Home » This Should Have Been The Ford Escape: Cold Start

This Should Have Been The Ford Escape: Cold Start

Ford Alpe

The first generation Ford Escape is totally fine. My mother-in-law had one and it was a completely functional vehicle with an aesthetic that was just rugged enough without promising more than the little crossover could deliver. There’s nothing wrong with a first gen Escape until you see the bonkers Ford Alpe Concept put together by Ghia.

Ford Alpe Concept

There are almost no similarities between the Alpe Concept and the Escape that Ford ended up building other than the grey body plastic cladding. I feel like the c-pillar that extends up into the roof rack is inspired and the chrome strip that runs from the front fender and across the greenhouse is an idea that needs to be realized.

The wheel covers that seem to turn with the wheels themselves and are separated from the body? Wild and not practical. Still, I wish Ford had tried. Here’s a bit of explanation from an article about the concept from the Chicago Tribune:

The intent with Alpe is to provide a low-priced, sporty four-wheeler with 25-to 30-mile-per-gallon fuel economy along the same line as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Wrangler or Chevrolet Tracker.

“We’re trying to move as fast as we can to get a small sport-utility out in the market as quick as we can. We’re two to three years away,” said Ross Roberts, Ford division general manager.

I love a future past where this was Ford’s new design language, even if it would have never worked.

Photo Credit: Ford

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32 Responses

  1. I think there’s one small design element that, er, crossed over, from concept to production – that particular stamped piece of cladding on the lower front underside.

    I most clearly recall it on the second gen Escape (which really leaned into that chunky for your pleasure styling), but first may have had it too, been years since I’ve seen one.

    1. It does exist on the first gens, but it’s buried under the lower radiator opening, and is hard to see especially in pictures. It was brought forward, but still resides under the lower rad opening on the second gens.

  2. I remember seeing the Alpe Limited version, with a different front fascia and more monotone paint, in the mags, didn’t realize there were two different ones at the time.

    Heck it would make a niftier Ecosport followup now that Ford doesn’t have an entry in the segment.

    I miss all the exploratory 90s SUV concepts – often a “we’re not sure what’s going to happen but we know we need to be here”.

  3. I kinda miss when crossovers were just called “small SUVs.” I mean, that’s what they are. They have the ground clearance, the tall, two-box shape, the available four wheel drive. If you put a RAV4 in between a Corolla and a Land Cruiser, it’s obvious that it’s the Land Cruiser’s baby cousin, not the Corolla’s big brother.

    Expecting honesty from marketers is a mug’s game, and I know this ship has well and truly sailed, but it still annoys me. “Crossover” is just a softer term for small SUVs, intended to make them more palatable to people who don’t want the stigma associated with driving a big gas-guzzler like a Suburban. That’s all.

    1. I’m okay with it – it’s pretty clear delineation between the handful of remaining true SUVs (some combination of low range, solid axles, and BOF as the manufacturer sees fit), and the tall cars that make more sense for most people. The big Bronco is an SUV, the Bronco Sport is a crossover

    2. I know a lot of companies are actually starting to offer what they call crossovers and also compact SUVs. I think at this point a crossover is more or less the successor to the wagon, where as the compact SUV is the ubiquitous “ctrl-V” Pontiac Vibe

    3. Interesting thing is how “crossover” now has the same pejorative connotation as “station wagon” did when I was a kid.

      Which makes me wonder if in the future, crossovers will be considered the cool thing among the counter-car-culture crowd. Which really makes me wonder what will be so terrible that crossovers are considered cool…I’m assuming it’ll be vehicles that don’t allow you to drive except in emergencies…sigh.

      1. Crossover doesn’t have any negative connotation, loads of single people and childless couples are rushing to buy them and see nothing wrong image-wise. Even when station wagons were the default family car option, people didn’t buy them unless they had a specific family use case for them, you didn’t want to be seen in a wagon unless you really needed a wagon, there’s no such thing going on with crossovers, the sorts of people who would have bought Thunderbirds or Mustangs in the past are buying Escapes and Bronco Sports now.

        If anything, I’d say normal cars – sedans and hatchbacks – and, especially, coupes and convertibles – are the ones that are considered uncool and unfashionable now

  4. The basket-handle effect is indeed cool, but you just know the part across the roof would have been plastic and it would break when someone tried to rest a grand piano on it, or it would have faded to a different color over time. But they could have named the vehicle Futura instead of Escape!

  5. I always really liked that first crop of small crossovers. They were genuinely clever solutions for 99% of people who wanted some level of functionality beyond a car.

    The original escape, especially with a stick and awd, was exceptionally well suited for a slightly more rugged life than a hatchback or wagon could handle. First gen rav-4’s were much the same.

    Hey, we need a holy grail about the first gen rav-4 awd with a stick. With mild upgrades, they can hang with the big boys off road!

    1. Convinced my mom to get a 1st gen RAV4 and that thing was a workhorse for her and all of her grandkids for many years. I drove it 6 hours to/from my daughter’s college a couple of times and it was stable as a rock in the mountains. Stiff suspension made it feel like a truck, but simple Corolla mechanicals made it bulletproof.

  6. That thing is ugly. Very interesting, but ugly.

    There’s no way that would get even 10% of RAV4 or CRV sales.

    There’s a reason that most concept cars don’t go into series production, and this is a prime example.

    1. Mud and rocks, snow. Stuff that sticks to the tires would pack under those fenders. Of-road bikes have lots of clearance between the rubber and the fenders. Now for 98% use case, sure they would work, but with wheel wells they are redundant.

  7. Mazda designed the Tribute, based on 626 platform, and it arrived in 2000.

    Ford Escape borrowed from the Tribute, and arrived to market in 2001…

  8. Back when we were still students, the wife and I bought a pair of high-milage 2005 Ford Escape Hybrids (>300k miles total) for a total of $6k. Most reliable high milage cars we ever owned. So flexible too; at 170-ish inches long they were easy to street-park, and the if you dropped the rear seats you could move some sizable furniture with them. Still miss them sometimes (once we graduated, the wife wanted a newer “trendy” CUV, and I wanted a more efficient PHEV).

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