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2017 Ford Escape First Drive



The Ford Escape debuted in 2001 when the US market offered a single-digit number of small crossovers. TheToyota RAV4 was five years old, the Honda CR-V was four, the Subaru Forester was just three. As the crossover models proliferated and SUVs took over a third of the US market, the Escape remained at or near the top of the sales leaderboard: as recently as 2013 the Escape outsold the RAV4 and CR-V. In 2014, however, the CR-V claimed top sales and dropped the Escape to second place. In 2015, both the RAV4 and the CR-V bested the Escape in sales.

Despite the demotion, the runt in The Blue Oval's crossover litter remains a success for the brand. Ford said millennials and Baby Boomers are the two largest demographics for compact crossovers, and those two buying groups helped Ford sell 306,492 Escapes in 2015. The sales tally marked seven straight years of increases and made the Escape the best-selling Ford behind the F-150. Ford also says the Escape is the number one nameplate for female buyers out of all Ford models. Nevertheless, the Dearborn carmaker wants its sales crown back. The heavily refreshed 2017 Escape is Ford's attack on the throne.

Outside, designers reworked everything ahead of the A-pillar and tweaked the tailgate area. A new aluminum hood saves weight. The front fascia adopts Ford's corporate design language of horizontal lines highlighting a hexagonal grille. The Titanium trim we drove gets new HID projectors standard, while regular halogens on the mid-grade SE can be upgraded to HID units. The tailgate features sharper creases and the taillights are now all-LED units. The redesign is mature in the best sense – still recognizably an Escape minus the aggression when viewed head-on.

The optional Sport Appearance Package substitutes glossy Ebony black for the normal glossy silver brightwork on the upper and lower grilles, window surrounds, side mirror caps, headlight and taillight bezels, roof rack, and rear fascia. The package also fits 19-inch Ebony black wheels wearing 235/45 ContinentalContactPro tires. Our test vehicle's Canyon Ridge color is one of three new exterior hues, along with White Gold and Lightning Blue.

Ford invested much more of its refresh budget on the inside. Said Escape program manager Chris Mazur, "Pretty much everything the customer touches, we touched." The helm features a new three-spoke steering wheel with larger five-way buttons. Ticking the box for the Sport Package upgrades to a leather-wrapped wheel with white cross-stitching, a leather-wrapped shifter, and patterned cloth sport seats with leather and vinyl bolsters.

Finer-grained vinyl or nicer leather tops the new instrument panel. Darker plastic and piano black trim pieces banish the previous model's 50-shades-of-gray palette. It looks and feels nicer everywhere. The new shape of the one-piece outboard vents channels more air into the cabin. Installing a new electric parking brake and moving some optional controls to the climate-control panel frees up room for three storage cubbies around the cupholder. The USB jack in the forward cubby charges devices twice as fast. A larger armrest cover hides a dual-level pocket; pull the left lever on the clamshell top to access a shallow tray, pull the right lever to access the massive six-liter pocket that's 50 percent larger than before.

The Escape introduces SYNC 3 Connect to the Ford range. Using the FordPass app enabled by a 4G modem inside the crossover, an owner can remotely start the vehicle, lock and unlock the doors, and monitor tire pressures and the fuel level. That modem also means over-the-air updates to SYNC 3, so no more carrying USB drives between your computer and the car. Sync Connect comes standard on the Titanium trim, or as part of the optional Technology Package on the SE model, with a five-year free subscription in both cases. The other big infotainment additions: both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Ford didn't enable a Wi-Fi hotspot, sadly.

Driver-assistance systems migrate from the Escape's larger brothers and come with adjustability that you normally only find on premium or luxury cars. The $595 adaptive cruise control with pre-collision assist includes three driver-selectable following distances. The $1,995 Equipment Group 301A bundles Enhanced Active Park Assist, a lane-keeping system, and a driver attention alert with HID headlights, a heated steering wheel, and rain-sensing wipers. The parking system slots the Escape into and extracts it from parallel and perpendicular spots, with the driver responsible only for shifting gears and working the pedals. The variable lane-keeping-system alerts include a chime, steering-wheel vibration, and gently turning of the wheel to guide the Escape back into its lane. A driver can choose which alert or alerts she or he prefers and adjust their intensity.

