2015 Ford Escape Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 7, 2015

With athletic looks and the performance to match, plus a roomy interior and loads of available cabin tech and convenience features, the 2015 Ford Escape is bolder and more exciting than most rivals, without much compromise.

Like most modern crossovers, the 2015 Ford Escape is essentially a tall wagon—a sporty one, at that. It's rakish, sporty, and contemporary, and it stands as quite an about-face from what it was a few model years ago, when it made the transition from a much boxier form factor.

The Escape carries over to 2015 with only a few minor changes, and versus rivals that include the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Volkswagen Tiguan, and many others, it continues to look (and drive) in a sportier, more car-like way, with crisp handling, strong, responsive powertrains, and reasonably good passenger space.

While the Escape's predecessor aped the larger Explorer in many ways, the current Escape is far more car-like—more like an upright, utility-vehicle version of the Focus on which it's based, really. On the outside, the 2015 Escape has an aggressive stance and broadly arched profile; inside, it's sporty, almost cockpit-like.

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That look fits the decidedly sporty road manners of the 2015 Ford Escape. Although the Mazda CX-5 is a worthy rival, we can't think of any other compact crossover that comes close in offering such crisp, responsive steering, responsive handling, and great body control.

Add to that plenty of choices for what's under the hood. At the base level you can get a well-proven 2.5-liter four that's meant for fleets but actually smooth and well-suited for around-town duty. The mainstream choice of the lineup is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers straight-line acceleration about on par with the 2.5 (or those Honda and Toyota rivals) but its confident, torquey character thanks to the turbo setup mean that it doesn't need to downshift as frequently on the highway, from our experience. Those who want the most performance should head to the 240-hp, 2.0-liter EcoBoost version, which can get to 60 mph in less than eight seconds and has the powertrain punch to really make the most of the Escape's handling. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission for the lineup, and it works just fine, with a manual toggle on the shift knob. 

The Escape definitely rides firm, but it's not over-the-top harsh. Across the lineup you'll find interior appointments that are on par with the best in this class, and better than most other models in this price range. Stylistically, not everyone will warm to the swoopy, plasticky interior treatment, which tends to rob the interior of space (for those in the front seats). Otherwise, considering the sleek exterior, the Escape allows a generous amount of interior space. Front seats are slim and rather firm, and there's just enough space for adults—just two of them, realistically, due to width—in back. The tall body and flat cargo floor open up to loads of cargo space, and the rear seatback flips its own headrests down for simple, one-motion folding. And with a clever power-hatch option, you can simply swing your foot under the bumper to open it. 

The 2015 Ford Escape includes a standard rearview camera system, which aids visibility when parking; otherwise its safety feature set is pretty typical for the class. It's earned mostly top-tier scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), although it earned an embarrassing (and perhaps worrisome) 'poor' result in the small overlap frontal test. And in federal crash tests, it's earned four-star overall ratings (with five stars for side impact).

Noteworthy features offered in the Escape include the complex (but improved) MyFord Touch; a navigation system; HD and satellite radio; Bluetooth with audio streaming; pushbutton start; leather seating; all-wheel drive, with or without a 3,500-pound-rated towing package; and a panoramic sunroof. The top Escape Titanium remains the top model in the lineup and, while it offers a lot of features, can approach the $40k mark, fully loaded. A Titanium Technology Package adds HID Headlamps, a blind-spot system, park assist, and rain-sensing wipers. 

The only things keeping the Escape from being at the top of our list in its class is its real-world gas mileage (we've seen less than EPA Combined ratings in every test drive, even in gentle conditions), and the overly complex infotainment interface. The Escape might not feel quite as roomy as some models in this class, like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, either. But many parents will find these things trivial after zipping around town in the Escape. It’s a versatile crossover that handles like a small car—and possibly even better than that mid-size sedan—and it's too good in that respect not to keep on the shortlist.

8

2015 Ford Escape

Styling

Forget about the boxy look of the former Escape; this one's daring and dashing on the outside, overtly sporty inside.

With the daring redesign that Ford gave the Escape two years ago, it pushed it, stylistically, from one of the most conservative models in its class to something that's rakish and athletic on the outside, and sporty (and perhaps just a little overstyled) inside.

