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From Edmunds.com
2017 Ford  Escape Picture
PROS
  • Optional 2.0-liter turbocharged engine provides quick acceleration
  • High-tech features include Sync 3 infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • Responsive steering and carlike handling around turns
CONS
  • Dated dashboard design with lots of similar-looking small buttons (opting for Sync 3 helps here)

The Ford Escape is a perennial compact-crossover favorite, and we expect much of the same for the updated 2017 version. The Escape earns its crossover stripes with optional all-wheel drive, respectable fuel economy, a spacious cargo bay and an available hands-free power liftgate with a super-cool foot sensor. But it's also agile and instills a level of driver confidence that's quite rare in this class.

The 2017 Ford Escape's freshened front-end styling makes it look like a "mini-me" version of the midsize Ford Edge.

For 2017, certain desirable features have trickled down to more affordable price points, such as the newly standard automatic climate control system on the midgrade SE trim level. Inside, there's now a convenient storage area ahead of the shift lever for your phone and such, while additional stowage options have been sprinkled throughout the cabin.

If you've been waiting for full smartphone integration with the Sync 3 interface, you're in luck for 2017, which sees the advent of both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, not to mention the new FordPass with Sync Connect ownership app. Furthermore, the Escape is now more or less up to date in terms of safety offerings, providing modern technologies like lane-departure prevention and forward collision alert for shoppers so inclined.

Ford has also tinkered with the Escape's engines this year. The previous volume-selling turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine has been replaced by a turbocharged 1.5-liter version. The new 1.5 has similar power and fuel economy specs to the 1.6, but the "turbocharged" part is more about fuel economy than performance. If you can swing it, the potent 2.0-liter turbo engine, which makes a bit more horsepower and torque this year, makes the Escape one of the quickest small crossovers in its class.

While the 2017 Ford Escape is a solid vehicle with many strengths, there are a few rivals we'd advise you to consider. Like the Escape, the Mazda CX-5 is feature-packed and will appeal to those looking for a crossover that handles more like an agile hatchback. Nor will you go wrong with the Honda CR-V, which is roomier on the inside than the Ford and Mazda. We're also fans of the all-new Kia Sportage, a surprisingly refined and upscale alternative that offers an optional turbocharged engine to match the 2.0-liter Escape. But if you're looking for a tried-and-true crossover that's capable across the board, this Ford should still hit the spot.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017

The 2017 Escape gets revised exterior styling, some minor interior improvements, a newly available 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a modified 2.0-liter turbo engine with a bit more output. Models with Sync 3 also provide an ownership app (FordPass with Sync Connect) and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Safety features now include lane-departure prevention, a driver drowsiness monitor and adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert.

2017 Ford  Escape Picture

TRIMS & EQUIPMENT

The 2017 Ford Escape is a compact crossover SUV that comes in three trim levels: S, SE and Titanium.

Standard features on the S include 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, LED taillights, MyKey parental controls, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seat, a 4.2-inch central display, a rearview camera, the Sync tech interface with AppLink smartphone integration, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB port.

Upgrading to the SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels (optional on S), the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, foglights, thicker (i.e., quieter) front side windows, a keyless entry keypad, rear privacy glass, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, rear air vents, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar), upgraded cloth upholstery, a rear center armrest and satellite radio.

You can upgrade the SE with the available SE Technology package (Equipment Group 201A). It adds LED daytime running lights, roof rails, rear parking sensors, a 110-volt household-style power outlet, the upgraded Sync 3 technology interface (including an 8-inch touchscreen), a nine-speaker sound system with dual USB ports and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. The available Cold Weather package includes heated front seats and mirrors, a windshield de-icer and a 110-volt outlet (if not ordered with the Technology package). To this, the SE Leather Comfort package adds an eight-way power passenger seat (with two-way power lumbar) and leather upholstery. Also available are a power liftgate (requires SE Technology package), 18-inch wheels and remote engine start.

The 2017 Escape comes standard with the Sync 3 touchscreen infotainment system in Titanium trim, while the SE trim offers it as an optional upgrade.

At the top of the line, the Titanium combines the SE packages and options listed above with an exclusive foot sensor for the power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, ambient interior lighting, driver memory settings, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a 10-speaker Sony audio system with HD radio. An adaptive cruise control system with forward collision warning is optional.

The Titanium Technology package (Equipment Group 301A) includes xenon headlights with automatic high beam control, automatic wipers, a heated steering wheel, lane departure warning and intervention, and an automated parallel and perpendicular parking feature (includes front and side parking sensors),

A Sport Appearance package is available for the SE and Titanium. It adds black 19-inch wheels, black-painted exterior trim, LED daytime running lights and partial leather upholstery.

