I've been reading a few threads on ESCAPE-CITY about Ford Escapes. I came across numerous mentions that the cabin air filter is not installed at the factory, so I investigated it on my brand new 2011 Escape. They are right, its not there, but it will be.
The following picture is the engine bay of a 2011 FORD Escape XLT 2.5cc . The cabin air filter location is on the extereme left of this picture upnear where the hood hinges from the body. The passenger side.
You have to remove 8 plastic screws from the cowl, which is one piece from the driver to passenger side. Then lift up the cowl, which will reveal another hatch that you must lift up to gain access to the cabin air filter placement box.
Placement of the Cabin Air Filter: Auto Zone #CAF1844P (made in China) $22.00. Filter to me does not really "fit" in well, that could be because I told the salesperson I had a 2010 Ford Escape 2.5 engine and there may have been a design change from 2010 to 2011. The cage for the filter seems flimsy and looks like chicken wire wrapped around a box. You can see the top and bottom tabs (4) that hold the cabin air filter hatch in place.
On the last picture, you'll notice two tabs just in front of the filter. Those are the tabs that keep the hatch for the cabin air filter closed. You have to pull towards the engine to "disengage" them. You'll have to be aggressive to get them to open and the whole tray will move like its going to break, but doesn't.