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Better looks, higher tech, smarter safety systems update 2017 Escape

Last Updated June 19th, 2016

2017 Ford Escape

2017 Ford Escape

2017 Ford Escape Buying Advice

This is the best compact crossover for you if you want a thoroughly updated edition of one of America’s top-selling SUVs. Freshened styling, upgraded features, and better engines keep it current against the likes of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in a wildly popular market segment. Sporty looks and performance remain drawing cards, subpar rear-seat legroom a drawback. The ’17 changes, the most significant since the current-generation Escape’s model-year 2013 redesign, also aim to improve quality after a series of embarrassing recalls.

Should you buy a 2017 model or wait for the ‘18?

Buy the 2017 to get the styling and features that’ll see this five-passenger crossover through to its next full redesign, likely for model-year 2020. The ’18 will be a virtual rerun, but it’ll almost certainly cost more. Again powered exclusively by four-cylinder engines, the 2017 lineup consists of the entry-level S model – with front-wheel-drive only – and the volume-selling SE and top-line Titanium trims. The latter two are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD) and have new turbocharged engines for ‘17.

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Changes

Styling:

A larger grille and sleeker headlamps strengthen the family resemblance to Ford’s midsize Edge crossover. Similarly, subtle reshaping and bigger lamps make the tail look more substantial. Dimensions and the main body panels don’t change, but the freshening visually distances this generation Escape from a design that originated with Ford’s European division. Same goes for the classier new steering wheel and a revamped center console. The console features a less intrusive transmission shifter and a parking brake operated by an electric button rather than a ratcheting lever. That improves storage space and access to cupholders, a lighted USB port, and a power outlet. Headroom remains among best in class but there’s less rear-seat legroom than the norm. Cargo volume is middling as well, with 34.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 68.1 with the rear seatbacks folded.

The S model again has black exterior trim and 17-inch steel wheels. SEs have 17-inch alloys, Titaniums 18s, and both have body-colored door handles, extra exterior garnishes, LED taillamps, dual chrome exhaust tips, and rear side privacy glass. New for the SE and Titanium is a Sport Appearance Package option with black-themed bodyr trim, 19-inch alloy wheels, and extra-supportive front bucket seats upholstered in leather and cloth with white stitching.

Check out our 2018 Ford Escape Preview for the latest info

Mechanical:

Smoother, more responsive power is on tap for SE and Titanium models thanks to new standard and optional engines. Both models now come with a turbocharged 1.5-liter of 180 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. That’s an increase of just one horsepower (and a loss of seven pound-feet) over the retired turbo 1.6-liter. But Ford promises the new engine will be far more reliable than the 1.6, which alone was responsible for many of the 16 safety and mechanical recalls that tarnished the reputation of the 2013-2016 Escape. Indeed, the 1.5 furnishes ready acceleration and operates with more refinement. A turbocharged 2.0-liter is again an SE and Titanium option, but it’s a new engine with 245 horses and 275 pound-feet of torque, both increases of five. Among the most powerful engines in the competitive set, it gives Escape a satisfyingly feisty feel. Consider it $1,295 well spent. The S model returns with an underwhelming, naturally aspirated 2.5-liter with 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic remains Escape’s sole transmission.

Adding $1,750 to the SE or Titanium, the AWD system is intended primarily to bolster slippery-pavement traction, shuffling up to 100 percent of the engine’s torque rearward when sensors detect front-tire slip. It also enhances the already admirable dry-road handling. Revealing that Euro DNA, ride and handling are again near the top of the class. And they’re bolstered for ’17 with newly available safety features: adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead; forward-collision warning with automatic braking to slow the Escape (but not stop it); lane-keep assist to automatically steer it back should you inadvertently drift from your lane; and sensors that detect directional instability associated with drowsy driving and sound an alert.

Features:

Escape remains among the more tech-focused crossovers in the class, although more recently redesigned rivals match it with such features as a hands-free-opening power liftgate. And several preceded it with driver aids like adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, and automatic steering correction. For ’16, Escape dumped the glitchy MyFord Touch infotainment interface for the more user friendly Sync 3 system. For ’17, it offers the Sync Connect smartphone app that enables you to remotely lock and unlock the door locks, start the engine, check tire pressure, monitor fuel and battery levels, even find where you’ve parked it.

The S model is relatively bare-bones, though it does come with a rearview camera, power windows and locks, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a tilt/telescope steering wheel with buttons for audio and cruise control, and the basic Sync system of hands-free phone linking. The SE adds a power driver’s seat, 60/40 split/folding rear seatbacks, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, and steering wheel paddle shifters. Titanium models include all that, plus Sync Connect, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic detection, leather-upholstered front bucket seats, a power passenger seat, driver-seat memory, and upgraded audio. A power liftgate that opens with a wave of your foot beneath the bumper is also included, as is pushbutton and remote engine start and ambient cabin lighting.

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Prices

A base-price range of $24,495-$31,745 places Escape squarely in the middle of the competitive set, although an AWD Titanium with every factory option stickers for $37,095, a couple thousand more than loaded examples of top rivals such as the CR-V and RAV4. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which is $895 on the ’17 Escape.)

The S is a minimal-option choice at $24,495. SEs start at $25,995 and key options include the blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic detection as part of a $1,395 package that also brings handy one-touch up-and-down side windows, roof-rack side rails, LED daytime running lights, and Sync 3 with an 8-inch dashboard screen. Leather upholstery in combination with a power passenger seat and heated mirrors is $1,595. A power liftgate (without hands-free opening) is $495, 18-inch alloys $595. For a reasonable $490, the Cold Weather Package gives the SE heated front seats and mirrors, a windshield wiper deicer, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts

Base price for the Titanium is $29,995. Exclusive options include the adaptive cruise control with pre-collision braking, at $595. Same for a $1,995 equipment group with lane-keep assist, automatic-dimming high-beam headlights, automatic parallel- and perpendicular-parking, bi-xenon headlamps, and a heated steering wheel. Among extras available on both the SE and Titanium are an imbedded navigation system ($795 in conjunction with Sync Connect), and a panoramic moonroof, at $1,495. The Sport Appearance Package adds $1,295 to an SE and $725 to a Titanium.

Fuel Economy

EPA fuel-economy ratings meet or slightly exceed those of rivals with similar power. The S is rated 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined. SE and Titanium, with their standard turbo 1.5-liter, rate 23/30/26 mpg with front-wheel drive and 22/28/24 with AWD. With the more powerful turbo 2.0-liter, their ratings are not much different: 22/29/25 mpg with front-drive and 20/27/23 with AWD.

EPA ratings don’t reflect it, but both turbo engines benefit from a fuel-saving stop-start system that shuts off the engine when the vehicle is stationary (leaving accessories running), then restarts it automatically when the driver releases the brake pedal. It works with laudable smoothness. The 2.0-liter is the only Escape engine for which Ford recommends premium-grade 91-octane gas.

Release Date

Spring 2016

What’s next for the Escape?

The all-new generation due during 2019 as a ’20 model won’t change much in size, and styling should be a more aerodynamic evolution of the model-year 2017 facelift. Expect further-advanced connectivity and features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control to become standard on all models. Weight-reducing construction will enable use of a fuel-conserving, naturally aspirated 1.5-liter four-cylinder as the base engine, with a turbocharged four-cylinder returning as the uplevel choice and a gas-electric hybrid option as a green alternative.

Competition

Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander and Outlander Sport, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

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 chuck.giametta@carpreview.com