Optional on both the SE and Titanium are a panoramic sunroof and a navigation system.

2017 Ford  Escape Picture

INTERIOR & SAFETY

The 2017 Escape's interior doesn't look much different from last year, but Ford says a number of fresh materials and design elements have been introduced. New storage areas in the center console -- facilitated by the space-saving standard electronic parking brake -- are certainly welcome, while a redesigned steering wheel is also among the upgrades this year. Overall, the Escape's dashboard layout is arguably a bit dated by current standards, but plentiful soft-touch materials and generally impressive fit and finish help keep it competitive.

With the debut of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration for 2017, not to mention the new FordPass with Sync Connect app for various remote functions and vehicle health monitoring, the already well-received Sync 3 tech interface becomes even more appealing. Sync 3 is feature-rich and easy to use, with an attractive interface and large virtual buttons that are easy to press. Swiping motions switch between screens, and pinch-to-zoom functionality on the optional navigation system further echoes familiar smartphone interactions. Sync 3 still isn't standard on lesser models, however, and the small base display is flanked by a number of similar-looking buttons that can be hard to decipher quickly while you're driving.

Opt for the 2017 Escape's hands-free power liftgate and you'll never have to put your bags down to open the hatch.

In spite of the Escape's compact appearance, it's pretty spacious behind the front seats. Although the reclining backseat isn't as airy as some rivals, it gives adult passengers adequate legroom and plenty of headroom. On the hauling front, the cargo area measures a competitive 34.3 cubic feet, and the squared-off roof line allows bulky items or big dogs to fit pretty easily. Flipping the rear seats down via the handy one-touch lever opens up 67.8 cubes of space, a satisfactory number for the segment. The available hands-free power liftgate is a nifty feature, opening with a wave of your foot under the rear bumper (as long as you have the key somewhere on you).

Antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag and full-length side curtain airbags are standard on the 2017 Ford Escape. Ford's MyKey (enabling owners to set electronic parameters for younger drivers), a rearview camera and blind-spot mirrors are also standard. A blind-spot warning system with cross-traffic alerts is optional on the SE via the Technology package. Additional options include forward collision alert and lane-departure warning and intervention.

In Edmunds brake testing, a 2014 Escape SE came to a stop from 60 mph in an admirably short 115 feet. We have yet to test a 2017 Escape at our track, but we expect its capabilities to be similar.

2017 Ford  Escape Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

The 2017 Escape offers a choice of front- or all-wheel drive (except the FWD-only Escape S) and utilizes a six-speed automatic transmission. The base Escape S features Ford's venerable 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, but Ford tells us that this model is aimed primarily at business fleet buyers.

The SE and Titanium come standard with the new turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder (179 horsepower, 172 pound-feet of torque), which is expected to be the most popular choice. Stepping up to the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (245 hp, 275 lb-ft) is easier than ever for 2017, as it's now optional on the SE and Titanium.

As for fuel economy, the new 1.5 peaks at an EPA-estimated 26 mpg combined (23 city/30 highway) with FWD, while the 2.0 is right behind at 25 mpg combined (22/29). Opting for all-wheel drive lowers each combined estimate by 2 mpg. If you're wondering about the base 2.5-liter engine, by the way, it's rated at 24 mpg combined (21/29).

With its quick, precise steering and relatively sharp reflexes, the 2017 Ford Escape is one of the segment's top athletes. Some compact crossovers feel tall and bulky from the driver seat, but the Escape feels more like a sporty hatchback with a higher center of gravity. The driving position is also elevated, of course, so you get that SUV-style commanding view of the road, yet the Escape remains firmly planted to the pavement during quick transitions. Fortunately, this dynamic character doesn't come at the expense of ride comfort, which is quite good by class standards.

From the pilot's perspective, the 2017 Escape remains one of the more engaging and fun-to-drive crossovers in this class.

Acceleration from the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine is more than adequate for the segment. Still, the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine accelerates effortlessly by comparison, and it's nearly as fuel-efficient, making it a compelling upgrade in our opinion — especially now that it's optional on the Escape SE.

VERDICT

If you're shopping for a small crossover SUV, you've got a dizzying array of options in front of you. The 2017 Ford Escape receives some tweaks that help keep it fresh, and its available Sync 3 interface packs a lot of technological punch. Let's see if Ford's popular crossover is the right fit for your life.

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