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Running In Place: Can Great Road Manners And a Euro Attitude Sustain This Compact Crossover Until Its Next Big Update?

 

What changes will make it different?

A midcycle update is coming, likely reaching showrooms during the first half of calendar 2016. The revamped edition of this popular, fun-to-drive compact SUV likely will be labeled a 2017 model, though there’s a chance it could be tabbed a ’16. Regardless of when it drops, changes to styling would probably be confined to a freshened nose and tail and the interior would get upgraded materials and graphics. More intriguing is the possibility that it could also borrow the 285-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine – and maybe some upscale features – from the just-introduced 2015 Lincoln MKC, which is based on Escape’s basic structure. A future hybrid model also is a good bet, but only Ford knows when.

Why should I wait for the 2016 model?

If the latest fashion is critical to you, go ahead and wait on the outside chance the update will indeed come for ’16. If you do wait and the changes don’t arrive, you’ll be saddled with a crossover whose styling details will have a relatively short shelf life.

Should I buy the current 2015 instead?

With chances slim there will be significant changes to powertrains or engineering, the ‘15 and’16 Escapes will be fundamentally the same five-passenger crossover SUVs. So buying now would let you avoid the inevitable model-year price escalation, and get you into a vehicle whose appearance will look current longer.

2015 Ford Escape

Will the styling be different?

Probably not until the midcycle revamp. Ford essentially Americanized its European-designed Kuga crossover as a model-year 2013 replacement for the ancient 2001-2012-generation Escape. Indeed, that design looks like it wasn’t developed here, with sheetmetal swoops and tight proportions that favor sizzle over outright interior space. Sure enough, back seat room falls short of such rivals as the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4. That won’t change until the next full redesign, sometime after model-year ’17. Front seaters have fine accommodations, however, and cargo volume is competitive, at 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 68.1 with it folded. We’d like to see a simplified dashboard layout, the sooner the better. Today’s arrangement puts style ahead of ergonomics. On the upside, the quality of interior materials is among the best in class. Expect the ’16 lineup to reprise an entry-level S trim, volume-selling SE, and premium Titanium grades.

Any mechanical changes?

None likely. A new powertrain – gas or hybrid – almost certainly wouldn’t come before the ’17 update. And buyers already can choose from an unusually broad array of engines, all with four cylinders and two of them turbocharged. Expect the return of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 168 horsepower; it’ll likely again be offered only in the S trim and only with front-wheel drive. Standard on the SE and Titanium should again be a 178-horsepower 1.6-liter from the automaker’s turbocharged EcoBoost engine family. Returning as optional on those models would be a 240-horsepower EcoBoost 2.0-liter. Both turbo engines will be available with front-drive or with an all-wheel drive (AWD) system not intended for hard-core off-roading. Every model would again use a six-speed automatic transmission. And all will come with two of the automaker’s dynamic safety features: Curve Control technology, intended to automatically slow the vehicle if it’s taking a corner too fast; and Torque Vectoring to automatically apply braking and add torque to selected wheels for optimal traction and road holding. Don’t anticipate a change to the tow rating of 3,500 pounds with the optional trailer package. Overall, this is among the best-handling small SUVs, though the penalty is a fairly stiff ride if you opt for the available 18- or 19-inch wheels and tires.

Will fuel economy improve?

No change from the 2015 EPA ratings would be expected. So the 2.5-liter S would again rate 22/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined. With the 1.6-liter engine, the SE and Titanium would repeat at 23/32/26 mpg with front-drive and 22/30/25 with AWD. With the 2.0-liter EuoBoost, look for ratings of 22/30/25 mpg with front-drive and 21/28/24 with AWD.

Will it have new features?

Maybe one or two will be redistributed among the three trim levels, but no major additions appear to be on the docket. Standard safety items would again include four-wheel antilock brakes, torso- and head-protecting curtain side airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, electronic stability and traction control, and rearview backup camera with dashboard LCD monitor. Also included would be the brand’s MyKey system. Aimed at parents with teen drivers, it enables setting parameters on vehicle speed and on audio-system volume if seat belts are not buckled. The base S trim would continue with power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; a tilting and telescoping steering column, Ford’s Sync audio voice command; and a six-speaker stereo with Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, and a USB/iPod interface as standard equipment. Remote engine start, roof cargo rails, and rear parking sensors are likely stand-alone-option repeats. Moving to the SE would likely again add automatic headlights, power adjustable driver’s seat, reclining rear seats, fog lamps, a keyless entry touch pad, and tinted glass as standard fare. The SE Convenience package is projected to add dual-zone climate control, the roof rails and rear parking sensors, a 110-volt power outlet, and an 8-inch LCD touchscreen with MyFord Touch electronic interface. MyFord Touch allows voice and touch control of various systems, including climate, navigation, and audio systems. Opting for the Leather Comfort package would again yield leather upholstery with heated front seats and mirrors. Titaniums should again come with all that as standard, plus a 10-speaker Sony premium audio system and keyless entry with remote and pushbutton engine start. It also would include hands-free power liftgate operation that allows anyone with the remote keyfob on them to swipe a foot beneath the rear bumper to open the liftgate. Also available will be blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts to warn of unseen vehicles in the adjacent lane or those approaching from the sides as you’re backing up.

How will 2016 prices be different?

They’re apt to increase, and although they’ll remain competitive with direct rivals, there’s some expensive technology here, so versions with AWD, EcoBoost engines, and complex electronics such as MyFord Touch do tend to get pricey. Estimated base-price range for the 2016 line is $24,500-$32,800. Note that base prices we site include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fees, here around $900. Just 10 percent of buyers are expected to choose an S model, leaving an estimated starting price of $27,900 for an SE with front-drive and $28,700 with AWD. Figure $30,900 and $32,800 or so for respective Titanium models. To that, expect to pay another $1,200 for the 240-horsepower engine.

What is the Expected Release Date?

Autumn 2015

Best competitors:

Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan.

What’s a cool feature?

This crossover can park itself thanks to the Active Park Assist system that’s been available as part of an option package for the Titanium model. Here’s how it works: You’re driving down a city street, hunting a parallel parking spot. You press a center-console button, triggering ultrasonic sensors that search for a space of the right size (it works for slots on either side of the street). When it finds one, the system prompts you to accept parking assistance. You stop, shift into reverse, and release the brake pedal. You also take your hands off the steering wheel. The system takes over, reversing your vehicle into the space. You monitor the speed with the brake and gas, watching progress on the dashboard screen as shown by the rearview backup camera. Grab the wheel or press the brake enough to stop the car and the process halts. Once backed in, the system prompts you to shift into drive and it automatically centers the car in the space. It lets you know when the process is over. It’s accurate, uncanny, a little unnerving at first, and great entertainment.

 

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]