Rental Review – 2013 Ford Escape Titanium

Chelsea and I went back home to Wisconsin for a late Christmas with my family a couple weeks ago, and I scored a sweet deal with Priceline.com to get a mid-size rental car for $18/day. (Side note: bidding on rentals through that site is awesome – I do that 90% of the time when I travel and need a car). When we got to Milwaukee, the Avis agent offered us an upgrade to a 2013 Ford Escape for only $10/day. Since the weather was iffy and I’d been wanting to drive one anyway, I agreed to it and off we went.

The Escape is, of course, Ford’s smallest crossover/SUV, slotting below the Edge, Explorer and Expedition. It’s been around since 2001 but was completely redesigned for 2013 and is mostly the same vehicle as the European Ford Kuga now. Though it’s lost some of the chunky/masculine looks of the 2001-2012 cars, the new look is decidedly more modern. I like both, and so do the majority of consumers, as the Escape has continued to sell phenomenally well, finishing 2013 almost 300,000 sold and as the #11 US vehicle in sales and #2 in the category, only 8,000 units behind the #1 Honda CR-V.

Our rental was a Titanium model, which is Ford’s top of the line right now, with a current sticker price new of about $32,000. If you’re interested, I spec’d one out just like the rental and you can see the full list of everything it had by clicking here.

2013 Ford Escape Titanium

The 2013 Ford Escape Titanium we rented for a long weekend in Wisconsin

Major Positives

  • ¬†Comfort: I’m 6’1″, a shade over 200 pounds and have fairly long legs so have trouble comfortably driving some cars. No such issues with the Escape. The tilting/telescoping wheel and many-way power seats made it easy to drive comfortably. The heated seats with five different levels of heat helped out too, along with making me lament the single level heated seats in my Mustang. It rides extremely well, especially if you ever rode in a previous generation Escape and can compare.
  • Room: goes along with comfort, but this thing held four normal size adults extremely well and could have held all our luggage too. It seemed to swallow up more stuff than it should be able to, based on its overall size.
  • Driving: the Escape (as you’ll see in the next bullet) has a great motor, paired with a well-matched transmission that shifts smoothly and doesn’t hunt for gears too much like many new cars with small motors and lots of gears do. It handles and brakes nicely on dry roads and in nasty winter weather, which I saw a lot of.
  • Power: this Escape featured the top engine available, a 2.0 liter turbocharged (in Ford-speak – EcoBoost) inline-four with 240 horsepower. It had no problems moving with four people and I never even needed to push it hard – I don’t think I ever had it revved past 3,250 RPMs, so forget any notion that small motors like this need to be revved up high to get you going. Highly impressed and, considering the mid-range 1.6 liter engine delivers 62 less horsepower and only 1 MPG better, there’s no reason to not get the 2.0.

Middle-of-the-Road Things

  • Mileage:¬† we drove this Escape about 650 miles over four days and averaged about 25.5 MPG. That was probably 80% highway driving and right in line with the EPA estimates for the car. Considering we had the heat blasting, the seat heaters on, using the defrosters, etc., I’ll take that and expect to get 27 or so in the summer. However, that’s barely better mileage than my Mustang and it’s 5.0 liter, 412 horsepower V8 gets, which is why I wouldn’t call the mileage a major positive. 30 MPG mixed would be that…
2013 Ford Escape dashboard

MyFordTouch gives you the large center screen and smaller screen in-between the speedo/tach. Image linked from DailyTech.com

