A new body and interior may keep the 2008 Ford Escape fresh for a little while longer, but its driving dynamics are stale compared to newer rivals in the small SUV class. Vehicle overview Ever since its introduction seven years ago, the Ford Escape has been a winner for the company and has often ranked as the best-selling compact SUV in America. For 2008, the Escape has received a top-half revamping, meaning the exterior and interior got a complete makeover, while the mechanical components remain mostly unchanged. When it debuted, the Escape was one of those we got it right the first time vehicles. Ford's small car-based SUV was roomy for four, fun to drive (thanks to chassis co-development with Mazda) and peppy (thanks to its sprightly V6). In light of this success and its challenged financial situation, Ford evidently hoped that giving the Escape a tougher look and a nicer cabin for 2008 would be enough to keep the entry-level SUV competitive. With its bolder grill, taller beltline, higher hood and Edge-inspired headlights, the Escape is a handsome little rig. More functional changes were made to the Escape's cabin, including the first use of recycled materials for a vehicle's upholstery, a multifunction display at the top center of the dash and cool blue instrument lighting. To promote a quieter cabin, the Escape features an acoustic laminate within the windshield and new carpeting that's much thicker than before. Unfortunately, we've found that attractive as the 2008 Ford Escape seems initially, it falls down in a few key areas when compared to more modern rivals. The Escape's available 200-horsepower V6, although generally energetic, has its efforts blunted by an aged four-speed automatic transmission. The end result is a double-whammy of merely adequate acceleration (zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds) and mediocre fuel economy. Almost all its competitors now have five- or even six-speed units that do a better job of keeping their engines on their toes while returning higher fuel mileage. The quicker sport-utes in this class dash to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds. A more serious disappointment concerns the Escape's braking. For some reason, Ford fitted the 2008 Escape with rear drum brakes (it formerly had discs all around) and braking performance suffers. Our testing resulted in a best stop from 60 mph taking 154 feet, a decidedly poor showing for an ABS-equipped vehicle. Shoppers in the small SUV segment should know that although the Escape has been a favorite of ours for many years, this year's mostly cosmetic changes aren't enough to keep it in this fast-moving game. In short, Ford's compact SUV has been eclipsed by recently revamped and more competent rivals. Though they cost a little more, you'll probably want to take a look at top vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4 before settling on the 2008 Ford Escape. 2008 Ford Escape models The 2008 Ford Escape is a compact four-door SUV that comes in three trim levels: XLS, XLT and Limited. The XLS comes with air-conditioning, keyless entry, full power accessories, a CD player and an auxiliary input jack. The XLT adds 16-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, automatic headlights, foglights, a power driver seat, upgraded cloth upholstery and cruise control. The top-of-the-line Escape Limited includes color-keyed grille and side mirrors, leather seating and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Options include a moonroof, an upgraded 320-watt audio system with a subwoofer and a DVD-based navigation system. For the Limited only, you can get a chrome accent package as well as a luxury package, which includes heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and reverse parking sensors.