2015 Ford Escape Test Drive Review

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Trims

S
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Starting At: $15,759
SE
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Starting At: $16,975
SE 4WD
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Starting At: $17,975
Titanium
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Starting At: $24,025
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Starting At: $24,140

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2015 Ford Escape Test Drive Review

Look and Feel 7
Performance 9
Form and Function 7
Technology 8
Safety 8
Cost-Effectiveness 7
7.7 Overall Score

The 2015 Ford Escape remains a friendly, approachable family crossover that consumes fuel politely, but it can also be loaded up with luxury and technology and drives like a million bucks.

The Ford Escape started life as a boxy, earnest little compact crossover. Its market niche grew up around it, and so the Escape has become stylish and refined. Crossover vehicles are the hottest segment on the face of the earth. People love them because they’re car-based and car-like, while also offering the virtues that made SUVs popular: extra ride height, handy liftgates, and superior cargo space versus a sedan with a trunk. These are cars for people with lives, and they don’t get in the way of letting you live them.

Look and Feel

7

Out of 10

The Escape, now in its third generation, is slickly styled. Earlier models were boxy with a character that leaned toward utility. Ford has taken the Escape upscale. More modern looks move the Escape away from being a truck substitute. There’s a lot more sculpting going on with two deep character lines in the bodysides and bold wheel arches. It’s clearly a member of the same vehicular family that claims the Focus, Fusion, and Fiesta.

The 2015 Escape looks smaller than the earlier models, yet it rides on a wheelbase that’s 2 inches longer, and it's also 4 inches longer overall and 1 inch wider. It feels smaller in part because the roofline curves down deeply toward the rear of the car. The interior feels more intimate because of a higher beltline and more cockpit-like layout. The numbers show a slight reduction in space; passenger volume is down from 100 cubic feet to 98 cubic feet, though total cargo area is up to 67.8 cubic feet from 67.2.

The 2015 Ford Escape has three trim levels: S, SE, and Titanium. Base prices start at $22,960 and top out at $29,245. The Escape S has a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder mated to  a 6-speed automatic transmission, while the SE and Titanium trims carry the 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder standard. A larger 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is optionally available for the Escape SE and Titanium. As you climb the trims, the standard equipment increases, from manual cloth seats and air conditioning, a 6-speaker audio system, and a manual liftgate to full leather-trimmed seats with heated, power-adjustable front buckets and a liftgate that opens with a wiggle of a foot under the rear bumper.

Performance

9

Out of 10

The EcoBoost engine family makes use of turbocharging and direct injection to deliver big power from small packages. The Escape can be equipped with one of three engines; a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder that develops 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, a 1.6-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder that brings 178 hp and 184 hp to play, and a 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4 that puts up a big 240 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. The Escape SE I drove carried the 2.0-liter EcoBoost. It’s a powerful engine that gives up nothing to any V6. Both EcoBoost engines deliver their power over a wide range of engine speeds, mimicking a much larger engine. Despite the high compression and turbocharging, all Escapes require only regular fuel.

Fuel economy came in around 23.5 mpg combined, which lines up directly with what the window sticker says. The EPA estimates the Escape with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine and all-wheel drive (AWD) is good for 21 mpg city, 28 highway. One caution: The more you dip into the power, the thirstier the Escape is. It's not hard to dip mileage into the teens.

Pick any trim above a front-wheel-drive (FWD) Escape S and you’ll get one of the EcoBoost engines. The transmission is a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive is standard, with AWD available as an option. The transmission allows manual gear selection with buttons on the side of the shifter and jumps for the highest gear possible when left in Drive. It’s a strategy that helps fuel economy, but dropping the selector into “S” (sport) mode perks the Escape up and makes it more satisfying to drive. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost comes on strong, with big torque. It never feels underpowered, but that can goad you into using more power than you actually need, dinging fuel efficiency.  

The suspension of the Escape can keep up with the big EcoBoost's power, too. This is a vehicle that feels very solid on the road and won’t whimper when you hit a curve at 10 mph too fast. Brakes are firm and predictable, the steering is as direct and precise as you’d want in this kind of car, and the ride is tightly controlled. While the Escape is not the sports car of its segment—that crown goes to the Mazda CX-5—it is exceptionally stable and confident. The way the Escape goes down the road feels expensive, the way you’d expect an Audi or BMW crossover to drive.

Form and Function

7

Out of 10

The Escape hits the high points with comfortable seats, a decent amount of cargo space, and a rear seat that fits people comfortably. In terms of head- and legroom, the Escape measures up well against the Honda CR-V, a long-time favorite of buyers. The Escape does offer less room behind the rear seats than the Honda, but it still does better than many other vehicles in the class.