  • Tech: the Escape had Sync with MyFordTouch, which is Ford’s oft-lamented touch-screen interface. I say oft-lamented because it’s one of the reasons Ford’s quality ratings have suffered lately. The major complaints are that it’s not less distracting than the old buttons & knobs approach and that it tends to be a bit glitchy. This is the second car I’ve driven with the system (rented a 2012 Explorer Limited on a trip last winter) and I didn’t find it hard to jump in and start using after a couple minutes familiarizing myself with it. Once your phone is paired (not hard), you can quickly use it for talk or audio. Learning the various basic voice commands can let you keep your eyes on the road too, though it seems silly to, for example, press the Sync button, then say “Climate”, wait a second, then say “Adjust temperature to 68 degrees” when you can just use the regular old knob to do that. Luckily, most of the basic controls can be adjusted either with the touch screen or through traditional knobs. One thing I really liked about the Explorer’s setup is that the smaller screen in front of the steering wheel could be customized with a ton of different info. Unfortunately, in the Escape, I could never get anything more interesting than “Smart 4WD System Active” to appear. Overall, I wouldn’t mind if this car didn’t have MyFordTouch at all, though the base Sync system that lets you pair your phone easily and do a few other things is a feature I wouldn’t give up (and that’s what my Mustang has).
  • Value: I wouldn’t call this Escape inexpensive, as it’s a small SUV for over 30K. However, you get a lot of car for the money with a lot of nice features.

Negative Things

I honestly don’t have any big negatives with this car.

Final Thoughts

The almost-300K people that bought an Escape in 2013 are onto something: this is a darn good small SUV. When my wife and I are in the market for a kid-hauling vehicle in the next couple years, this is one we’ll definitely consider. If you’re in the market for one, you’re cheating yourself if you don’t drive both this and the CR-V, which is the best-seller for a reason too. Hard to go wrong with either, but the Ford would be my choice in this class.

Really Road America? That’s How You Treat a Fan?

Like 99% of people that start one, this blog has gotten stagnant. It’s hard to come up with topics that I have something interesting to say about, and even harder to find time to post them. Hence, I haven’t posted one in 13 months. But I was so irritated by the experience I had this afternoon with one of my favorite places to visit that I had to dust it off and post this. Enjoy.

2011 Mustang GT race red

The back end of Lucy, my 2011 Mustang GT

No, this isn’t a post about my car. It’s about Road America – yes, the “RDAMCA” license plate I have on my Mustang is in reference to the fantastic Wisconsin racetrack that has helped develop my passion for racing and cars. I try and make it back at least once a year, even though I now live in Kansas City. I’ve got a track map framed in our house, next to a framed illustration of a group of race car drivers throughout history hanging out in Elkhart Lake, WI (where Road America is located). I love that place. Love it.

I went back in July of this year for their epic vintage racing weekend. As part of most race weekends there, a lunchtime event called “track touring” takes place; that’s a time for ordinary people to take their street cars onto the racetrack and experience what it’s like to drive the track, with controlled speeds, of course. This was my second time doing the track touring and I had some concerns about how the event was run, so when I got back to KC, I wrote a letter expressing my concerns and offering some solutions. If you’d like to read the letter, download it here.

I didn’t expect them to call, thank me profusely and tell me all my ideas were being implemented immediately. But I did expect to at least receive a form letter or email, thanking me for writing. It’s now October 18 (almost three months later) and I’ve received nothing. So, I went to Twitter today and tweeted at @roadamerica, which you can see below:

My first tweet at @roadamerica today

Ok, this response was kind of vague and mildly sarcastic but no big deal. So I replied.

My 2nd tweet at @roadamerica

More unnecessary, insulting sarcasm. Don’t get me wrong, I love sarcasm – just ask my wife. But not in this way. So I replied once more.

My 3rd tweet at @roadamerica

And this person still doesn’t realize I’m getting more and more irritated, or they just don’t care – either excuse is bad. Would it have been that hard to respond with “Sorry to hear that – not sure what happened. I’ll DM you the correct person that it should go to in a sec.” Or even better, “Email it to me – I’ll make sure it gets to the right person.” Not to mention this person not understanding the purpose of retweeting – it’s to share answers/info that your other followers might find useful. Pretty sure most of their followers don’t care about my simple question.