In the pert exterior exterior of the 2015 Escape, we tend to see inspiration in its tightly fitted form from lower hatchbacks, as well as running shoe and outdoor gear. Is it an especially tall hot hatch, or a tall-roof wagon, or is it a utility vehicle, dropped and made more aggressive? With its longer nose, we see hints of a good sport wagon (or sport sedan), as well as enough of the familiar upturned rear pillar to see that some of the influences from the Ford Focus (on which it's based) made it through here intact. From the side it's kicky and dynamic, but in front the mail-slot-sized grille still looks like an odd, cut-and-paste cue to us.

The top Titanium model gets a little more visual differentiation on the outside, with 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, grill radiator shutters, and silver roof rails. 

The kind of modern look you get inside the Escape is less familiar, more bold—and it stands as unique in this class. The overall theme of the instrument panel is upright yet chiseled, contoured, and heavily styled, and it wraps around the front occupants in a swoopy, finely detailed way that makes other compact crossover interiors feel boring. In turn, it loses the open, airy feel of the first-generation Escape, and the rakish look has some tradeoffs—like compromised visibility and thicker roof pillars—but this is the price of modernity.

At center, a wide ribbon of high-gloss grey plastic, with some climate and audio functions, loops around these a set of center-stack controls, with a piano-like layout of buttons and tall, skinny air vents. At the top of this Matterhorn of modernity, ironically, is a CD slot--the one relic of the past decade we can spot inside the new Escape from a dozen feet away. Oddly, there's another horizontal air vent beneath the LCD screen that seems to exist to cool the climate controls and knee caps.

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8

2015 Ford Escape

Performance

Go for the 240-hp turbo four, and you'll make the most of the Escape's sharp handling.

The bold exterior of the 2015 Ford Escape definitely hints to what you'll find behind the wheel, which are some very sporty road manners. Although the Mazda CX-5 os a worthy rival, we can't think of any other compact crossover that comes close in offering such crisp, responsive steering, responsive handling, and great body control.

Add to that plenty of choices for what's under the hood. At the base level you can get a well-proven 2.5-liter four that's meant for fleets but actually smooth and well-suited for around-town duty. The mainstream choice of the lineup is a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers straight-line acceleration about on par with the 2.5 (or those Honda and Toyota rivals) but its confident, torquey character thanks to the turbo setup mean that it doesn't need to downshift as frequently on the highway, from our experience. Those who want the most performance should head to the 240-hp, 2.0-liter EcoBoost version, which can get to 60 mph in less than eight seconds and has the powertrain punch to really make the most of the Escape's handling.

A six-speed automatic is the only transmission for the lineup, and it works just fine. It's mated well to the turbo engines, and the shift points strike a good balance between straight-line acceleration and gas mileage. Shift paddles are one thing that's sorely lacking; instead you get a +/- rocker switch on the shift lever and a sport-shift mode that doesn't quite live up to its name.

You won't find trucky motions; instead there's a tightly damped ride, and weighty, fast steering that's not too overly blessed with feedback. It can feel too tautly strung at times, since the seats are no longer thickly padded, the Titanium's wheels and tires are big 19-inchers, and since there's almost no body flex to absorb ride impacts in the way the old Escape's doddering body structure used to soak up those things.

The Escape comes with front-wheel drive in nearly all of its forms, but if you're not in the Snow Belt you shouldn't think of all-wheel drive as necessary. A new layer of cornering sophistication comes with torque vectoring, which uses anti-lock braking to clamp an inside front wheel to tighten corners when slip is detected. With all-wheel drive (AWD) you get some added heft. In the Escape's case, the relatively simple AWD setup splits power between the front and rear wheels to shift power up to 100 percent to the end that still has a grip.

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8

2015 Ford Escape

Comfort & Quality

Compared to other compact crossovers, the 2015 Ford Escape is small; but it makes good use of its small footprint.

With an overall length of about 178 inches, with a 106-inch wheelbase, the 2015 Ford Escape is a few inches shorter than the Honda CR-V, but its wheelbase is nearly three inches longer, which hints at how its cabin feels nearly as spacious. The Escape feels roughly the same size as the Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5, although it's definitely smaller than the Subaru Forester or Toyota RAV4.

The Escape definitely rides firm, but it's not over-the-top harsh. Across the lineup you'll find interior appointments that are on par with the best in this class, and better than most other models in this price range. Stylistically, not everyone will warm to the swoopy, plasticky interior treatment, which tends to rob the interior of space (for those in the front seats).

