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2017 Ford Escape SE Review

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The Escape SE is right for…

Drivers who favor the spice of sporty performance over the vanilla of family values. It’s the best buy in one of America’s most popular compact-crossover lineups. Like all ’17 Escapes, the SE has freshened styling, upgraded features, and new engines. Option it with all-wheel drive and one of the liveliest turbocharged four-cylinders in the class and you’ve got a stylishly quick little runner that lists for under $30,000 – before plentiful discounts.

Pros include…

The most significant revisions since this Escape generation went on sale for model-year 2013. Styling updates strengthen the family resemblance to Ford’s newest Edge midsize crossover. A revamped center console expands storage space and replaces the parking-brake lever with a modern electric button. Expect to see lots of SEs with the new black-trimmed Sport Appearance Package. Escape’s German-bred road manners remain intact and now pair with more responsive standard and optional engines.

Cons include…

Stingy space for adult-length legs in the rear seat, making it less suited to family duty than duller-driving but roomier rivals such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Nissan Rogue. Cargo volume is middling, and so are safety ratings. Escape rates 4 stars of the maximum 5 in government crash tests. Adaptive cruise control and pre-collision braking are newly available, but Ford limits them to Escape’s top-line Titanium trim. Even then, the system’s ability to slow – but not stop — the Escape to mitigate a frontal collision makes it ineligible for the top safety rating from the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

It costs…

Including Ford’s $895 destination fee, the SE is priced from $25,995 with front-wheel drive and from $27,745 with all-wheel drive (AWD). The SE is in the middle of the Escape line, above the entry-level S model, which starts at $24,495 and is available only with front-wheel drive, and below the top-trim Titanium, priced from $29,995 with front-drive, $31,745 with AWD.

The ’17 SE comes with a 179-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which replaces a trouble-prone 1.6-liter turbo four. Like all Escapes, it has a six-speed automatic transmission. Other standard features include a power driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, and – complimenting its sporty nature – steering-wheel paddle shifters.

The best options are…

The re-engineered 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. A $1,205 option, its 245 horsepower wrings the most from the SE’s performance DNA. You’ll relish its extra muscle and refinement, and be happy you’ve harnessed it to the traction-enhancing virtues of AWD. Leather upholstery bundles with a power passenger seat and heated front seats and mirrors for $1,595. A power liftgate (without hands-free opening) is $495.

The $1,395 Technology Package includes blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic and rear-obstacle detection, handy one-touch up-and-down side windows, roof-rack side rails, LED daytime running lights, and Ford’s useful Sync Connect hands-free infotainment interface with an 8-inch dashboard screen. The Tech Package also includes FordPass to start, lock, unlock and locate your Escape via smartphone app. It also makes the SE eligible for imbedded navigation, a $795 option that sustains GPS mapping in the absence of a cell signal.

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Superfluous options?

The panoramic moonroof is nice but a pricey $1,495. At $595, 18-inch tires and alloy wheels improve handling precision over the standard 17-inch tires and alloys without compromising the already-taut suspension’s tolerable ride quality. Harshness over bumps is an issue with the low-profile 19-inch tires that are part of the $1,295 SE Sport Appearance package. The package includes trendy black alloy wheels and darkened grille, lower body trim, even headlamps and taillamps. None of that’s really functional, though the package’s extra-supportive front bucket seats upholstered in leather and cloth with white stitching are.

The Escape SE is better than the…

Toyota RAV4 SE, which is slower and costs more; Nissan Rogue SV, which is more boring in every way and suffers an ill-shifting continuously variable transmission; and the Jeep Cherokee Latitude, which doesn’t handle as sharply and needs its optional V-6 for acceptable performance.

The Escape SE is not as good as the…

Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring, which is roomier and better balances ride and handling; Honda CR-V EX-L, which boasts the segment’s best blend of road manners, functionality, and value; and Subaru Forester 2.0XT Premium, which we concede is an outlier choice but one with more space and more turbo power than the SE, surprisingly good handling, and superior off-road ability.

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