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2017 Ford Escape Test Drive Review
The 2017 Ford Escape gets a facelift as well as interior enhancements that make it more functional and more user-friendly. The big news, however, is the two new EcoBoost engines and a significant improvement to safety features and technology.
Crossovers are the "it" car these days, so there’s a lot of competition for a car like the Escape. This didn’t go unnoticed by Ford, so it gave the Escape a significant mid-cycle refresh.
Look and Feel
It starts with a newly sculpted front end that looks good. It’s rugged without looking harsh and fits perfectly with the crossover aesthetic of being part sedan and part SUV.
The Escape isn't striking, but this is a crossover, not a race car. It's the kind of car that needs to get the job done without being outrageous. The Sport Appearance Package, new for this year, definitely gives it a bit of an edge, particularly the black wheels.
The story is the same on the interior. It’s a comfortable, pleasant space, but nothing that will knock your socks off. A redesigned center console offers more space than last year’s model and better access to the USB port. Both that USB port and the power outlet are lighted, which means you won't have to fumble when it’s dark.
The 2017 Escape gets a couple of firsts for Ford, starting with being the company's first vehicle to feature Sync 3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This makes connecting your smartphone seamless and gives the Escape an edge over other crossovers still playing catchup with this technology.
Sync Connect-equipped models also have access to FordPass. This mobile app lets you start, lock, unlock, and locate your vehicle. Once you have the app, you can’t really lock yourself out of your car anymore. It also lets you warm up or cool off the car before you get in, making extreme temperatures easier to bear.
This year a new Sport Appearance Package is available on the SE and Titanium trims. It adds 19-inch Ebony Black premium painted aluminum wheels, gloss black painted upper grille and side vents, and black headlamp and taillamp bezels that give the Escape more presence.
More changes come under the hood with a choice of three engines, the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, a turbocharged 1.5-liter EcoBoost, or a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged EcoBoost. The EcoBoosts both come with standard automatic stop/start technology along with great fuel efficiency and better performance.
You have your choice of three trim levels. The base S starts at $23,600 with the 2.5-liter engine paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It has 168 hp with 170 lb-ft of torque. Included in the S are an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with 6 speakers and Sync enhanced voice recognition. It also has cloth seats that split-fold 60/40 in back and a 6-way manually adjustable driver’s seat.
Front-wheel drive is also standard for the S, along with traction control, 4-wheel antilock brakes, and brake assist. Additional safety features include a rear-view camera, torque vectoring control, roll stability control, and remote keyless entry.
Move up to the SE at $25,100 and you’ll get more standard features and a greater number of optional features and packages. The 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine with 179 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque is standard, while the 2.0-liter with 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque is optional. The SE also gets dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support, and fog lamps that add safety and a bit more style.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters and SiriusXM satellite radio are standard, while a 9-speaker audio system and Sync 3 are available as optional features. There’s also an optional hands-free power liftgate and optional 4-wheel drive for those who plan to tackle messy roads.
Sitting at the top of the Escape lineup at $29,100 is the Titanium. It also uses the 1.5-liter EcoBoost as the standard engine and offers the 2.0-liter as an option. The Titanium includes bi-xenon HID headlights, a hands-free, foot-activated liftgate, and 18-inch wheels.
Sync 3 and Sync Connect are standard, along with a 10-speaker Sony audio system, leather-trimmed seats, and ambient lighting. Safety features play a big part in the Titanium upgrades with available forward and standard reverse sensing and an optional blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping alert, and lane-keeping aid.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine gives the Escape 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot of power, and it makes for a responsive drive. You won’t be disappointed when you press on the gas, and you might just be surprised at how quickly this crossover moves.
That extra power doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice all your fuel economy. EPA fuel estimates of 20 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined for the 4-wheel-drive variant make the Escape affordable to drive even when gas prices rise. It doesn't have the best fuel economy you can get in a crossover, but the Escape offers strong performance that makes it a decent tradeoff.
It’s truly fun to drive, something that can’t be said of many crossovers, and it feels more like driving a sedan than an SUV. The Escape handles well with minimal nosedive and solid braking. Road noise is also kept at bay to create a quiet and relaxing cabin for passengers.
The Escape is a crossover, so don’t go in expecting a sports car, but don’t go in expecting it to be a snoozefest, either. The transmission shifts smoothly and takes full advantage of the engine’s power, so it’s as quick off the line as it is at highway speeds.
Highway driving is where the Escape excels. Its smooth, well-mannered ride make it easy on the driver, and its quiet cabin means you won’t have a hard time communicating with back-seat passengers. Whether it’s a short drive across town or a road trip across several states, the Escape is a nice way to make the trip.
Form and Function
The whole point of buying a crossover is to combine the utility of an SUV with the comfort of a sedan. The Escape pulls off the trick with a sporty drive, smooth ride, and plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
Front seats are roomy and supportive, and the second row is equally comfortable. That middle seat is a bit stiff, but nothing that won’t work for shorter drives. The rear seats split-fold 60/40 for loading longer cargo, with 34 cubic feet behind the second row and 68 cubic feet behind the first row. There’s also between 1,500 and 3,500 pounds of towing capacity available.
