Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ford SUVs offer options for various tastes

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at www.sacbee.com/business

Sacramento, California – Today, a tale of two Fords … two Ford sport-utility vehicles well known to motorists from coast to coast.

Let’s start with my 2013 Ford Explorer Limited with four-wheel drive.  Ford is expanding its Explorer offerings, and longtime Explorer fans will likely enjoy the engine choices and liberal standard features.

And yes, I certainly liked the standard comfort, convenience and functional perks, which took me two sittings to read.  The 3.5-liter V-6 with nearly 300 horses also had enough to keep me happy, even on steep climbs.  Fuel mileage was not so hot and 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

But hey, it’s a big SUV.  You have to burn some juice to get it going.

Did I mention big?  I thought so.  Wow, this Explorer looks bigger than I remember it being.  And it drives big too.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  It just feels like a seriously hefty human carrier when it’s on the roll.  Woe be unto the compact car driver that gets in the way of this beast.

Bigness has its charms, too.  I actually struggled to fill up the Explorer’s cargo area with boxes, when I was endeavoring to see how much this SUV could hold.  I had to go to the auxiliary boxes in the overhead storage area of my garage.

So, if you have a need for a big SUV to transport a lot of kids and cargo, this Explorer will do you right.  Mine had extras that pushed the bottom line to nearly $47,000, but the basic Limited/4WD will probably suit most folks just fine, starting at about $40,000.

More to my liking in my old age was the tested 2013 Ford Escape SE FWD (pictured), just one of seven trim levels for the extensively reworked-for-2013 Escape.  The base price of the tester was a reasonable $25,070, but again, mine was dressed up with extras to put the bottom line at $28,355.  I must confess that I did like the power liftgate for an extra $495.

I also liked the fuel mileage of 23 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the open road.  Power comes from a 1.6-liter in-line 4 EcoBoost engine.  That equates to a max 173 horses, which handled my humble driving demands just fine, thank you.  The tested Escape handled like a nicely balanced midsize sedan, with effortless steering and a smooth, quiet ride even on the freeway.

Best part: Man, it looks great.  The restyling cues are sharp and sporty in my book.  Keep those designers on the payroll.

This Escape is definitely a little brother to the Explorer.  But if your budget and cargo-toting needs are less than demanding, consider the revamped Escape a prospective occupant of your driveway.

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