The Ford Escape, unlike most compact crossovers, is more like a tall wagon with rakish styling and sporty handling. Competitors include the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, but the Escape offers the most responsive steering, crispest handling, and best body control (the CX-5 is a close second). The Escape also has the firmest ride; you don’t get that sporty handling for nothing.
The 2017 Ford Escape gets freshened for the model year. Revised styling in front gives it the striking family looks Ford recently copied from Aston Martin. That small styling revolution for Ford goes back to the 2013 Ford Fusion, but it isn’t dated yet. In fact, it might never be; the Aston grille shape goes back 50 years.
There are two new engines, a 1.5-liter replacing a 1.6, and a new version of the 2.0-liter. The new engines don’t make much more horsepower than before, now 179 hp for the 1.5-liter, and 245 hp for the 2.0 liter, but they are more efficient than before. There is also a 2.5-liter making 168 horsepower, which only comes with front-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive is available with the 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter engines.
There are new available infotainment and safety features for 2017 Ford Escape models. Ford’s Sync Connect now enables remote access to the car’s functions via smartphone. New safety systems for 2017 Escape include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with braking, lane keeping, active park assist that can steer the car into a parking space. A warning on the dash goes off if the car senses the driver is tired. Blind-spot monitoring continues to be available.
The 2016 Escape only received four stars overall for crashworthiness from the federal NHTSA, and a lowly Poor rating from the insurance industry’s IIHS in the small overlap front test (hitting a telephone pole or edge of a wall).
Fuel mileage is decent but not a reason to buy the car. The three engines get about the same: the 1.5-liter is EPA-rated at 26 miles per gallon Combined, the 2.0-liter at 25 mpg, and the 2.5-liter at 24 mpg. If a purchase were measured on this just this basis, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost is the clear winner for us because it offers so much more power.
The 2017 Ford Escape comes in Escape S ($23,600), Escape SE ($25,100), and Escape Titanium ($26,850) models. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is available for Escape SE ($29,000) and Escape Titanium ($30,850). (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
Available features include Sync 3 infotainment, navigation, HD and satellite radio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, push-button start, tow package, panoramic sunroof.
The Escape is a few inches shorter than the Honda CR-V, but its wheelbase is nearly three inches longer, so there is less overhang past the axles on the Ford, a good thing.
Escape’s styling is clean, crisp and stylish. Its pert sheet metal makes you think it’s a crossover aiming to steal away the Outback market of outdoorsy milennials. It’s direct, modern.
The dynamic cockpit is bold, contoured, and heavily styled. It’s swoopy and finely detailed, yet plasticky. It makes other compact crossovers boring. It’s not very airy inside, the price of a rakish design. The swoopy dash that wraps around the front occupants takes away some knee and legroom, yet the Escape still offers nearly two inches more than the Honda CR-V. Thick A-pillars steal some forward visibility.
The front seats are slim and firm. The electronic parking brake, small as a button, frees up center console space. There’s a horizontal vent under the LCD screen that does a good job of heating and cooling the climate controls and kneecaps. There’s a CD player on the center stack.
Even though it’s not very airy inside, considering the sleek exterior, there’s a generous amount of interior space. There’s plenty of headroom in the rear, as long as there’s no panoramic sunroof (which would make it more airy). In back, even though the Escape is called a five-seater, realistically there’s just enough space for two adults, with one inch less legroom than the CR-V.
But when they’re not there, the seatbacks and headrests flip down easily, creating 68 cubic feet of cargo space. The rear hatch can be opened by swinging a foot under the bumper, with the fob in your pocket or purse.
We like the Escape’s optional two-position load floor, flat or max storage, with an enclosed big square cargo bin that holds 34 cubic feet. Still, the CR-V makes better use of its cargo space.
We think the CR-V beats the Escape for everyday use. The front seats are more comfortable, and there’s more kneeroom.
The standard Escape engine is the 2.5-liter making 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It’s not as modern as the others, and a bit boring, but it’s smooth and competent. It offers enough power for most needs, but it does not produce quick acceleration. It the least expensive engine, with nearly the same horsepower and acceleration as the new 1.5-liter, although it’s not as torquey as the 1.5. Fuel mileage from the 2.5-liter is about two miles per gallon poorer than that of the 1.5-liter.
The new 1.5-liter engine makes 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Thanks to the torque, there is much kicking-down of the transmission with this engine, as there is with the base 2.5-liter. It lets out booming sounds during hard acceleration, deceiving because it’s not at all quick. Still on par with the competition, though.
If you need speed, your only call is the new EcoBoost 2.0-liter turbo, making 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet or torque, and zooming to sixty miles per hour in less than seven seconds. At the option price of $1300, it’s a steal. It separates the Escape from almost every other crossover in its class.
The standard 6-speed automatic works just fine, a good match for the EcoBoost engines, with programmed shift points at a good mix of acceleration and fuel mileage. The 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter get paddle shifters, while the 2.5 has lame sport mode, and a switch on the lever to change gears.
All-wheel drive moves power from the front to rear wheels, up to 100 percent in either direction, where ever the traction is needed.
The Escape does not handle like an SUV, it handles like a sharp and engaging liftback, albeit a high one. Crisp steering, responsive handling, great body control. The steering is crisp, weighty and fast, while being not too overly blessed with feedback. Forget truck-like.
The ride is tightly damped, and sometimes can feel too tautly spring; with the 19-inch wheels as on the Titanium, it can feel harsh. The smaller-diameter wheels offer a smoother ride.
There’s electronic torque vectoring to help with the cornering; maybe that’s why we love it. It pinches the inside front brake in a corner, to help the car rotate.
The 2017 Escape isn’t perfect, but it’s got a lot going for it. There’s not much you don’t get, except dealbreakers. The 2.0 EcoBoost motor seems like the one to buy. Plastic trim drags down the cabin.