Ford has about 8,000 orders for the new 2013 Escape SUV that will hit showrooms in late May with a base price of $23,295, about $200 less than the outgoing model.
But the base S trim level is expected to account for only about 10% of sales of the crossover that has been completely redesigned as a global vehicle to be sold as the Kuga in Europe and China.
The more popular upper trim levels are priced higher than the outgoing models, and the new lineup includes a fourth trim level: the top-of-the-line Titanium that can take the price to about $37,000, fully loaded with features like a panoramic roof.
The new Escape is much sleeker and more modern-looking than the rugged utility vehicle it replaces. When the Escape debuted a decade ago, automakers wanted car-based crossovers to look like the macho body-on-frame SUVs they were replacing.
But the introduction of the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V made a softer look more popular, and Ford officials said their customers have said they love the capability of the Escape but wanted more style.
Sales remain strong. They are up 5% through March.
The high-volume SE trim level will start at $25,895, or $200 more than the XLT it replaces, but the automaker has added $1,100 in extra standard equipment, said spokeswoman Angie Kozleski.
Half of the orders so far are for the higher trim levels: the new Titanium and the SEL which at $28,695 is $1,500 more than the model it replaces but has $2,300 in additional standard equipment, Kozleski said.
The new Escape also continues Ford’s goal of introducing ever more fuel-efficient vehicles. The 2013 model comes with a choice of a 1.6- or 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, with direct injection and turbocharging to deliver power with the smaller and more fuel-efficient engine.
Most buyers are expected to choose one of these engines over the carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
Unlike the outgoing Escape, the new generation does not have a hybrid version. Ford hopes to direct these customers to the new C-Max crossover hybrid and plug-in hybrid coming out later this year.
The new Escape is being built at the retooled Louisville, Ky., plant with early production models running down the line now.
Workers in Kansas City, Mo., will continue to make the current Escape until production stops at the end of the month. Kansas City is being retooled to make the Transit commercial van.