Model Tested: 2017 Ford Escape SE all-wheel drive
Engine: 1.5-liter EcoBoost
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA Ratings: 22/city, 28/highway, 24/combined
Base Price: $26,850
As Tested: $30,830
Overview: The refreshed 2017 Ford Escape is unlike most compact crossovers. Its rakish styling; more responsive steering; and sharp, sporty handling set it apart from competitors Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and Mazda CX-5 — which in our humble opinion is a close second handling-wise. The refresh includes two new powerplants — a 179-horse, 1.5-liter that powered our test vehicle, and a new version of the 2-liter delivering 245 horses. All-wheel drive (AWD) is available with both, while a 168-horsepower, 2.5-liter only comes with front-wheel drive.
Walkaround: The Aston Martin inspired front styling rounds out the Ford family’s signature look. The stylish exterior is clean and crisp, with a redesigned hood and other design changes that give the Escape a more confident, rugged persona. The available Sport Appearance Package includes 19-inch ebony black premium painted aluminum wheels, gloss black painted upper grille and side vents, and black headlamp and taillight bezels.
Interior: The updated cockpit is bold, contoured and stylish to the point that other compact crossovers become boring. The front seats are slim, firm and comfortable. While the wraparound dash steals some front knee and legroom, there’s still plenty of space. However, the rakish exterior restricts airiness inside. There’s plenty of rear headroom without the optional panoramic sunroof. The seatbacks and headrests flip down, creating 68 cubic feet of cargo space, and the rear hatch can be opened by swinging your foot under the bumper with the key fob in your pocket or purse. Ford’s available SYNC 3 with SYNC Connect allows connection to the Escape remotely via smartphone, and it’s the first Ford vehicle to offer SYNC 3 plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support.
Behind the Wheel: Our test driver featured the 1.5-liter EcoBoost powerplant. Acceleration was adequate, and the standard 6-speed works smoothly with it. The AWD system delivers 100 percent power between the front and rear wheels — wherever traction is required. The Escape’s strength is its sporty handling. Snappy steering, great body control and electronic torque vectoring facilitating the cornering are its hallmarks.
Whines: Thick A-pillars restrict forward visibility. Plastic trim cheapens the cabin.
Bottom Line: The 2017 Escape has lots going for it — stylishness, power, utility, plus sporty handling — unlike your typical SUV.