Otherwise, considering the sleek exterior, the Escape allows a generous amount of interior space. Front seats are slim and rather firm, and there's just enough space for adults—just two of them, realistically, due to width—in back. In nuts-and-bolts seating space, the Escape is smaller than some key rivals; its 40.4 inches of front leg room measure up against the CR-V's 41.3 inches, and in back, the Escape's 36.8 inches of space line up against the Honda's 38.3 inches. And we've noticed that in front the dash structure tends to nibble away at knee room in the front seats, and in the front passenger seat; the footwells taper narrowly between the dash and the wheel well. Hold back from opting for the panoramic sunroof and you'll find an overabundance of headroom, front and back.

The tall body and flat cargo floor open up to loads of cargo space, and the rear seatback flips its own headrests down for simple, one-motion folding. The arrangement is clever, but not as clever as the Honda CR-V's trick one-touch folding system and its layout that makes best use of every cubic foot of its cargo hold. But what is clever is the power-hatch option, where you can simply swing your foot under the bumper to open it. 

In the top Titanium model you get firmer leather seats, of the sort that wouldn't feel out of place in a sport sedan. From the side, they have a very slim profile, and clearly were engineered to preserve as much passenger space as possible. Still, some passengers may just think they're too hard. While the driver can option up to 10-way passenger seats, the front passenger seat is manual-adjust only, even on Titanium models.

As for the cargo space, we appreciate the optional two-position load floor that gives a choice between a flat floor and maximum storage space, as well as the enclosed cargo bin, which has grown taller and squarer—now fitting 34.3 cubic feet of unattended bags and goodies inside. But with tall sides and smaller glass areas, it's not nearly as pet-friendly as before.

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8

2015 Ford Escape

Safety

The 2015 Ford Escape is a good pick for the family, with its good safety ratings and standard rearview camera system.

The 2015 Ford Escape includes a standard rearview camera system, which aids visibility when parking; otherwise its safety feature set is pretty typical for the class. And while its safety ratings have included some disappointments, they're on the whole respectable.

The Escape has earned mostly top-tier scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), although it earned an embarrassing (and perhaps worrisome) 'poor' result in the small overlap frontal test. And in federal crash tests, it's earned four-star overall ratings (with five stars for side impact).

Base safety equipment includes dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; and Ford's MyKey system, which lets drivers place limits on speed, volume, and other functions, for younger drivers. Standard curve control limits power to all four wheels to help the Escape stay on a safer path if the driver approaches a corner too quickly.

All-wheel drive is optional throughout the lineup. And with the towing package, it comes with HID headlamps and trailer-sway control, which uses stability control to compensate for the rocking motion induced by a trailer.

You get rear parking sensors included with Titanium models. Elsewhere in the lineup, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are available, as well as blind-spot monitors with cross-traffic alerts. The Escape's electric power steering also makes active park assist possible. As on some other Fords, this system judges parallel-parking spots, and steers the Escape into them when it will fit, with the driver operating the pedals.

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8

2015 Ford Escape

Features

Get what gives the Escape a leg up on other crossovers -- like leather, a panoramic sunroof, and Sony sound -- and it's no longer quite the bargain.

A fully loaded, top-of-the-line 2015 Ford Escape Titanium can come perilously close to the $40k mark; and while we're not sure why you'd opt for that versus any number of luxury-brand models, the rest of the Escape lineup can be a pretty impressive value.

The temptation's there, however, to choose liberally from the list of major options, which include a panoramic sunroof; push-button start; navigation system; Sony sound system; HD radio; remote start; hands-free liftgate; active park assist; 18-inch wheels; and a towing package. HID Headlamps, a blind-spot system, park assist, and rain-sensing wipers are grouped together into a Titanium Technology Package. 

MyFord Touch, the touchscreen-and-voice system that takes over operation of audio,, media, and other features, is available on the SE and included in the Titanium. We did notice that the Escape has a volume knob and a simpler climate-control interface with knobs and buttons--whereas, first-gen MyFord Touch crossovers like the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX had swipe-sensitive strips for those functions that rarely responded quickly or evenly to the touch. Here's to those small steps of retreat—although things tend to take a few more steps than they would with dedicated buttons.

