Ford's punky Escape finds itself in the right place at the right time.
Sales of compact crossovers continue surging, topping 3 million units the past couple of years. On sale since 2001, Escape qualifies as a 'senior member' of this burgeoning cute ute segment.
In 2016, Escape sales registered a robust 307,069 units, up a nudge from a year earlier and establishing itself as one of the best-selling Blue Oval vehicles. Only Ford's run-away sales champ, the F-150 light duty pickup sold more units within the Ford Family.
Three returning trims for 2017 include S, SE, and Titanium. Front-wheel drive comes standard while four-wheel drive (able to transfer 100 percent of torque from the front to rear axle) is optional in SE and Titanium. All three undergo a mid-cycle update in the season of '17.
Three four-cylinder engine opportunities await potential buyers, an impressive selection as most rivals utilize one or maybe two.
Base S trims include a returning naturally aspirated 2.5-liter generating 168 horses. The SE and Titanium upgrade to a newly available 1.5-liter Ecoboost engine with 179 horses as standard fare while an optional 2.0-liter twin scroll Ecoboost delivers 245 horses. A six-speed automatic transmission connects with all three engines.
Ecoboost is the Blue Oval's marketing mantra for a multitude of family engines (four, six and eight cylinders) combining direct fuel injection ('Eco') with tweaked up turbo charging ('Boost').
Turbochargers run off of recycled exhaust gases spinning a pinwheel-inspired turbine to pump concentrated air into the engine. Turbocharging increases horsepower output without adding undue weight, and promising enhanced fuel economy.
Both SE and Titanium now include start-stop technology, also intended to stretch fuel numbers by temporarily quieting the engine during prolonged stops, such as a red traffic light when engaging the brake. The engine restarts within a half second after lifting off the pedal. Escape's version remains substantially subtler and more seamless than recently tested vehicles with higher luxury price tags.
Once privy to gas-electric hybrid vehicles, start-stop technology is estimated to boost around-town fuel economy by as much as six percent. Eventually, 70 percent of Ford vehicles will incorporate this technology. Currently, no gas-electric hybrid Escape opportunity exists, but Ford markets mid-size C-Max crossovers with varying degrees of alternative-power options.
Other higher-tech, radar-enhanced features once reserved for the luxury set and now optional in Escape include adaptive cruise control (automatically acceleration and decelerating highway speeds depending upon distance from the vehicle ahead), lane keep assist and active park assist, helping parallel-parking-averted drivers with the chore.
Starting price for an S grade checks in at $23,750. Our nicely loaded front-drive Titanium with standard 1.5-liter four-cylinder sported a $29,100 starting point ending at $34,875 with a $895 destination charge and $4,880 worth of options. Extras include a $1,495 panoramic sun roof, $595 radar cruise control, $795 navigation system and $1,995 technology package (lane departure and blind spot warning, active park assist).
The gas tank features a cap less lead. When refueling, the long nozzle nose breaks through a thin tin-like barrier. With complete, the plate self-seals, eliminating the need to twist or misplace a plastic cap.
Traveling Chicago roadways, engine noise gets muted in impressive fashion, a highlight Escape has made great strides with thanks to laminated glass and extra door insulation. Handling is firm, yet responsive for most consumer tastes.
The base S trim's hexagonal front grille opts for black horizontal bars with other trims enjoying a chrome finish. All employ Ford's familiar Blue Oval logo front and center. Narrow headlight and tail light housings with LED signature lighting wrap extensively to respective fenders. Circular wheel wheels accented with gentle flaring include a hard polymer composite helping reduce ding damage. Dual exhausts adorn Titanium trims. Escape bears a family resemblance to the larger (Chicago-built) Ford Explorer crossover.
Inside, the push-button electronic start is askew, facing the driver in a cock-pit like position rather than flat on the lower dashboard, nicely circumventing steering wheel blockage.
The easily-understandable, edgy instrument panel includes deep set analog circles. Small analogue fuel and temperature gauges reside between along the bottom. Above these gauges, a multi-panel digital message window controlled via steering wheel buttons.
As with many Ford products, front windshield wipers swipe outside inward, rather than moving in tandem side by side, covering a greater percentage of the glass. The long and gently sloping windshield provides for a very deep extending dashboard top.
The top region of the center dash is occupied by an eight-inch touch screen and Fords updated SYNC 3 interface, which Ford began rolling out in 2016. The first generation of Ford's SYNC arrived in 2008. SYNC3 combines portable phone, navigation, sound system and graphics into a simplified platform. SYNC 3 also links up and interacts with Apple Car Play (for Apple iPhones) and Android Auto (for Google-centric electronics).
This system remains miles ahead of the much maligned and now retired 'MyFordTouch' (2010-2015)interface with its slow response time, often frozen screens and complicated user experience only a diabolical techie could praise. SYNC3 screen buttons remain large, well-marked and relatively intuitive. Pinch-and-zoom functioning allow a quick size-increase of navigation maps. Jetting out at the screen's bottom is a ledge with circle pad monitoring audio functions not serviced via the touch screen. The hazard button shares shelf space as well.
Ventilation system operation is separate from the color multi-function touch screen with smallish push buttons for controlling fan speed and mode/direction. Titanium featured two dials monitoring dual front temperature zones.
Two extra-beefy decorative and functional air vents bode out in an arrow head fashion with rotary-type dials at each end of the dash.
An electronic parking brake is found behind the transmission shifter (replacing a manually-operated design) and left of dual beverage holders between buckets. Ahead of cup corrals is a square recess for stowing cell phones. The location teams up nicely with a 12-volt outlet and USB port directly behind in an open-air region.
The narrow arm rest includes a two-tier storage design. The shallow top portion holds pens or a cell phone while the bottom half can swallow up larger items including hats or old-school pulp-like books.
The top-level Titanium comes with leather trimmed 10-way power front bucket seats and optional partial leather-trimmed sport design for extra grip. A 'hands-free' foot swipe power-lift tailgate comes standard in Titanium while optional in SE.
Second-row seatbacks fold flat onto seat cushions once long outboard side cushion levers pull into action, opening up a segment respectable 68 cubic feet of cargo space. With seats prone, 34 cubic feet of room awaits. Two adults travel in optimal comfort; three can handle very short commutes.
At A Glace
Price as tested: $34,875
Engine: 1.5-liter four cylinder
Overall Length: 178.1 inches
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Overall Height: 66.3 inches
Overall Width: 72.4 inches
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Powertrain warranty: Five year/60,000 miles
Assembly Louisville, Kentucky