- Sleek, hatchback-on-steroids look
- Useful cargo space
- Firm yet compliant ride
- Excellent handling
- No shortage of tech options
- Dash robs front knee room
- Seats too firm for some
- Real-world fuel economy may not meet ratings
The 2017 Ford Escape foregoes a bit of utility in the name of style and sportiness, making it one of the better crossovers to drive.
Consider the 2017 Ford Escape as a tall wagon—like most compact crossover SUVs—and you're on the mark. The Escape's chassis is sportier than most of its competitors, something that pays dividends when the road turns curvy but can be a challenge when it comes to coddling passengers.
For 2017, Ford gives the Escape a mild mid-cycle update, with new tech features, two new turbocharged EcoBoost 4-cylinder engines, and revamped styling, especially up front. The Ford corporate face pioneered on the 2013 Fusion sedan makes its way to the Escape. It creates a cleaner, crisper, and still surprisingly modern appearance.
It earned a 6.2 overall rating on our scale, which reflects its improvement in safety and features. The Escape still has room to improve in nearly every category, however. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
The overall look is quite stylish, almost to the detriment of utility. The pert sheet metal obviously takes its inspiration from hatchbacks, running shoes, and outdoor gear. Inside, the look is bold, contoured, and heavily styled. The rakish design foregoes an airy feel, and the swoopy dash takes away some knee and legroom.
The two new engines are a 1.5-liter that replaces a 1.6, and a new version of Ford's 2.0-liter inline-4. They make 179 and 245 horsepower, respectively, replacing engines that put out 178 and 240 horsepower. They join a carry-over 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that puts out 168 horsepower.
On the road, the 1.5 and 2.5 deliver roughly the same acceleration, though the torquier 1.5 doesn't need to downshift as much on the highway. The 2.0 is considerably stronger, with 0 to 60 mph times of less than seven seconds, making it one of the strongest powerplants in the class.
Compared to rivals like the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Toyota RAV4 and others, it continues to look (and drive) in a sporty, car-like way. Although the Mazda CX-5 is a worthy rival, we can't think of any other compact crossover that comes close in offering such responsive steering, crisp handling, and great body control. The Escape definitely rides firmly, but it's not over-the-top harsh.
Quality, safety, and features
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.
For 2017, the Escape adds several tech features, both infotainment and safety related. There’s Ford’s new Sync Connect, which allows you to remotely access the vehicle via apps on your smartphone. New safety systems include adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning with brake support, a lane-keeping system, and enhanced active park assist. These join the already available blind spot monitor, and rear park assist.
Crash test results haven't been ideal. Though the 2017 model improved the prior year's small overlap score to "Acceptable" from "Poor," the Escape still isn't a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS. Federal testers gave it a top five-star overall rating, however.
Across the lineup—which includes S, SE , and Titanium models—you'll find interior appointments that are on par with the best in class, and better than most other models in this price range. Noteworthy features offered in the Escape include Sync 3 infotainment; a navigation system; HD and satellite radio; Bluetooth with audio streaming; push-button start; leather seating; all-wheel drive; a 3,500-pound-rated towing package; and a panoramic sunroof. The top Titanium offers a lot of features. It can approach the $40,000 mark, fully loaded, which is too close for comfort to the related Lincoln MKC.
Historically, we haven't achieved the EPA numbers in our real-world tests. The new EcoBoost engines could be an improvement. Their EPA ratings are good, but not great, for the class. The 1.5 gets up to 26 mpg combined, the 2.0 rates up to 25 mpg combined, and the 2.5 comes in at 24 mpg combined. The 1.5 and 2.0 are offered with front- and all-wheel drive, while the 2.5 gets only front-wheel drive.
2017 Ford Escape
A new corporate face only adds to the sporty looks of the Ford Escape.
The Escape's pert sheet metal is direct and modern. It obviously takes its inspiration from hatchbacks, running shoes, 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 long nose, we see hints of a good sport wagon. The familiar upturned rear pillar shows hints of the Ford Focus, on which the Escape is based.
Ford updates the front end for the 2017 model year. The Ford corporate face pioneered on the 2013 Fusion sedan and recently added to the Edge midsize crossover makes its way to the Escape. It creates a cleaner, crisper, and still surprisingly modern looking crossover.
A better than average exterior is why we gave it a 6 out of 10 on our styling scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Though dynamic, the cockpit is somewhat puzzling. The modern look inside the Escape is bold, contoured, and heavily styled. It wraps around the front occupants in a swoopy, finely detailed way that makes other compact crossover interiors feel boring. The rakish look has some trade-offs. It foregoes an airy feel, has compromised visibility due to thick roof pillars, and it cuts back on knee and legroom. Such is the price of modernity.
