Review of: 2017 Ford Escape 4WD 4dr Titanium
2017 Ford Escape Titanium: More fun, less function
By Chris Chase
Oct. 24, 2016
The first Ford Escape went on sale as a 2001 model, a boxy crossover that soon became the most popular vehicle in its class, eclipsing both the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 introduced a few years prior.
It was sold in Europe too, in a time before there was much appetite for crossovers and SUVs as mainstream vehicles. But by 2012, Ford sensed there was enough continental crossover demand that its European division would take the lead in designing a new compact model to be sold there as the Kuga, and in North America as an all-new Escape.
Late last year, Ford introduced a refreshed 2017 Escape at the L.A. auto show — the same place it had staged the North American reveal of the 2012.
Pros & Cons
- + Smooth, strong engine
- + Sharp handling
- + Touchscreen display
- - Hard rear seats
- - Price of options
- - Fuel economy
Stylistically, the only major changes are a more distinctive grille framed by new headlights, as well as redone taillights, but the Escape casts the same shadow as the outgoing 2016 model. Mechanical changes include a 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in SE trim that makes about the same power as last year’s 1.6-litre but boasts better highway fuel economy.
Returning players include a 2.5-litre four-cylinder for the basic S model, and a 2.0-litre turbo four available in SE and standard in Titanium trim.
Ford’s designers created a more spacious front seat area by re-shaping the centre stack. There’s now better differentiation between the stack and the console below it, and the shift lever’s new placement means it no longer sits in the way of the ventilation controls when it’s in the park position. Replacing a mechanical parking brake with an electric one freed up some space in the console for more small-item storage and more conveniently located cupholders, and a new steering wheel hosts more ergonomic radio and trip computer controls.
We like that Ford has stuck with the outgoing car’s straightforward gauge cluster, which includes a sharp LCD display for trip and fuel economy info. Another neat feature we’re glad was carried forward are the vents tucked up above the climate controls, which are good for directing warm or cool air at front seat occupants’ legs.
Just above those vents, you’ll find the most annoying volume knob ever, pitched at an awkward angle and a reach for a front seat passenger. And the generous space in the Escape’s rear seat is cancelled out by thin, hard bottom cushions too close to the floor to provide thigh support for adults. On the plus side, they drop toward the floor when the seat is folded to help create a flat load surface.
Ford was first to market with a hands-free power tailgate, and it returns for 2017, working nicely in our Titanium tester. There’s also SYNC 3, the latest generation of Ford’s infotainment system. It’s a big improvement over earlier iterations, and much easier to use.
A backup camera is standard across the line, and our Titanium also came with a heated steering wheel, automatic climate control and a Canadian Touring Package that adds a panoramic sunroof and navigation, along with adaptive cruise control with forward collision mitigation as a stand-alone extra.
Also available, but not included in our car, was an option pack that bundles Xenon headlights with automatic high beams, lane-keeping system, rain-sensing wipers, and a park assist system that can handle parallel parking as well as perpendicular spots.
You don’t hurt for power in the Escape Titanium, which comes standard with the 2.0-litre turbo engine, the most potent offered here. Its 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque (on premium fuel; it generates a bit less on regular) is about as good as it gets in a compact crossover, and that big torque number gives the Escape great performance in city driving. Like most turbocharged engines, the power drops off at higher revs, but this is a fun ride in a class where it’s rare to get more than about 180 hp.
The 2.0-litre’s main downside is its real-world fuel consumption: it’s a thirstier beast than its 11.5/8.7 L/100 km (city/highway) estimates suggest with the optional AWD system my tester had. I saw an average of 13.2 L/100 km in city driving. The 1.5-litre turbo gives up some power, obviously, but still offers useful torque while returning better economy in everyday driving.
In Titanium trim, Escape tries to bridge the gap between budget-priced compact crossovers and upscale models, including the Lincoln MKC that shares the Escape’s underpinnings, and it’s very easy to top $40,000 here. An SE model with the 1.5-litre is more palatable price-wise, with a $27,599 starting tag with FWD, or $29,799 with AWD.
We’d argue that with the Escape, Ford isn’t shy about charging a bit more for a vehicle that is more fun to drive than cars like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Those Japanese brands have stepped up their value games in a big way, to the point that even the Koreans at Kia and Hyundai now have a hard time boasting better value.
We’re not going to lie: since its 2012 reinvention, we’ve appreciated this Escape’s look and driving feel, and would have a hard time talking ourselves out of buying one, were we in the market for a small crossover. The 2017’s refinements made an already-compelling vehicle better, but if you’re willing to give up some driving involvement, you’ll find better value and interior utility in some of the Escape’s competition.