Mazur told us that buyers choose the Escape for the range of engines and sporty ride. On the engine side, the base S trim sticks with the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Only ten percent of buyers choose the base model, which Ford considers the fleet option. The standard motor on the SE trim is the 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder shared with the Ford Fusion, here developing 179 hp and 186 lb-ft. That's six horsepower and two more pound-feet than the former mid-grade Escape engine, a 1.6-liter EcoBoost.

The Titanium trim comes standard with a new 2.0-liter EcoBoost with a twin-scroll turbo, the same as the engine in the Ford Edge. The new 2.0-liter, an option on the SE, puts out 245 hp and 275 lb-ft on 93 octane, five more horsepower and pound-feet than the old 2.0-liter EcoBoost. The max tow rating jumps from 2,000 pounds to 3,500.

The sole transmission is a six-speed automatic, controllable through paddle shifters on the SE and Titanium trims. Both the 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines get auto stop-start technology, said to improve fuel economy by up to six percent. Even so, highway mileage takes a minor hit, the 1.5-liter getting 30 highway mpg compared to 32 with the previous 1.6-liter. The 2.0-liter, a new addition to the engine range, is rated at 22 mpg city, 29 highway, and 25 combined.

On the steep canyon roads of our test route both engines pulled vigorously and without any hint of turbo lag. Both four-cylinders make a fair bit of noise when stressed, though the harder-working 1.5-liter is understandably louder than the 2.0-liter. Even though the 1.5-liter gives up 66 hp and 89 lb-ft to the 2.0, the smaller EcoBoost doesn't feel like the cheap choice. Additional sound deadening like acoustic side glass, batting in the wheel wells and front doors, and a 360-degree seal around the hood render either powerplant near-silent under most loads. Around town the Escape is quiet as a vault, on the highway only wind noise intrudes into the cabin.

Ford made just one suspension change, at the rear, to improve compliance over sharp bumps: the monotube shocks are ten millimeters wider, and the springs are now linear instead of progressive. The Escape's handling has earned good marks for years, and the 2017 holds the line in that department. The Escape will happily – and quietly – eat up urban commuting miles. The stop-start system disengages and re-engages with surprising subtlety and no driveline vibrations, thanks to enhanced starter-motor logic. Confident steering on-center and resilient suspension tuning insulate the driver from the relentless low-frequency jostling that induces fatigue during lengthy highway stints.


The Escape is prepared to do so much more than that dynamically, though. The compact hauler shares a platform with the Ford Focus, and although it is larger and heavier than its sedan and hatch counterparts, the handling DNA of the Escape's source material is evident in every switchback turn and sweeper. The steering is less communicative in the Escape than the Focus, unsurprisingly, but adept suspension tuning translates into confident shifts in body weight on entry into turns and disciplined behavior throughout a bend, even over poor surfacing mid-corner. Speaking of which, the cloth seats are the prime choice for spirited driving – the friction of the cloth holds the driver. The inadequate seat bolsters aren't up to the level of the Escape's handling, though.

A price drop on 2017 models signals Ford's motivation to get back to the compact-crossover sales lead. The 2017 SE FWD starts at $25,995, a $695 price drop from 2016. The Titanium FWD starts at $29,995, an $895 decrease. Only the $24,495 entry-level S costs more than before, by $500.

The Escape gathers a nicer interior, a quieter ride, more powerful engines and more engine options, and rewarding handling into a package that costs less than before. Scanning the primary competition, the Toyota RAV4 offers no counterpart to features like Enhanced Park Assist or the driver attention alert. The Honda CR-V lacks those as well. Neither Japanese crossover has an answer to SYNC Connect or the FordPass app, and neither can match the Escape's handling. Plus, the Escape's price drop slots it just under the MSRPs of comparable RAV4 and CR-V trims.