The cabin of the Escape is quiet, creating a hushed atmosphere at most speeds. The design of the dashboard is busy and modern, with lots of angles and layers. The materials are a mix of nice and acceptable. The leather seats, steering wheel, and shifter are all in the nice category, while you’ll find harder plastics and less luxurious materials in the areas you don’t interact with as much, like the lower parts of the door panels and in the cargo area. Interior color schemes are limited to black or gray, in cloth, partial leather, or leather, depending on the trim level you select. The selection is very limited, and that might be disappointing if you like to play interior decorator with your vehicle.

Some of the controls are strangely located, like the Start button that is blocked by the steering-wheel spokes, and there’s a bunch of small buttons in front of the shifter to control the heat and air conditioning. Those buttons can be a distraction until you become familiar with them, and the Escape I drove also had a lot of extra buttons on the steering wheel itself. Each upper steering-wheel spoke gets a multi-directional control to select the information you’re shown and control other functions, and there are still more controls on the left side of the steering wheel. MyFordTouch takes some getting used to as well, so expect a learning curve. Once you’re an expert with the controls, everything works pretty well, but it may be a confusing month or two to get there.

Tech Level

8

Out of 10

Ford has hung its hat on delivering a lot of technology in all its vehicles, and the Escape is no different. It may be a simple feature, but the foot-activated tailgate is thoughtful and will see a lot of use. MyFordTouch divides the central display screen into quadrants and makes it easy to find information about entertainment, vehicle controls, communication, and navigation. It also incorporates Sync for hands-free voice-activated control of many parameters. An available 390-watt Sony audio system sounds impressive and integrates with sources via Bluetooth, USB, or an auxiliary input, in addition to offering HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite functionality.

The Escape supports drivers with technology as well. Active Park Assist helps you parallel park. It will scan for available spaces, alert the driver when one is found, and then help steer the vehicle into the spot. Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alerts is another key piece of safety technology, and Curve Control actually slows you down when the AdvanceTrac stability control system detects you’re overdoing it in a curve.

About the only thing the Escape doesn’t yet offer is Internet connectivity. With the easily updated MyFordTouch system, future upgrades and features can be implemented with a new software version, so buying the tech today doesn’t mean it’s obsolete tomorrow. That’s a win for the buyer.

Safety

8

Out of 10

In terms of safety, the Escape’s easy-to-maneuver size and sharp reflexes are a plus when you need to make decisive moves out on the road. In NHTSA crash tests, the Escape has earned a 4-star overall rating. The Escape does earn 5 stars for side crash protection from NHTSA, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Escape its highest Good ratings for almost all categories. However, in the new small overlap frontal collision test, a very difficult assessment of a vehicle’s ability to protect occupants when only a part of the crash structure is engaged, the Escape is given a Poor rating, the lowest result.

Because it’s a new test, it’s going to take automakers a while to start acing the small overlap, and the Escape’s otherwise high marks mean that it’s a pretty safe vehicle overall. The active safety technology like electronic stability control, a rear-view camera, and blind-spot monitoring enhance its safety quotient, too.

Cost-Effectiveness

7

Out of 10

Over the years, the Escape has grown from a trucklet into a seriously nice family crossover. That means it can be loaded up with luxury and tech if you want it. A heavily equipped Escape can balloon in price to just under $40,000 when you add all the goodies like the panoramic roof, trailer towing package, and upgraded paint and wheels to a 4-wheel-drive Escape Titanium.

Go all the way, and it gets a little pricey. On the other hand, you can enjoy a lot of virtue for right around $30,000, too. The Escape covers the wide midsection of vehicle pricing, so you’re likely to find one that fits your needs and budget. Consumer ratings firms give the Escape good marks in initial quality and overall performance and design, though the MyFordTouch system can cause some frustration and confusion at first.

Ford offers some unique features with the Escape, and other similar vehicles lead the segment for less money. The Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are both serious competition for the Escape, and neither can be priced as high as the Escape reaches.  The Escape offers a solid, responsive driving experience and more comfort and luxury than you’ll be able to find in the sales leaders.

The 2015 Ford Escape has come a long way from its roots without forgetting where it  came from. It’s still a friendly, approachable family crossover that fits in the garage and consumes fuel politely. The Escape can also be loaded up with luxury and technology, and every Escape drives like a million bucks without emptying your wallet.

Updated

Dan Roth is a Boston-based automotive journalist who’s been writing about cars for a decade. A parallel career as a video producer and creative professional helped open the door to car writing in 2006, when he started working with Autoblog on its long-running podcast and producing videos. Dan has been fascinated with cars his whole life, leading to a large collection of tools, a driveway that houses a broken Volvo, and many sketchbooks filled with designs for his own cars that will never get built.

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