It’s easy to flip the second row down with a lever by the seat cushion, and the back seats are not heavy and awkward when it comes time to flip them back up for passengers. In many vehicles, the headrests get in the way when you try to flip down the rear seats, especially if the front seats are pushed too far back. This leaves you having to push the seats back up to remove the headrests and stow them on the floor.
The Escape avoids this scenario with a button on the side of each headrest that folds it down so it won’t get in the way. It’s a small detail, but one that will prevent frustration and make your life a lot easier.
Up front there’s lots of storage in the center console that makes it easy to stash your stuff. Controls are nicely organized with buttons that are easy to reach for the driver and a passenger.
Although functional and comfortable, the Escape falls short in interior quality. There is too much plastic, especially on the dashboard. It gives the car a cheap feel that doesn’t match the more upscale look of its exterior.
This year’s Escape features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with the Sync 3 infotainment system. It lets the car’s in-dash screen mimic what you see on your phone so it’s easier to use and less distracting. The initial pairing is simple, and it takes no time to master.
The base infotainment system includes Sync with AM/FM/CD/MP3 capability and 6 speakers, and it's the only option in the S. The Sync system is somewhat frustrating and a big drawback if you’re looking at the base Escape.
The SE offers an optional 9-speaker system and adds SiriusXM satellite radio with a 6-month trial. A voice-activated touchscreen navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link are optional, as are Sync 3 and Sync Connect. The Titanium comes with a 10-speaker Sony audio system and both Sync 3 and Sync Connect as standard features.
The Sync 3 system is much easier to use than previous versions, with new software, new hardware, and a simplified screen layout. Large icons quickly take you where you want to go, and the ability to swipe and pinch just like you do on your smartphone makes it intuitive to use. The screen is large and easy to see, but it’s awkwardly recessed, which makes it difficult to reach.
Sync Connect adds another layer of connectivity that works in conjunction with FordPass. It lets you track your car and access your vehicle remotely through your smartphone. You can unlock, lock, remote start, and even check your fuel levels and schedule maintenance. It’s a new service, and when you read the fine print, you’ll see it’s free for the first 5 years, but Ford provides no details as to how things will work once that initial time period ends.
There are plenty of ways to charge your devices. Up front there are two USB ports and two 12-volt outlets. The rear of the center console has a 110-volt outlet, and the cargo area has another 12-volt outlet. Whatever you need to power, the Escape has you covered.
The 2017 Escape has been crash-tested by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it received solid marks from both organizations. It was rated the maximum of 5 stars by NHTSA in all but the rollover test, in which it received a 4-star rating.
It received top scores from the IIHS with its highest rating of Good in all crash-test categories except for small overlap front, which received a one-step-lower Acceptable rating. They gave the headlights an Acceptable rating and the LATCH system a Marginal rating due to difficulties in finding the latches and easily securing car seats in place.
Those strong ratings are backed up by a suite of safety systems that includes a standard rear-view camera, multiple airbags, brake assist, traction control, 4-wheel antilock brakes, and mirrors with blind-spot integration.
Crossovers are taller than sedans and can feel unwieldy at high speeds or when making quick, sharp maneuvers, but the Escape handles nicely in those circumstances. Its drive is more reminiscent of a sedan and keeps the driver confidently in control at all times.
Optional safety features like bi-xenon HID headlights, lane-keeping alert, lane-keeping aid, and driver alert aid add the latest in safety technology to your Escape. There’s also adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, and optional 4-wheel drive for making poor road conditions easier to manage.
Fuel-economy ratings for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine are 20 mpg city/27 highway/23 combined in 4-wheel-drive versions. We averaged 24.5 mpg, coming out slightly ahead of the EPA ratings. That’s impressive considering our drive time skewed more toward city driving and generally included at least three passengers.
Overall, the Ford Escape is a good value with a very reasonable starting price of $23,600 for the base trim. Even the top Titanium comes in at $29,100, keeping things nicely under that scary $30,000 mark. The challenge comes when you start adding options.
The best-performing 2.0-liter EcoBoost is a $1,295 option, and adding the Titanium Technology Package adds another $1,995 to the price. Equip it with all the optional safety and comfort features, and the price on the Escape can hit $40,000 pretty quickly, which suddenly makes competitive models look appealing.
Ford covers the Escape with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and 5 years/60,000 miles of roadside assistance.
The Ford Escape offers a good combination of the latest technology, advanced safety features, and good fuel economy. Add attractive styling and a comfortable interior, and the Escape continues to be a competitive choice in the crowded crossover market.
Nicole Wakelin's passion for cars started on the day she went for a ride in a bright red Ferrari as a teenager. She writes reviews and covers everything cars for CarGurus, The Boston Globe, BestRide, and Be Car Chic and blogs all things geek over at TotalFanGirl.
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2017 Ford Escape Top Comparisons
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