It’s not like I was trying to write a letter to Tim Cook or Alan Mulally; we’re talking about a privately-owned business that has 10 people listed in their staff directory. Two of those ten people are the Marketing & Promotions manager and the Communications manager. Two people that should care enough about the brand they represent to make sure whomever manages their social media accounts does it right. And this sure as heck isn’t it.

Instead of taking the 30 seconds to help me, they took the sarcastic way out. So I’m going to use the power that I have by posting about it, and probably using this in future case studies, presentations, etc. about the wrong way to use social media. I did email my letter to the Track Operations manager, so we’ll see if he responds or not.

That response won’t change the point of this post though: if you’re going to have a social media presence, do it right. Don’t use it to anger your loyal fans.

EDIT: Finally received responses from Road America today (10/19), the morning after I posted this.

That’s all I was looking for…in August. It’s just disappointing that it took a bunch of tweets and me calling them out in a blog post to get the canned, basic response that meets average customer service standards. I shouldn’t be baffled by great brands that can’t even get basics right, but this is just one of many examples out there. It’s a great reminder that, as marketers, we can’t ignore the basics even as we chase the next big thing.

Death of my 2nd Mazda and My Dream Car Finally Coming True

About six weeks ago, my Grandmother passed away and I went home to Wisconsin for the funeral. When I went to Kansas City International Airport, I parked my car at an offsite parking facility named Park Air Express. It’s similar to The Parking Spot and other offsite airport parking facilities, except Park Air Express is cheaper and your car is parked by a valet and when you come back, it’s waiting for you at the door instead of having to go find it. I’ve always parked there because I figured there was less chance of anything ever happening to my car, being the slightly obsessed car guy I am.

On Sunday, August 14, I was getting ready to head to the airport when I got a call from Park Air Express, telling me there had been an accident at their facility involving my car. One of their valets, driving a Ford Escape, got out of control and slammed into my car, pushing me into two other cars too. They claimed that the accelerator stuck and he was unable to control it, which is not the truth (remember – all the Toyota “unintended acceleration” lawsuits were thrown out due to driver error – same thing here). And here’s the fun result:

Yep...everything from the driver's door forward was absolutely destroyed.

And there's the sad death of my 2003 Mazda6.

However, the Park Air Express people handled the entire thing very well, meeting me immediately after I arrived at the airport and working through the incident report before letting me know everything would be handled through their insurance company, Aon. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re one of the biggest insurance companies on Earth and the brand seen on the jerseys of Manchester United.

I was taken to the rental car facility to pick up a car, and was allowed to get whatever I wanted within reason, so I chose a 2012 Mustang V6 coupe, which I’d also been driving in Wisconsin as a rental while I’d been there too. From there, I needed to just be patient and let the insurance machine do its work.

In less than three days, the Mazda was declared totaled, meaning for the 2nd time, I was now going to be replacing a 2003 blue Mazda that was wrecked through no fault of my own – my 2003 Mazda Protege5 was totaled on 7/2/2006 (see below!).

My Wrecked '03 Mazda Protege5

So, now I just had to wait and see what the insurance company was going to give me for the Mazda before I could decide what I was going to get next. I love car shopping, and I dove right in, looking at used BMW 3-Series, Pontiac Solstice, Mazda RX-8, Mazdaspeed3, Nissan 350Z and more. But I kept coming back to Ford Mustangs, and for good reason. When I was about 13, my uncle took me for a ride in a friend of his’ ’97 Mustang Cobra convertible, telling me “if you tell your mother how fast we go, I’ll kill you” (with a smile on his face). And I’ve been hooked since – that was one of the reasons I became so passionate about cars.

