Ford Escort 1997 review

A pretty face may or may not have launched a thousand ships, but it'll sure 'nuff sell a bunch of cars.

That's an ancient and well-documented fact of the car biz.

And that's just what Ford has created with its ZX2, the coupe version of the Escort, which will be available for sale April 17.

Previewed in two days of touring a variety of mountain byways near Phoenix, Ariz., the ZX2 is pretty and distinctive enough to attract attention in traffic, something that's not true of its more sedate sedan and wagon counterparts from the Escort lineup.

And even though its all-around performance isn't quite as tigerish as that zoomy exterior may suggest, it's a distinct cut above the other Escorts, thanks to an extra helping of horsepower.

The ZX2 is available essentially as a single model, with a so-called sport-model option, and it uses the engine supplied with standard editions of the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique: Ford Motor Co.'s 130-hp, 2.0-liter, twin cam, 16-valve, Zetec four-cylinder.

That's 20 hp more than the Escort sedan and wagon, and it's exclusive to the coupe.

Exclusive-to-the-coupe also applies to the ZX2's body panels.

Although it shares the same front-drive chassis as the other Escorts, no portion of the ZX2's skin is interchangeable with the sedan or wagon.

Still another element of exclusivity is where you can buy this coupe. A Mercury Tracer version was part of the original planning, but it died before it got beyond the computer screen.

I refer to the sport model as "so-called" because it's basically an appearance option, adding a handsome set of 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a rear decklid spoiler and various trim items to the standard ZX2.

The suspension tuning is identical between the base and sport editions, and the only functional difference is a slightly more aggressive set of tires: 60-series versus 65.

That slight reduction in profile might lend a tiny improvement in cornering capability, but you'd need a test track and onboard telemetry to quantify the distinctions.

A similar package is available for the Escort sedan.

However, even though the ZX2 employs the same basic suspension as the sedans and wagons, it's been retuned for a slightly firmer feel and sportier responses.

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