The 2017 Ford Escape is a big improvement on what was an already remarkable crossover, and the customer-focused changes pay dividends to the Escape faithful. We can't predict if the upgrades and equipment differentiators will be enough for Ford's compact entry to claw back the sales deficit to the RAV4 and CR-V (the Toyota outsold the Ford by about 9,000 units in 2015, the Honda moved about 39,000 more units), but the new Escape is an excellent weapon to begin the fight back to the top.

Source: 2017 Ford Escape First Drive


PERSONAL COMMENTARY:

The Escape's handling has earned good marks for years, and the 2017 holds the line in that department.
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On the steep canyon roads of our test route both engines pulled vigorously and without any hint of turbo lag. Both four-cylinders make a fair bit of noise when stressed, though the harder-working 1.5-liter is understandably louder than the 2.0-liter. Even though the 1.5-liter gives up 66 hp and 89 lb-ft to the 2.0, the smaller EcoBoost doesn't feel like the cheap choice. Additional sound deadening like acoustic side glass, batting in the wheel wells and front doors, and a 360-degree seal around the hood render either powerplant near-silent under most loads. Around town the Escape is quiet as a vault, on the highway only wind noise intrudes into the cabin.
...

The Escape gathers a nicer interior, a quieter ride, more powerful engines and more engine options, and rewarding handling into a package that costs less than before. Scanning the primary competition, the Toyota RAV4 offers no counterpart to features like Enhanced Park Assist or the driver attention alert. The Honda CR-V lacks those as well. Neither Japanese crossover has an answer to SYNC Connect or the FordPass app, and neither can match the Escape's handling. Plus, the Escape's price drop slots it just under the MSRPs of comparable RAV4 and CR-V trims.
I own a 2013 Rav4 Limited AWD. My bf drives a work-issued 2013 Escape SE-L AWD. My car has almost 57,000 miles on it and his just crossed 61,000. Looking at the specs, this is about as close as they come with regard to fair or even competition.

The first thing I noticed about the Escape was quite frankly what an utter piece of **** that 1.6L EcoBoost is. It sounds like an electric lawn mower and feels like the aftershock of an earthquake when you ask it to do any amount of work. This engine is truly terrible - and is one of the worst modern engines that I have driven. It feels like exactly what it is - a very small engine that's fed by a turbo to do the work of a larger engine... there is no illusion of "oh, this feels like a nice, larger displacement I4 or maybe a really small V6." It feels like a family of hamsters playing dodgeball inside a tornado.

Second, the Escape handles pretty average and when you factor in road noise, wind noise and ride quality, it really feels more like a late '90s Corolla to me. I know that it sounds like I am flaming for attention here - or being dramatic - but I truly am not. The best way that I can describe driving the Escape is that it feels like a toy train on train tracks - going straight, it's bumpy, loud and unsettled. Jab the throttle and ask any more of it than that, and all it wants to do is go back on the tracks (straight) while ride quality and interior noise would make you think you're coming down the Tower of Terror at Six Flags. Again, I am truly not joking.

When I bought my Rav4, I cross shopped the CR-V, CX-5, Escape and Rav4 pretty extensively. The CR-V and Escape were the first two that I ruled out. I did not care for the styling of the CR-V and remember that my impressions of the Escape then were not altogether different than they are now.

My Rav4 is far from perfect - the ride can be harsh, there's more road noise than I would like, another 25hp would go a long way, and the plastics along the bottom of the doors should honestly be nicer. Also, the gauges should be backlit 24/7 and I generally dislike the detailing and font on the gauges. The latter has been fixed for the new 2016 model, but I digress.

When you drive my Rav4 and his Escape back to back - as we have done many times over and over again, switching as driver and passenger, the Rav4 feels like a completely different class of vehicle from the Escape. The fit and finish, and overall interior quality is FAR and above the Escape. The quality of the powertrain - 2.5L I4/6AT vs 1.6L Ecoboost I4/6AT - is really not even debatable. The power output between them is similar and I will give the Escape a slight nod when you jump on it from 20-50mph, but the 2.5L engine Toyota uses feels like a perfectly balanced I6 compared to the Ecoboost 1.6L unit. Acceleration is smooth and linear and there is a reasonable 4 cylinder growl compared to whatever type of whiz-bang combustion vibration the Ford uses while emitting the sound of an electric guinea pig in heat.