At the top of the center stack is a CD slot—the one relic of the past decade we can spot inside the new Escape from a dozen feet away. Time for it to go. Oddly, there's another horizontal air vent beneath the LCD screen that seems to exist to cool the climate controls and knee caps. There's a good deal of visual complexity in here that could use a calm hand, and a stylistic "delete" button.
2017 Ford Escape
Sporty dynamics and competent turbocharged engines make the 2017 Ford Escape one of the best-driving compact crossovers.
The Ford Escape's swoopy styling telegraphs what it's set up to do: to drive almost nothing like any SUV or even crossover you can imagine. Instead, it handles and accelerates like a sharp, engaging liftback that just happens to sit a bit higher and offer a touch more cargo space. On the crossover-SUV spectrum, it sits side by side with Mazda's CX-5 in totally diverting off the winding, off-road trail.
Electronic torque vectoring aids cornering. It uses anti-lock braking to clamp an inside front wheel to tighten corners when slip is detected. Even without it, we think the Escape's polished road manners would still shine. With crisp steering, responsive handling, and great body control, the Escape lives up to the hatchback profile. 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.
The Escape's handling is the biggest reason it scores 6 out of 10 on our performance scale, an impressive figure for a compact SUV. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
On the down side, the Escape can feel too tautly sprung at times. The Titanium's available wheels and tires are big 19-inchers, and that can create a harsh ride. However, the 17s in the SE model we tested created an impressively smooth ride that most buyers will appreciate.
Ford offers a trio of powerplants for the Escape. The base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder makes 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. It's a bit old-school compared to the other engines, but it is smooth, competent, and somewhat boring. Primarily aimed at fleet buyers. It's inexpensive, but it has enough power for most needs, though it also offers the worst fuel economy of the group.
For 2017, the duo of EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinders is new. The volume engine is the 1.5-liter. It makes 179 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. Like the 1.6 it replaces, it delivers roughly the same straight-line acceleration as the 2.5 but tops those with a torquey, confident feel that doesn't lead to as much downshifting on the interstates. It lets out some booming sounds during hard acceleration and it isn't at all quick, but it's competent and on par with the competition, not to mention fairly fuel efficient.
The top performer is the new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4. It produces 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque (each up by 5). It delivers 0 to 60 mph times of less than seven seconds. We'd pony up the roughly $1,300 for this engine, as it has the punch to separate the Escape from almost every other crossover SUV in its class.
A 6-speed automatic is the only transmission, 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 provided for the EcoBoost engines, while the 2.5 gets a rocker switch on the shift lever and a sport-shift mode that doesn't quite live up to its name.
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 (AWD) as necessary. 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 grip.
2017 Ford Escape
Comfort & Quality
Soft-touch surfaces combine with smart packaging to make the 2017 Ford Escape's interior a pleasant environment for up to five.
Across the 2017 Ford Escape 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.
We gave the Escape a 6 out of 10 for good utility space inside the stocky SUV. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
By the numbers, the Escape is only slightly less effective at carving out passenger and cargo space when compared to its top rival, the Honda CR-V. With an overall length of 178.1 inches, and a 105.9-inch wheelbase, the Escape is a few inches shorter than the Honda CR-V, but its wheelbase is 3 three inches longer, which hints at how its cabin feels nearly as spacious. Its 43.1 inches of front leg room measure up against the CR-V's 41.3 inches, and in back, the Escape's 37.3 inches of space line up against the Honda's 38.3 inches.
In everyday use, the Honda has the Escape nailed, for a few reasons. First, the Escape's dash structure nibbles away at knee room in the front seats. The footwells taper narrowly between the dash and the wheelwells. Hold back from opting for the panoramic sunroof and you'll find an overabundance of headroom, front and back.
The Escape is less comfortable than the Honda, too. The Escape's seats 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 firm.
As for the cargo space, we appreciate the fact that the new electronic parking brake frees up console space for all the items we carry with us on our travels. We also like the 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 is relatively tall and square, and can hold 34.0 cubic feet of unattended bags and goodies inside.
The tall body and flat cargo floor open up to increase maximum cargo space to 68.0 cubic feet, 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. The power-hatch option is clever; simply swing your foot under it and it opens automatically.
2017 Ford Escape
The 2017 Ford Escape improves on its old test scores, but it's not nearly top tier in the class.
The Ford Escape adds some new safety technology's for 2017 and has slightly improved its test scores, but it's still behind many others in the class.
