Refreshed with More Power, Styling & Tech
In Ford’s vehicle lineup, sales of the compact Escape crossover SUV are second only to the mighty F-150 pickup, a testament to the market shift to crossovers from cars. But even those numbers place the 2017 Ford Escape fourth in sales behind the Nissan Rogue, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. (Yes, the Rogue is currently the top selling crossover.)
With the segment expected to continue growing over the next several years, Ford has refreshed the Escape for 2017, aiming to broaden its appeal and perhaps push it upward on the sales chart. The mid-cycle refresh gives the popular Escape styling upgrades, a pair of new EcoBoost four-cylinder engines, a more user-friendly interior plus an updated tech interface that packs plenty of connected punch.
For the 2017 Ford Escape, the company continues with a tiered lineup that includes the base S, better-equipped SE and top-line Titanium. The latter two are available in either front- or all-wheel drive. Also continuing is a rarity in the small crossover segment—three engines: the base naturally aspirated 168-horsepower 2.5-liter four cylinder; a new 179-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four; and the top optional 245-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine using a twin-scroll turbocharger for improved acceleration responsiveness.
Fuel economy ranges from an EPA estimated 21 city/29 highway/24 combined for the base 2.5-liter four two-wheel drive to 20/27/23 for an all-drive 2.0-liter powertrain (the front-wheel drive is 22/29/25). The most popular 1.5-liter engine snags a 22/28/24 rating for all-wheel drive (the front-wheel drive version is 23/30/26).
Crisp Design Outside and In
I’m a big fan of the 2017 Ford Escape’s exterior design. Penned in Europe, the styling is crisp and modern with excellent proportions. If you think it looks more like a sleek station wagon with a slightly elevated ride height, that’s essentially what it is: a five-door, five-passenger utility vehicle based on the Ford Focus compact car.
Replacing the previous model’s trapezoidal designed upper grille with a new prominent hexagonal design for 2017 moves the look closer to the rest of the Ford SUV lineup. Fog lamps are set into their own hexagons occupying the lower corners of the fascia, flanking an air intake that feeds the intercooler on EcoBoost models. Sharp lines, muscled-up wheel arches along with a raked-back and slopping roofline add to the bold, chiseled look. Dressing up the rump are large angular tail lamps, a small spoiler and dual exhaust tips.
Our SE test driver had the optional $1,295 Sport Appearance Package, which added black 19-inch wheels, black-painted exterior trim and LED daytime running lights. This additions grabbed the attention of a half dozen 30-something folks at a shopping center parking lot who were quite impressed with the Escape’s look.
Occupants of the Escape are treated to a nicely designed interior finished with quality upgraded grained plastics and soft tactile surfaces for the dashboard and door panels. The ambience is one of a modern, substantial quality car for everyday family use. An electric parking brake replaces the old hand-lever type, freeing up space for much needed storage, and enabling the gear shifter to be moved rearward for easier access to the climate controls.
Escape has a generous 40 inches of front and rear seat headroom, but may not feel as roomy as other compact crossovers such as the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, so bring the family with you on a test drive. Cargo volume—34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 68.1 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded—is also less generous compared with other offerings. The plus is, flipping the rear seats down is simple via a one-touch lever and the rear seatbacks recline for comfort.
The Escape can easily fit two car seats in its second row and has two complete sets of latch car-seat connectors; bringing a sigh of relief for parents of toddlers. The rear doors open to nearly 90 degrees, allowing placing a wriggling young one in a child seat and getting the straps clicked in without the awkward bend-and-twist motion.
Features and High Tech Galore
Ford is quite generous with the Escape’s standard features. Even the base S model gets keyless entry; MyKey parental controls; power locks, windows and mirrors; tilt/telescoping steering wheel; height-adjustable driver’s seat; cruise control; air conditioning; a 4.2-inch central display; Sync tech interface with AppLink smartphone integration; a rearview camera; a six-speaker sound system with a CD player; a USB/iPod interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
No competitor comes close to matching the 2017 Ford Escape when it comes to technology and connectivity or impressing friends and neighbors with novelties. Escape pulls away from the crowd with the easy-to-use Sync 3 infotainment system that offers crsip graphics and large virtual buttons on an eight-inch touchscreen, and works with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Using Sync Connect, passengers can use portable devices while traveling, the FordPass smartphone app unlocks the Escape or starts it remotely.
