For a performance standpoint, the 2.5L naturally aspirated four cylinder is just adequate. Meaning it's not dangerously under powered, but it's no powerhouse either. It is quiet, smooth, and proving to be fuel efficient. It's also NOT direct injected, which should help avoid the carbon build up on the intake valves so may GDI engines suffer from. My wife never notices the engine being an issue. She just happily drives along oblivious to the fact that she has the "base model" engine. Myself, on the other hand, am a bit of a speed freak and the 2.5L is not winning any races. Just appreciate it for what it is...an old school, tried and true design that's been around in some form for many years. It's a workhorse and has proven reliable. It also has chain driven cams, so no worry about timing belts.
The Escape has a playful character. It rides a bit firm for a vehicle in this class, but having driven the Honda CR-V, which like all Hondas, is the equivalent of riding a dead horse. Very boring and isolated. If you like a little fun feel in your cars, the Escape won't disappoint. The handling is not sport car sharp, but it acquits itself nicely. When driven is the manner in which it is designed, it is above average. Steering is nicely weighted, especially for electronic steering, and feedback is good as well. The ride and handling of the Escape give it a fun to drive factor that is missing in most other CUVs.