When the road gets twisty, I don't think that the Rav4 begs to be thrown into corners but it certainly digs in and does so without any drama or backlash. You know what's going on, you can feel the front of the car, and you approach the limits of grip in a pretty linear fashion. I know that sounds dramatic for a Rav4, but coming from a lowered, heavily modified GS, I don't always drive kindly and do enjoy some spirited stints up in the North Georgia mountains. When you ask the Escape to dance, it feels like you're dragging around a mannequin whereas the Rav4 feels like it's been through a round of dance lessons (far short of Salsa dancing - don't get me wrong). The Ford looks, feels and sounds like it's wearing wooden clogs.

I guess that most of all, the difference is how both cars have held up over ~60k miles. My Rav4 quite frankly looks, smells and drives like new. There's an annoying rattle in the rear driver's side door and the struts on the rear hatch squeak sometimes. The Escape sounds like a rusted wind chime in comparison, and especially in the middle of summer, many of the interior panels randomly pop and creak in the sunlight for no apparent reason. Driving them back to back tells the story better than words, but if given a choice, it's always the Rav4 that we take on road trips, getaways, to the mountains or the lake. Take that for what it's worth.

I write all of this because I feel like the Escape and Ford in general quite frankly enjoy a bit of media bias. We are to believe that EcoBoost everything is wonderful and Ford is building incredibly reliable cars full of tech that Toyota nor Honda cannot match. Maybe there is some truth in the tech piece, but after my second experience with a Ford product in my household (not purchased by me), I would not own one and my opinion has not changed. These small displacement EcoBoost engines really leave a lot to be desired and have me lamenting the eminent loss of naturally aspirated engines. I think that once you climb to V6s, some of the NVH issues are less prominent, but these smaller turbocharged 4 cylinder engines - at least Ford's - are downright terrible and I've read nothing but good things about them from the media.

Is Ford sending out ringers for the media? Or do their products simply begin to disintegrate after 20k miles?
 

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Interesting if lengthy reviews - the personal evaluation and comparison between the Escape and the RAV is the most interesting part for me. Also for me there hasn't been a contest between owning a Ford and owning a Toyota for some years. My experiences with Fords and with some of their dealer service departments have not been trouble-free nor usually enjoyable.
 

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Comparing Red Delicious to Macintosh.

I'm going to sharpshoot you on something but I think you have done a good post with some interesting thoughts.

Aren't we talking about a difference in cost between your 2? You have a Limited and bf didn't get the bigger engine. I only googled to see if there was a different engine option but I wasn't going to drill down for trim levels. That's it. That's my question that sounds like criticism.

As far as handling goes I think the RAV4 is as good as the CX-5. I've posted that if the RAV4 was any softer I would have bought the CX-5. Consumer Reports called the RAV4 handling "firm and controlled" if I remember right and that's fine with me. I really wanted to like the CX-5 because of reviews and the fact it I could match the color on my Miata.

I've been driving by Suburbans and thinking how cool they look and then I remember how junky the interiors are. Most Fords have seemed that way to me too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm going to sharpshoot you on something but I think you have done a good post with some interesting thoughts.

Aren't we talking about a difference in cost between your 2? You have a Limited and bf didn't get the bigger engine. I only googled to see if there was a different engine option but I wasn't going to drill down for trim levels. That's it. That's my question that sounds like criticism.

As far as handling goes I think the RAV4 is as good as the CX-5. I've posted that if the RAV4 was any softer I would have bought the CX-5. Consumer Reports called the RAV4 handling "firm and controlled" if I remember right and that's fine with me. I really wanted to like the CX-5 because of reviews and the fact it I could match the color on my Miata.

I've been driving by Suburbans and thinking how cool they look and then I remember how junky the interiors are. Most Fords have seemed that way to me too.
There is a bigger engine available (2.0L T) and Ford also has the Titanium trim, which, IMO, Toyota's Limited slots between Ford's SE-L and Titanium.

