2017 Ford Escape First Look Review

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Ford is sprucing up its entire crossover range, and third in line for spring cleaning is the Escape, which the folks tasked with bringing it to market variously describe as “a major refresh” and “the fourth-generation Escape.” The former is probably more accurate, as the chassis and structure remain essentially unchanged (except for larger monotube shocks and linear-rate springs in back, the latter a 2016 upgrade). Outside, however, everything ahead of the A-pillars and aft of the D-pillars is new, as are the two mainstream EcoBoost engines. An interior makeover includes the dash, center console, materials, and grain patterns. Let’s address the dirty bits first. The low-volume 2.5-liter base engine is unchanged (only one in 10 opt for that one), but the 1.6-liter gets swapped for a variation of the Fusion’s more recent 1.5-liter EcoBoost (standard on Escape SE and Titanium) and the optional range-topping 2.0-liter is swapped for the newer twin-scroll 2.0-liter just released in the Edge. Output figures have yet to be finalized for the Escape fitment, but they shouldn’t vary much from the Fusion 1.5’s 181 hp/185 lb-ft (roughly a wash with the Escape’s 1.6) and the Edge 2.0’s 245 hp and 275 lb-ft (an increase of 5 in each case) Both new engines promise an efficiency bump, as well, and each gets auto start/stop. The rest of the driveline carries over. The restyling cleans up the front to accommodate the hexagonal grille Ford family face with optional LED accent lighting and HID headlamps. The smoother new hood trades two visibly homely black windshield squirters for three fluidic ones tucked up under its trailing edge. In back, perhaps the most meaningful change is the switch to twin sensors for the hokey-pokey power liftgate actuator. Now you can either put your right (side) foot in or put your left (side) foot in, even if your Escape is equipped with a trailer hitch. (Up until now, a single sensor was mounted in the center where the hitch goes, making those features mutually exclusive.) The voice of the customer was heard most loudly inside. An electric parking brake freed up console space into which the shifter moved (aft and left) so that while engaging park you no longer risk fist-punching the climate controls. This also leaves room for a normal bin at the front, housing a faster-charging smart USB jack and a 12-volt power socket. There’s also a cellphone slot and a third open bin for large sunglasses or giant phones. A new steering wheel with optional heating provides thumbrests and reconfigured five-way switches. The glove box now swings open wider for easier access. The leather is softer on the fanciest Escapes, and the dash and vinyl graining is tighter. A row of buttons also fits under the climate-control console for items such as the optional steering-wheel heater, park-distance control, park assist (which will now unpark the vehicle and offers around-view monitoring), and a hard button for switching off traction control. Hallelujah! No more frantic thumbing of the steering wheel buttons to find the menu for traction control when trying to exit a snowy parking lot using the burn-through technique. Adaptive cruise control with collision warning and lane keep assist are now available as Ford guns for that coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ ranking. Finally, the outboard vents are substantially reconfigured to improve the amount and direction of their airflow. Sound-deadening measures include new acoustic side glass (joining the recently added acoustic windshield), a 360-degree hood seal, aero-slipperier side mirrors, insulated front doors, and front wheelwell liners. The new Sync 3 system with its more intuitive graphic interface arrived for 2016 and is enhanced for ’17 with an embedded 4G modem (and free service for five years) to enable a smartphone app to provide remote start, remote lock/unlock, and fuel-level monitoring. This and other cloud-based features are powered by Microsoft Azure—the same backend that supports Xbox gaming. A built-in Wi-Fi hot spot is not currently packaged with this feature. If all these changes are sufficient to lure a few thousand millennials and boomers (currently the two biggest compact CUV buying groups) out of Honda showrooms, Ford’s entry just might escape the runner-up platform on the sales podium. 2017 Ford Escape BASE PRICE $24,500-$34,000 (est) VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV ENGINES 2.5L/168-hp/170-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4; 1.5L/181-hp (est)/185-lb-ft (est) turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L/245-hp (est)/275-lb-ft (est) turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic CURB WEIGHT 3,500-3,750 lb (est) WHEELBASE 105.9 in LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 178.9 x 72.4 x 66.3 in (est) 0-60 MPH 6.5-9.0 sec (MT est) EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON Not yet rated ON SALE IN U.S. Spring 2016