If this year's Los Angeles Auto Show was all about sedans and SUVs, then the most important among them may have been the all-new 2013 Ford Escape.
The longer, lower, sleeker, and more feature-packed compact crossover replaces a model that's now a decade old--and still one of the best-selling in its segment.
Competing with an all-new 2012 Honda CR-V (also revealed at the show) and the current Toyota RAV4, the 2013 Escape may startle customers used to the upright, slab-sided, truck-like demeanor of the outgoing 2012 model.
They'll also look in vain for the well-established Escape Hybrid model, which has been dropped from the lineup altogether for a range of more efficient four-cylinder gasoline engines, with no V-6 on offer. (If you want an Escape Hybrid, buy one now.)
The fours are a carryover 2.5-liter used only in a low-volume base Escape S price leader, plus a pair of EcoBoost offerings: a 1.6-liter developing 173 horsepower, and a brawny 237-hp 2.0-liter that provides all the torque and trailer towing capability (up to 3,500 pounds) of the old V-6.
The load bay is longer and larger in the new model, with a lower lift-over height, and the optional hands-free power tailgate will likely appeal to families with kids.
Even with both arms full of kids, groceries, or packages, a driver with the key fob in her pocket can wave her foot under the center of the bumper to get the gate to open. It'll wait to let her step back, then raise to a height that can be set for shorter or taller drivers.
Other features include the latest revision of the MyFordTouch voice and touch-screen system for controlling audio, mobile phones, navigation, and certain vehicle functions.
Ford hasn't yet released full model details, pricing, or EPA gas mileage ratings, which will come in a few months. The 2013 Ford Escape will go on sale next spring.
For the rest our 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show coverage, click here.