The Ford Escape is a compact four-door crossover wagon that seats five and comes with front- or all-wheel drive. It competes with class stalwarts like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4. Other competitors include the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue and Volkswagen Tiguan. For 2017, Escape gets freshened exterior styling, connectivity enhancements and a slate of revised engines.
Three trim levels are offered: S, SE and Titanium. S models come with a 2.5-lliter four-cylinder that makes 168 horsepower. The SE and Titanium get a new turbocharged 1.5-liter four that makes 179 horsepower. Optional on those models is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four with 245 horsepower. All engines mate to a six-speed automatic. Both turbocharged engines come with a fuel-saving auto-stop function.
Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, rear-view monitor, blind-spot alert and dual-front, front-side, driver-knee and side-curtain airbags. Optional are blind-spot warning with cross-traffic alerts, forward collision alert and lane-departure warning and intervention.
Sync 3, Ford's latest connectivity system, replaces MyFordTouch and comes with support for Android Auto and Apple Car Play. Also offered is a hands-free power liftgate. Escape prices start at $23,600 and climb to $29,100. All models have an $895 destination charge and are assembled in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ford claims that the S model and it's 2.5-liter four are aimed squarely at fleet sales and that's probably a good thing as that engine isn't the most powerful and lacks refinement. The certainly can't be said for the new 1.5-liter turbo four. It's peppy, smooth and provides good passing power. But it struggles going up long grades and with a full load of passengers. If you want more power or intend to do any towing, opt for the more-powerful 2.0-liter engine. It's a significant improvement over the 1.5-liter mill, but comes with a fuel economy penalty.
The six-speed automatic performs admirably, providing smooth upshifts and prompt downshifts. The 2.5-liter four has a towing capacity of 1500 pounds. Towing climbs to 2000 pounds with the 1.5 and 3500 pounds with the 2.0.
Ford expects the front-drive/1.5-liter turbo to be the most popular powertrain combination. It's EPA rated at 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. Real-world commuting will likely yield about 25 mpg overall, perhaps 28 mpg if your commute includes a fair amount of highway cruising. All Escape engines run fine on regular-grade gasoline.
Escape boasts an athletic driving experience without compromising ride comfort. The suspension is tuned to soften impacts rather than smother them and the firm and accurate steering gives drivers a sense of confidence that's unusual for the class. Still, Escape's tall build and relatively short wheelbase ensure that is won't win any parking-lot autocross events.
Noise suppression is good, on par with others in the class. There's some wind noise at highway speeds and the engine intrudes in hard acceleration, something that is especially true with the 2.5- and 1.5-liter fours.
Escape gets a minor interior makeover for 2017 with new materials and the inclusion of Ford's Sync 3 communications system. It's still a two-row crossover with twin front buckets, a three-place rear bench and standard opening tailgate. Materials are appropriate for the price and on par with competitors. Build quality is good and fit-and-finish excellent.
Front seats are upright and offer that commanding view of the road that most buyers seem to like. However, the seats are a little short on padding and aren't as long-haul comfortable as those offered in some competitive offerings. Head and leg room are great and getting in and out is a snap.
Rear seats are nicely bolstered and there is great space for two adults to stretch out - regardless of front seat position. Putting three across will pinch everyone, but at least the floor is relatively flat. Another bonus is reclining rear seat backs.
Escape offers a nice suite of connectivity and safety features - assuming you opt for a few options. Sync3 is a voice- and touch-activated system infotainment system. It operates quickly and with intuitive commands and is a big step forward for Ford that is made even more useful with the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Ancillary controls are well placed and clearly marked.
With 34.3 cubic feet of cargo space, Escape offers class-competitive hauling. Folding the rear seats is easy and grows cargo space to 67.8 cubic feet. The addition of the hands-free liftgate is a nice, if novel, touch. Interior storage is good with lots of open and covered bins throughout.
The 2017 Ford Escape is a user-friendly compact crossover that checks off all the important boxes. It's roomy, fuel efficient, versatile and attractively priced. While it doesn't excel in one specific area, it's a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades and for many buyers, that's a very good thing. The compact crossover segment is one of the most competitive, so be sure to drive your favorites and shop around for the best deal.