Also availble is blind spot warning, lane departure warning and intervention, back up sensors, cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
In the impress-the-friends-and-neighbors- category is the hands-free power liftgate. It allows an owner carrying the keyless-entry fob in a pocket or purse to unlock and open the power rear hatch by simply waving a foot below the rear bumper.
And then there’s Ford’s Active Park Assist. Wow onlookers as the system identifies a suitable parking space, and literally takes control to steer the Escape into it while you simply modulate the brake pedal.
Offered only on the base model S is the conventional 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 168-horsepower engine, available in front-drive only. Most buyers opt for the new EcoBoost 1.5-liter that puts out 179 horsepower and 177 pounds-feet of torque that powers the SE and Titanium models. Optional for both is a new EoBoost 2.0-liter with a twin-scroll turbocharger producing 245 horsepower and 275 pounds-feet of torque. Both new engines are equipped with stop-start technology. All three engines are connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.
EcoBoost is Ford-speak for engines that use a turbocharger for an added “boost” of power. To extract the best fuel economy they incorporate direct fuel injection to optimize combustion, and have variable camshaft timing for intake and exhaust efficiencies.
Escape’s AWD system works via an electronically controlled clutch. Normal operation is front drive, but when a front tire slips, it can move power to the rear wheels 20 times faster than the blink of an eye. Working in concert with Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control, it improves handling on dry pavement, as well as wet, snowy or icy roads.
Our test driver was a well-equipped SE AWD model that included the Sport Appearance Package, the Sync Connect infotainment system, blind spot information, backup sensors and power liftgate. Added to the $28,860 base price, the window sticker price was $31,725 including the $895 destination charge.
I found the ride comfortable even after a few hours behind the wheel, thanks to the supportive cloth and leather seats that are part of the the Sport Appearance Package. I particularly appreciated the adjustable steering column and extensively adjustable driver’s seat, which allowed me to find the right driving position and maximize visibility. Paticularly usefull was the space forward of the cupholders that held my iPhone 6 vertically within easy reach.
If you are like me, and taut, responsive driving is to your liking, you won’t feel shortchanged by the decision to buy a small crossover sport utility. That’s because the 2017
Ford Escape uses the automaker’s “Global C” platform as its basis. It’s the same as the third-generation Focus, which means the mechanicals under the sheetmetal come from one of Europe’s best-handling hatchbacks.
On rural curvy roads, the Escape managed to tread the line between comfort and handling that many small crossovers seem to struggle with. With a suspension tuning that combines quite firm spring and damping rates, there was no nasty crashing or shuddering over rough road surfaces. Steering felt well-engineered and corners could be approached with confidence, and although there was some initial body roll, I never felt like the Escape was unsettled.
It was much the same story around town. The suspension ironed out the worst of urban lumps and dispatched neglected potholes with ease. The Escape was tall enough to give me the SUV’s eye view in traffic, but small enough to park in tight spaces.
There was a polished efficiency to city driving and a decisiveness and willingness to work on freeways and two-lane highways. When I wanted the powertrain to hold a gear, invariably it did so. Consequently, the Escape always felt quick and responsive considering its rather smallish engine.
As for fuel economy, after 222 miles of running around in town and on the freeway, and 40-some miles of frisky driving, the fuel economy readout indicated 29.1 mpg. That’s 1.1 mpg more than the EPA’s estimated 28 mpg highway, which indicates that this model could join Clean Fleet Report’s 30 MPG AWD Club.
Starting at $23,750, plus $895 destination charges, the base S model is competitively priced. The step-up SE is stickered at $26,145 for front-drive, $27,895 for AWD. Again competitive, but start adding those nifty options and it can become an expensive proposition.
Then there’s the flagship Titanium model. Front-drive editions are priced starting at $30,145, AWD at $31,895. There are a host of available options that can push the price close to $40,000.
Yes, there are less expensive compact crossovers, and there are some with more interior room. What you get with the compact 2017 Ford Escape is a crossover SUV that is secure, confidence inspiring and pleasing to hustle along a back road. It also has a sexy appearance, a top-notch interior along with more connectivity and high-tech features than any competitor.
While it is not the leader in fuel economy, it’s not far off and deserves a look for any shopper considering a compact crossover SUV.
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