That top Escape Titanium includes the feature list of a luxury vehicle, with leather seats, heated front seats, ambient lighting, a power converter, and dual-zone climate control, along with a media hub with two USB ports, RCA jacks, and an SD slot. In addition to the top 240-hp four-cylinder engine, the Titanium also steps up to heated mirrors, 19-inch wheels, push-button start, and fog lamps. You'll also get a hands-free tailgate, which lets you wave a foot under the bumper to open or close the tailgate automatically, and for 2015 it now includes a passenger-side power front seat.

If you want to keep it simple, the base Escape S is no stripped-down miser. It includes air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD player with six speakers; an auxiliary jack; power windows; cloth seats; and the 2.5-liter four-cylinder and the six-speed automatic. A step up from that is the Escape SE, which adds on standard satellite radio; a ten-way power driver's seat; 17-inch wheels; keypad entry on the door frame; and Ford's Bluetooth-driven SYNC controller, which uses voice commands to run phone and audio systems, with information displayed on a 4.0-inch color screen.

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8

2015 Ford Escape

Fuel Economy

There's no longer a Hybrid in the lineup, but the 2015 Ford Escape can top 30 mpg on the highway in some versions.

The 2015 Ford Escape isn't the highest-mileage model in its class, for sure; but it's one of the more fuel-efficient models -- especially if you can keep your right foot light. 

The 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that's most common in the lineup returns 23/32 mpg. The most powerful model, the 2.0-liter turbo four, is listed at 22/30 mpg, which is far better than what the old V-6 Escape returned. 

Where it's offered, all-wheel drive lowers EPA Combined fuel economy by 1 mpg.

If you opt for the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine -- which is mostly a base offering and one for fleets -- you get a rating of 22 miles per gallon city, 31 miles per gallon highway. These models are front-wheel-drive only. 

Both the 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter engines are part of Ford's EcoBoost family, incorporating turbocharging and direct injection, as well as active grille shutters on 2.0-liter models that help hasten engine warmup and improve highway mileage in cold weather. 

One note, however: We haven't quite managed to meet the EPA ratings in any of the 1.6- and 2.0-liter EcoBoost models, but with tall gearing and promise of the engine tech we'll venture that if you can drive gently you'll see some impressive numbers on long trips. 

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March 22, 2016
2015 Ford Escape FWD 4-Door Titanium

My First Ford

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I live in Mexico. I was given a budget to purchase my company car. Due to the road conditions here in Mexico I wanted an SUV or Truck as a company car. After looking at the price of trucks compared to my... + More »
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February 12, 2016
2015 Ford Escape 4WD 4-Door Titanium

Awesome SUV!

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I love everything about this SUV! The ride is quiet, handles great, and the 2.0 econoboost turbo has awesome power! I recommend this car highly!
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September 29, 2015
2015 Ford Escape 4WD 4-Door SE

Best car I've ever owned!

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This is a great vehicle, comfortable, responsive and overall fun to drive!
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June 11, 2015
2015 Ford Escape 4WD 4-Door Titanium

Incredible Vehicle

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The Titanium model has everything loaded on this awesome vehicle. Comfort, style and all the extras sum it up. Using the voice commands makes everything really simple while driving safely. Lots of cargo space... + More »
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May 13, 2015
2015 Ford Escape 4WD 4-Door SE

Outstanding performance in all features of this vehicle!!!!

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Great car...performs as expected in all areas.....good gas consumption and with ECO BOAST....it kicks in when needed!!!!
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April 28, 2015
2015 Ford Escape 4WD 4-Door Titanium

I love my car!

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The Ford Escape is perfect for me. Because I'm only 5 ft. tall an SUV is much more difficult for me to get into it. The Escape is easy for me. The MPG is increasing the more I drive it. It's roomy enough for... + More »
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April 15, 2015
For 2015 Ford Escape

Very good SUV for the price

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We bought the Ford Escape with the titaniumn package because of the visual safety features such as the blis (blind side traffic system) and the cross traffic alert. Both come in very handy in notifying you of... + More »
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April 13, 2015
For 2015 Ford Escape

My Wife's Escape.

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This is our family vehicle driven by my wife about eighty percent of the time. I love driving it when I get the chance. It's the Titatium Trim level with all of the top of the line equipment. The navigation... + More »
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