Updated Ford Escape a refined runner

by Haney Louka . Aug 05 2016

Given the success Ford’s Escape compact crossover has enjoyed, one expects updates to the model will be modest, and that’s exactly what Ford has done for 2017. Year-to-date sales figures put the Escape second only to the Toyota RAV4 in Canada. And yes, that’s ahead of Honda’s CR-V.

There are small but numerous changes aimed at maintaining the Escape’s sales strength in one of the hottest segments of the new-vehicle market. We’ll hand pick a few of the more significant features to talk about here.

The new snout will stand out to anyone familiar with the old trucklet. It has adopted a grille with a strong resemblance to the larger Edge. That in itself doesn’t bother me, but it also happens to resemble a number of models from Audi to Subaru to Hyundai. That trapezoidal grille has permeated too many brands such that it no longer looks distinctive. Handsome? Yes, but not unique.

Next on the list is the Escape’s expanded engine lineup. Base power on front-drive-only models is provided by a carryover 2.5-litre four cylinder that generates 168 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque.

Step up to all-wheel-drivers (optional across the lineup) and the base power is actually provided by a new 1.5-litre engine. It’s of the EcoBoost variety, though, so both power and fuel consumption are improved. At 179 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque over a broader range, this little direct-injected, turbocharged overachiever does nearly 10 per cent better at the pumps. And it achieves these numbers on regular fuel, no less.

But the top of the engine range is characterized by a larger displacement and a twin-scroll turbo: 2.0 litres pumping out 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque, making this the hot rod of the lineup.

SYNC 3 is another new feature seeing increased exposure across Ford’s model range. Standard on Titanium and optional on SE, it represents Ford’s latest effort in infotainment system dominance.

Escape S pricing starts at $25,099 (although it takes a bit of digging on the Ford.ca website to find the actual MSRP), and includes 17-inch wheels, rear-view camera, Ford SYNC, overhead console, multi-function steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, automatic headlights, six-speaker audio, and dual exhaust. Options on the S include dual-zone climate control, the smaller EcoBoost engine, roof rails, and alloy wheels.

Step up to the $27,599 SE and most options on the S are included as standard kit. Plus, there are many more ways to spend more on the options you want. Items such as leather seating, a 110V power point, panoramic sunroof, nine-speaker audio, SYNC 3, navigation, power liftgate, parking sensors, the 2.0 EcoBoost and LED lighting are all optional on the SE.

The range-topping Titanium stickers at $35,899, or $33,799 depending on where you get your information. Most importantly, check the website for current pricing because at the time of this writing, the Titanium can be had for significantly less based on advertised pricing.

As expected, many goodies are included in the Titanium’s price: SYNC 3, 10-speaker Sony audio, power liftgate, leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, adjustable ambient lighting, push-button start, blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alert, and the 2.0 EcoBoost.

Our Titanium tester included the $1,750 technology package, adaptive cruise control, navigation, panoramic roof, and 19-inch wheels for an as-tested price of $42,549 before destination and taxes.

This is serious coin for the category, and has a healthy price overlap with the likes of Ford’s own Edge and the Nissan Murano, both of which are mid-sizers.

The Escape goes about its business in a refined, comfortable manner. Sound quality on direct-injected, turbocharged engines in general is not a strong suit, and this 2.0 EcoBoost is no exception. But people don’t buy compact crossovers for their melodious engine notes. It is, however, quiet and powerful, never seems strained and is well matched to the six-speed automatic. The transmission knows where to be at the right time — a job made easier by the engine’s broad torque curve.

The 2.0 includes an automatic start/stop feature I found to be one of the least intrusive on the market, and appreciated that it kept my city fuel consumption down to the 11L/100 km range, despite heavy stop-and-go traffic. Right in line with published figures.

The Escape is a great size for urban families; with 1,926 litres of cargo volume behind the front seats, it’s right in the thick of the compact crossover class. With the rear seat up, though, it seemed a bit smaller than the 964-litre capacity would suggest. It’s a tall, but not very deep, cargo hold.

And on the twisting two-lane highways of northwestern Ontario, I quickly became a fan of the adaptive cruise control and plentiful power reserves that were available for passing. Slip the transmission into Sport mode and it holds lower gears a little longer to stay at the ready. The wheel-mounted shift paddles provide a way for the driver to stay more involved. I found this useful in those passing scenarios but didn’t see any use for them in general driving situations.

My only quibble is a request for more supportive seats for long drives — I found the seats a bit flat for a day spent on the road.

My observed highway fuel consumption of 8.7 L/100 km was spot-on with the published figures, thanks to speed limits in the 80 and 90 km/h range.

The changes to the 2017 Escape keep it competitive in this popular market segment. Competition is plentiful and stiff, though, so make sure to check out this and others. It’s a great time to be shopping in this category.