Federal testers have given the Escape five stars overall, which includes a four-star rating in rollover crash safety. The Escape also managed to improve its ranking in the IIHS' small-overlap frontal crash test from "Poor" to "Acceptable" for 2017. All of those factors result in a 6 out of 10 on our safety scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 2016 Escape did not offer a forward collision prevention system, but the 2017 model does. It comes with adaptive cruise control and includes automatic braking that can prevent a crash or mitigate its severity. Also new for 2017 are lane-keep assist and a driver alert system that provides warning in the instrument cluster if it a detects a driver is fatigued.
Standard safety features include seven airbags, including a driver knee airbag; a rearview camera; and Ford's MyKey system, which lets drivers place limits on speed, volume, and other functions, for younger drivers.
Front and rear parking sensors are offered as options, while rear sensors are standard on the Titanium trim level. Blind-spot monitors are optional.
The Escape's electric power steering also makes active park assist possible. It is enhanced this year to automatically steer the Escape into perpendicular spots as well as parallel spots. The driver must operate the pedals.
All-wheel drive is optional throughout the lineup. And with the towing package, it comes with HID headlights and trailer-sway control, which uses stability control to compensate for the rocking motion induced by a trailer.
2017 Ford Escape
The base content is good, and plenty of additional features are available, but higher line models and option packages increase prices considerably.
The 2017 Ford Escape is offered in three models: S, SE, and Titanium.
The Escape earns a 7 score on our scale thanks to good base features, a solid set of add-ons, and good customization options. Higher trims can reach deeper into pockets without much return, so we think the value is in the middle of the lineup. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The S model is no stripped-down miser. For a little more than $24,000, it comes standard with cloth upholstery, a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat, a 4-way manually adjustable front passenger seat, air conditioning, an AM/FM/CD player with six speakers, the Sync infotainment control system with a 4.2-inch center screen, a rear-view camera, cruise control, power locks, power mirrors, power windows, remote keyless entry, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, a manually tilt/telescoping steering wheel, a rear spoiler, and 17-inch tires on steel wheels with hubcaps. It also comes with the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.
The SE model gets the 1.5-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, plus shift paddles, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear center armrest, satellite radio, a 10-way power driver's seat, keypad entry on the door frame, rear privacy glass, fog lamps, and alloy wheels.
The top Escape Titanium includes the feature list of a luxury vehicle, with leather upholstery, a 10-way power front passenger seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 110-volt power outlet, a 12-speaker 390-watt Sony audio system, HD radio, a blind-spot monitor, keyless access and starting, remote starting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated exterior mirrors, a universal garage door opener, ambient lighting, LED signature lighting, rear park assist, and 18-inch wheels. You'll also get memory for the driver's seat and mirrors, and the Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, the Sync Connect smartphone app, and a media hub with two USB ports, RCA jacks, and an SD slot. Finally, it adds the hands-free tailgate, which lets you wave a foot under the bumper to open or close the tailgate automatically.
The 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is a $1,295 option for the SE and Titanium models.
Most versions of the Ford Escape come with the features we'd want in a basic crossover SUV, but if you aren't careful, the higher-line models and option packages can push the price higher quickly.
The temptation's there, however, to choose liberally from the list of major options, which include a panoramic sunroof; keyless ignition; navigation system; Sony sound system; HD radio; remote start; hands-free liftgate; active park assist; 18-inch wheels; and a towing package.
A Titanium Sport Appearance package comes with black-painted 19-inch wheels, black exterior trim, and partial leather-trimmed “V”-shaped seats.
Sync 3 shares a lot of functionality with the excellent Chrysler infotainment systems (down to the programming level). The interface is clean and quick to respond. It is offered with a new Sync Connect app lets owners start, lock, unlock and locate their vehicles with their smartphones.
2017 Ford Escape
The 2017 Ford Escape is fairly frugal, and the 2.0-liter turbo actually does better than the base engine, but there are more efficient rivals.
With its range of 4-cylinder engines, the Ford Escape is one of the more fuel-efficient choices in its class, though not the most frugal.
The base engine, the 2.5-liter inline-4, is mostly a fleet choice. It is rated at 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined. Those numbers fall from last year but that's because of the EPA's new method for calculating ratings. These models are front-wheel-drive only.
The first step up is to the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which should be the most popular engine. With front-wheel drive, it gets 23/30/26 mpg. Add all-wheel drive and those ratings fall to 22/28/24. We based our fuel economy score of 7 for this powertrain configuration. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The most powerful engine, the 2.0-liter turbo-4, is listed at 22/29/25 mpg with front-wheel drive and 20/27/23 with AWD.
Part of Ford's EcoBoost family, the 1.5- and 2.0-liter engines incorporate turbocharging and direct injection. All models get active grille shutters 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 EcoBoost models in the past, but we're hoping that the new engines will return better numbers.