The 1.6L EcoBoost and Toyota's 2.5L I4 are just a few horsepower and lb-ft of torque within each other, so I think they make for a good comparison, personally.
 

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I have a 2013 Fusion SE with the 1.6 Ecoboost and I love this engine.... Are you using premium Gas? Because using 93 gas actually nets you an extra 10 HP and 12TQ on a cool day per the Ford Engineers... It's not gonna drive like the 2.5 in the RAV, the Rav is geared very well to make up for the lack of power it has

The 1.6... You have to drive like a diesel and keep it in its powerband which on my car is between 2500-4000 RPMs

I plan on trading in my '13 Rav for a new Edge Titanium.. It's just a nicer vehicle to be in though my main reason is the AWD system

Ford has a more superior AWD system than Toyota and Honda leaving aside Hondas SH-AWD. Ford came a long way
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I plan on trading in my '13 Rav for a new Edge Titanium.. It's just a nicer vehicle to be in though my main reason is the AWD system

Ford has a more superior AWD system than Toyota and Honda leaving aside Hondas SH-AWD. Ford came a long way
Edge is definitely a more premium experience than the Rav4 (new one is very nice), but I'm not so sure about the AWD system.

Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control AWD can transfer power back and forth transversely as well as front to rear - Toyota's system thus has "torque vectoring" by braking the wheel with less traction. Honda's system actively transfers power vs. Toyota's system which uses a brake on one side to transfer power to the other. I think they both have roughly the same impact - Toyota achieves the same thing in a more simple manner, Honda does it in a more technical way... true to philosophical form for both companies, IMO. :)

To my knowledge though, Ford's "intelligent" AWD system only transfers power front to rear, not side to side transversely like Toyota or Honda do.

The Edge also does not seem to offer a locking differential like the Rav4 does, and when you truly are in sticky, or slushy, or muddy situations, a locking diff makes a big difference.

Ford does have the "Terrain Select" feature which is essentially transmission settings geared towards different types of terrain, but I think that is only available on the Explorer...? Not sure.
 

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Edge is definitely a more premium experience than the Rav4 (new one is very nice), but I'm not so sure about the AWD system.

Toyota's Dynamic Torque Control AWD can transfer power back and forth transversely as well as front to rear - Toyota's system thus has "torque vectoring" by braking the wheel with less traction. Honda's system actively transfers power vs. Toyota's system which uses a brake on one side to transfer power to the other. I think they both have roughly the same impact - Toyota achieves the same thing in a more simple manner, Honda does it in a more technical way... true to philosophical form for both companies, IMO. :)

To my knowledge though, Ford's "intelligent" AWD system only transfers power front to rear, not side to side transversely like Toyota or Honda do.

The Edge also does not seem to offer a locking differential like the Rav4 does, and when you truly are in sticky, or slushy, or muddy situations, a locking diff makes a big difference.

Ford does have the "Terrain Select" feature which is essentially transmission settings geared towards different types of terrain, but I think that is only available on the Explorer...? Not sure.
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I think your wrong about Toyotas system.. It's does not have brake torque vectoring which is wheel to wheel torque. Dynamic AWD can actively distribute torque to either both front wheels or the rear wheels, not side to side or wheel to wheel. For example in 50/50 mode... Only 50% torque is applied to both rear wheels, Dynamic AWD can't send 50% to 1 of the rear wheels like the ford can

Fords AWD system is torque vectoring and can send Torque actively from wheel to wheel. It's no Subaru yes but Fords FWD based AWD can send 100% torque to 1 rear wheel or both and actually moves the vehicle if there's no grip in the front

Here's a demo of the Subaru AWD system vs everyone else including a Ford Fusion with the same AWD system and it passed two of the three simulated test which is good enough for me in Philadelphia, it's not like Denver in the winter when i would need a Wrangler or an outback to get around

Link

I don't think the Rav could have even passed the first test at all.. Even in 50/50 mode
 
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