drive Escape is front-wheel drive, which provides excellent handling, traction and control.
The optional full-time four-wheel-drive system provides the driver with the choice of two settings: 4×4 Auto or 4×4 ON. The automatic setting allows the vehicle to determine how to apportion torque between the front and rear wheels, while the 4×4 ON setting splits the torque evenly between the front and rear drive wheels, enhancing performance when driving off-road or in uncertain driving conditions.
The MacPherson strut front suspension helps isolate road forces, while the independent rear suspension allows lower spring rates for a smooth ride.
Safety and Security
Ford Escape has been designed with safety as a top priority. Front fender reinforcement helps direct the energy load of a frontal crash between the lower frame rail and an upper path that goes through the roof, away from occupants.
An energy-absorbing steering column works with energy-absorbing knee bolsters to reduce the risk of injuries for front-seat occupants. Standard high-tensile-steel side-intrusion door beams help protect passengers in side impacts.
Driver and front-passenger air bags are standard. Pretensioners combined with load limiting retractors are standard on front-seat belts. In a crash, these pretensioners automatically take up slack in the belts, while the load limiters are designed to reduce the risk of chest injuries in severe collisions. Escape Limited features standard side air bags for the driver and front passenger.
The Ford SecuriLockTM engine immobilizer is standard on all Escapes. The system uses a key containing an electronically encrypted transponder that communicates with a transceiver unit in the ignition system. Without the proper key, the vehicle cannot be started.