I reviewed & shopped Mazda/Toyota/Ford/Jeep/Subaru with a criteria list that had to be met:
- 2005 to 2010 models
- Under $8000
- SUV with AWD or 4x4
- V6 engine
- Automatic transmission
- NO salvage/accidents
- No salt/rust belt transplants
Found 2005 Ford Escape XLT V6 AWD in very good mechanical & body shape for a resonable price and did the deal in under two hours. First Ford I've ever owned and am liking this older Escape more as I spend time driving it. The boxier exterior is more my style than the newer 2010+ models that are beginning to look like they were designed for roads in Europe.
Interior is roomy and simply laid out with all gauges & controls w/in easy visual scan and reach. Front seats are firm yet comfortable for the two hour long trips I made on the highways. Rear seats have good leg & headroom w/out blocking driver's rearward & side vision; the rear seats fold down easily to provide a generous amount of space in the cargo area. No side air curtains/rollover protection on this truck. :(
V6 engine is always a plus for me but the 4-spd auto transmission could be better but shifting gears is not overly harsh. Current average MPG for combined city/hwy driving is 19/22 but I do get on the skinny pedal! It'll take awhile for the PCM to learn my driving habits and adjust so YMMV.
The automatic AWD has yet to be tested but I do realize it's not a true 4x4 vehicle so I'll try to keep it real when taking the unpaved paths. The ground clearance is not too extreme nor too timid so I have no qualms taking this over curbs and down trails.
Will update this review in time as DD experience increases as well as the maintenance & repair log builds.