Ford Escape is one of the oldest names in the crossover business, so we’ll forgive you for the yawn when you see it’s the topic of this month’s column. however, the 2013 version of the escape is no yawning matter, and it’s a far cry from the milquetoast model so many moms have employed to drive their kids to soccer practice.

The new Escape still fits the practical bill, but now it’s also a fun ride, and even a little sexy. The shape’s as much a Focus hatchback as the old Escape was a sport-utility knockoff. It’s all kicky angles, and that tall, gaping grille in front looks like a rally car waiting to suck up pavement by the mile. The cockpit’s a fighter jet compared with the old trucklike dash—a rakish workspace with some ergonomic spiffs and a grippy four-spoke
steering wheel.

The Escape is about as close as an SUV can get to being a sports sedan, so long as you spool up the available 2.0-liter turbo fourthat stuffs 240 horsepower into its sleek new body. To go with those shredded 240 horses, there’s a six-speed automatic transmission with manual controls, meaty steering, and a taut, sporty ride. It’s the besthandling SUV of its kind—way more entertaining than the Honda CR-V or the new, but slower, Mazda CX-5. With excellent gas mileage of about 30 miles per gallon on the highway, it’s also one of the greenest crossovers around.

With just the flick of a toe, the Escape converts from sporty to outdoorsy. Simply waving a foot underneath the available hands-free tailgate is all it takes to make it open or close. Once it’s open, the Escape’s rear seats fold down with enough space for a pair of mountain bikes, camping gear for two—or a weight sled and a few dozen plates.

The Numbers:
0-60 MPH in 8.0 seconds
Top Speed 120 MPH (Approx.)
The Price:
$31k and Up
The Basics:
240 Horsepower
2.0 Liter Turbocharged In-line four-, six-speed automatic front- or all-wheel drive.

All the Extras:
High Speed. The no-excuses 240-hp turbo has excellent power and gas mileage.
All-wheel drive’s an option; with the towing package, the Escape can pull 3,500 pounds.
Behold, the panoramic sunroof, the auto industry’s preferred delivery method for vitamin D.

The Bottom Line: The perfect getaway from SUV clichés and high gas prices alike.