Deep in the heart of truck country, it’s difficult to avoid this factoid: The F-150 is Ford’s No. 1 seller.
But here’s a stat that may have escaped you: the Escape CUV owns the No. 2 spot.
With annual sales of its compact crossover just over 300,000 units in 2014 and 2015, Ford wasn’t about to slow the flow. Shoppers will find the 2017 Escape, now reaching dealerships, has had significant revamping.
Outside, the 2017 Escape’s new stylized hexagonal grille gives the CUV much stronger familial ties to the Fusion, Mustang and Taurus. Inside, the cabin uses new door and dash materials that feel and look better. The center armrest is longer and the console has been reconfigured to provide more storage space, with an eye toward mobile devices. The 2017’s parking brake is electric, the shifter has been moved and Ford said USB ports charge up to twice as fast. A slot to the right of the shifter, just ahead of the tandem cup holders, is designed to park a smartphone vertically, but we discovered that phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 are just a couple of millimeters too wide.
But phone calls will be clearer. We give the 2017 Escape kudos for its quiet interior, thanks to side acoustic glass, added insulation in the A-pillars and doors, and improved seals around the windshield and hood. The side mirrors were also sculpted for better aerodynamics.
We sampled 2017 Escapes with their new 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines and found the updated CUV to be a right-sized tool that feels solid, handles nicely for a CUV and delivered a compliant, but not floaty, ride.
The Escape can now be had with most of today’s latest convenience and safety technology, including blindspot and cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning, driver alertness monitor and lane-keep alert and assist.
There’s also enhanced infotainment. The Escape debuts Ford’s SYNC Connect, which enables customers to unlock or lock their doors, start the engine or locate the vehicle with a smartphone.
There is again a trio of engines, but two are new for 2017. The carry-over 2.5-liter four-cylinder retains the same 168 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. torque ratings. Motor heads and serious buyers may note that the 21 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2017 appear to have backslid from the 2016 Escape, which was rated 22 and 31 respectively.
We asked Ford about the difference and were told that the 2017 numbers are from updated, tougher EPA fuel economy test protocols that better reflect real-world mileage.
A 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged four replaces the 1.6-liter used in 2016. Standard on SE and Titanium, it produces 179 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque.
The 2.0-liter engine twin-scroll EcoBoost engine produces 245 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque. (Ford recommends 91 octane fuel.) While the 1.5-liter turbo’s performance was perfectly adequate, we’d opt for the 2.0, especially since the “big” engine is down just about 1 mpg from the 1.5.
Both EcoBoost engines have auto stop-start, which functioned smoothly in our testing. Ford said shutting down idling can yield a 4 percent to 6 percent in fuel economy.
All engines use a six-speed automatic. Need power to all four corners? It’s available on the SE and Titanium with either of the turbocharged engines.
The 2017 Escape returns in three flavors: the basic S; the volume-leading SE that constitutes about 60 percent of all Escapes sold last year; and the all-in Titanium, which, according to Ford, one out of four buyers selected in 2015.
Starting at $23,600, the entry-level S is the only Escape with the older 2.5-liter engine. The S has some nice touches like theater-like light dimming, side mirrors with integrated convex mirrors to help monitor blindspots, rearview camera, doors that automatically lock, automatic on/off headlights with courtesy delay, keyless entry and cruise control. But you’ll never quite forget that you’re in Ford’s budget-friendly Escape. For one thing, the rear liftgate, adjustable front seats (6-way driver, 4-way passenger) and tilt/telescoping steering column are all manually operated. And perhaps the clincher: there’s a one-touch power window feature, but only for the driver’s and only in the down direction.
The equipment and features included with the Escape SE ($25,100 starting MSRP) make it easy to understand why many shoppers make the $1,500 leap over the S: 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine, fog lamps, body-colored door handles, outside mirrors, aluminum wheels instead of steel, dual-zone automatic climate control with duct for rear passengers, 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, satellite radio and Ford’s SecuriCode keyless-entry pad on the driver’s door. The venerable Ford keypad can save your bacon, not to mention a wait for roadside assistance, should you lock your keys inside. Another plus from stepping up to the SE or above: privacy glass is used for the second row and liftgate and the front side windows are laminated to cut down noise.
If a leather interior is a must, the Escape Titanium ($29,100) is in your future. But the seating, steering wheel and shifter leather are just for starters. The Titanium tech content includes a vastly more user-friendly SYNC 3 infotainment system with 8-inch LCD screen, 10-speaker Sony stereo with HD radio, blind-spot and cross-traffic warning system and hands-free, reverse sensor and foot-operated cargo area liftgate. The $4,000 bump over the SE also gets you heated side mirrors with approach lights, 18-inch wheels and tires, 110-volt outlet, 10-way power seats for driver and front passenger, ambient lighting for cabin, remote start, universal garage door opener and LED daytime running lamps.
If you feel the need for HID headlights, rain-sensing wipers and the latest safety and parking-assist technology, you’ll need to pony up an extra $2,600 for adaptive cruise control and Ford’s 301A option group. The total for such a grand, front-wheel-drive 2017 Escape Titanium comes to $33,600 before any incentives or negotiation.
But think of the upside of going the Titanium route: you finally get those slick one-touch down/up switches for all four windows.
2017 FORD ESCAPE SE
TYPE: Compact crossover
BASE PRICE: $25,100
AS TESTED, INCLUDING DESTINATION: $25,995
MAJOR OPTIONS: none
DRIVETRAIN: 1.5-liter turbocharged four; 6-speed auto; FWD
HORSEPOWER AND TORQUE: 179-hp at 6,000 rpm / 177 lb.-ft. at 2,500 rpm
FUEL: gas, 87 octane; 15.7-gallon tank
EPA ESTIMATED MPG: 23 city / 30 highway
CURB WEIGHT: 3,526 lbs.