It had always kind of been my goal to get my Mustang by the time I turned 30, and it was going to be a bright yellow convertible like this one. With my 29th birthday approaching on the 30th, it was nice to think I could accomplish that goal a little early, thanks to these circumstances. I was pretty certain I wanted a 2010 or newer Mustang, since the exterior and interior had both been redesigned that year, but I wasn’t 100% sure yet. Then, in 2011, Ford came out with two all-new engines – a 3.7 liter 305 horsepower V6 that also got 31 MPG highway (which I’d been experiencing in the rental car) and a 5.0 liter 412 horsepower V8 that was still good for 26 MPG highway. Those engines were replacing a 4.0 liter V6 with 210 horsepower and a 4.6 liter V8 with 315 horsepower, both with worse gas mileage than the new engines too. So, I started by going to Zeck Ford in Leavenworth, Kansas because they had a 2011 Mustang GT convertible for sale, in Grabber Blue (check out the color here if you’d like). I worked with an awesome salesperson named Gene Sirabella, and he treated me right, which I really appreciated. After driving that car with the new 5.0 V8, I knew I couldn’t get anything older than a 2011. The V6 in my rental car was more powerful and got better mileage than the older V8, and I didn’t want to go “back” like that.

So my search was now on for a 2011 Mustang GT – it had to have a manual transmission and heated seats. Beyond that, I was pretty open. Since I was looking for a used 2011, there weren’t a ton of options out there (less than 100 nationwide). I had communications with Ford dealers in Texas, Virginia, Louisiana and here in KC. Finally, I found just what I wanted, ironically enough, back home in Wisconsin – in Sheboygan Falls at B&B Ford. I talked with the salesperson at B&B, Michael Kennedy, and got everything figured out. While all this was going on, I still didn’t know what I was going to get for the wrecked Mazda, though I knew within probably $1,000 what I would get.

Finally, after two weeks of waiting, I decided I wasn’t going to wait around any longer and I booked a one-way flight to Milwaukee for Friday, September 2nd. A couple guys from B&B Ford were waiting for me at the airport, and took me over to a McDonald’s not far from the airport where they’d parked my car. After signing some papers, I finally had my Mustang!

15 years later - it's mine. What a great birthday present!

It’s a 2011 Mustang GT coupe premium. The color is Race Red and it has heated seats and the Interior Upgrade Package. Standard features include 18″ wheels, the Sync in-car connectivity system, and the usual amenities. Most importantly, it has 412 horsepower and three pedals/six gears to put that horsepower to good use. Not the yellow convertible I always imagined, but I love where I ended up.

The only problem with my flying up to get the car was that I was supposed to be at the Lake of the Ozarks all weekend for my buddy Corey Cassaw‘s bachelor party. So, I took off from Milwaukee back south towards Missouri, with my destination for the night being Hannibal, MO (the home of Mark Twain), before driving the final 150 miles to Osage Beach, MO on Saturday morning. My route for the night looked like this:


View Larger Map

368 miles in a night was a great way to get to know my new car. I had a blast and made it to the Lake in time for an incredible weekend of fun.

It’s now been just over three weeks since I got the car and I love it as much as I always knew I would. I’ve gone a little crazy buying things to go with it, including:

  • A complete set of winter floormats from Husky Liners (BTW, if you want a great set of floormats to protect your car’s interior – these rock. Had ‘em on my Explorer and have ‘em again now.
  • 18″ Ford Racing wheels with Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires from The Tire Rack, which will let me get through KC winter with little to no problem.

IMAG0282.jpg

Looks good and helps with stability and handling a bit too

Thankfully, I live with a girlfriend that loves driving it and, most importantly, knows how much I’ve always wanted one and, therefore, has more patience than could be reasonably expected! We’re driving it back to Wisconsin this coming weekend for the Wisconsin vs. Nebraska game on Saturday and the Packers vs. Broncos game on Sunday. On Saturday morning, we’re going to take a drive in the Mustang with my uncle and aunt in their 2001 Ferrari 360 Modena. Two gorgeous, fast, red cars and a lot of fun, gas prices be damned. With that, I’ll end this marathon post with a slideshow of my ‘Stang:

Opinions and anecdotes on mostly cars+racing, plus some marketing here & there