I just have to chime in, as the Escape was one of the vehicles I was considering last year for my first vehicle buy. And I'm TOTALLY pleased that I didn't go with it!
I will say right off, that I haven't driven an Escape, and the closest thing would be a 98 Expedition. Not a good comparison, but I will use it anyway. And I have no experience with a vehicle newer then 2000. However, I did learn a few things about the Escape that you might consider.
#1. I found it interesting, out of all the SUVs I considered, the Escape was the only one that clearly said it was intended for ON road driving only. Saying that most people stuck to the main roads anyway, which is why they didn't design it to do anything better.
#2. It had lower fuel efficiency by quite a bit. Here's a good site to compare MPG side by side, and sometimes you can see what other people with the same vehicle are getting: Side-by-Side Comparison
#3. Mechanical design. Let me explain: If you plan on working on your vehicle then consider where things are located and if there is room to get access. I'm still learning in this area, but so far everything I've done on my RAV has been easy to access and take apart. The Expedition, what a nightmare!! Even though the Expedition is huge, and has plenty of initial room for everything, it is crammed packed tight. With what?! It just seems to be the way they designed it. It has the same main components, but it's not placed or shaped for easy access and repair. The simple project of adding an amp and subs took me weeks to complete with lots of vocal help from others. The RAV, one afternoon. I've taken all of the interior out in the RAV to do a different project and it was so simple. I wouldn't consider doing that with the Expedition. No way!!
Ford is okay, but they just didn't design things right. Oh, one quick note on that: I looked under the hood of our neighbor's Tundra. It's a V8 just like the Expedition, and it's hood area is not as deep from front to back as the Expedition. Didn't matter, it had at least 6" all the way around the engine for access, firewall accessible, and none of the engine was tucked under anything. (My mom had to pay $1,800 for a repair that was towards the back of the engine. Had to take the whole thing out, thus $1,800!!
) All of the other components in the Tundra were accessible too. Anyway, my point includes repairs done by a shop as well. If it takes them more time, it will costs you more.
I've had my RAV for 10 months now. Driving up our 2.5 mile, steep, rough, logging road driveway. 60 mile round trip to town, already put 13,000 miles on it (and trying not to drive it much for cost). I was so excited when I started noticing a power steering leak a month ago! FINALLY something to fix!!!
Nothing else has been a problem all this time. Such a disappointment for someone learning mechanics.
I encourage you to go with the RAV4, but if you're happy in the end, that's all that matters!! Let us know what you decide regardless.
Note: Subaru Forester is a better choice over the Escape in my opinion. Still glad I didn't get one of those however!! The RAV beats them all!!!!