THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Smart styling, lusty engines and good highway fuel economy.
- What’s Worst: High windowsills mean adjusting mirrors correctly is important. Blind spot alert is a wise feature to add.
- What’s Interesting: The new Ford SYNC 3 system that takes connectivity up to the next level.
In the high stakes Canadian compact crossover arena, no detail can be overlooked and that certainly applies to the 2017 Ford Escape.
SUV/CUVs now make up one third of vehicle sales in Canada and the U.S., which Ford expects to grow to 40 per cent by 2020. Last year, sales in the U.S. topped five million, and in Canada, more than 700,000.
So for the 2017 model, Ford made sure not to change what makes Escape so popular, but to improve it inside and out.
There are three trim levels starting with the base S with a 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder producing 168 hp and 170 lb/ft of torque driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel rating is 11.1/8.1L/100 km city/highway.
There are two new EcoBoost engines available for the mid-trim SE and toptrim Titanium. Standard on the SE and Titanium is stop/start technology, which Ford says improves fuel economy by 4-6 per cent in stop-and-go traffic.
The 1.5-litre EcoBoost direct injection engine produces 179 hp and 177 lb/ft of torque, while the 2.0-litre EcoBoost direct injection unit makes 245 hp and 275 lb/ft of torque both with a six-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters.
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Front-wheel-drive is standard on the SE and Titanium with all-wheel-drive available.
Fuel consumption on the 1.5-litre (FWD/AWD) is 10.2/7.9L/100 km and 10.7/8.3L/100 km respectively city/highway. With the 2.0-litre it is 10.6/8.0L/100 km and 11.5/8.7L/100 km respectively.
When properly equipped, towing for the 2.5/1.5/2.0-litre engines is 1,500/2,000/3,500 lb respectively.
Cargo volume is 34.0 cu ft behind the second row seat and 68 cu ft behind the front seats.
Ford revamped the 2017 Escape’s appearance inside and out with the focus on ergonomics, with the shifter moved back to improve access to the climate controls with an added storage bin with a lighted USB port for charging cellphones.
The centre console gets cupholders designed for all kinds of containers, bins in front and behind the cupholders, added storage, “swing-bin” glove box and an all-new steering wheel and easy-to-work buttons to control audio, adaptive cruise control and SYNC 3 voice command systems.
The exterior features a redesigned hood and raised trapezoidal grille with low-beam projector headlights.
New for 2017 is the Sport Appearance Package, available on the SE and Titanium with 19-inch Ebony Black painted aluminum wheels, liberal use of exterior black trim pieces on the outside and partial leather trimmed sports seats with contrasting stitching, leather shift knob and steering wheel.
The Escape now has Ford SYNC 3 that is a major improvement over the previous system and allows interaction by voice control or tapping on the upper centre stack screen.
Believe it or not, you can ask it for restaurant suggestions by simply saying, “I’m hungry.”
It also offers music search and control, voice recognition and SIRI seamless integration.
An interesting feature when using a cellphone is a “Do Not Disturb” feature that blocks incoming calls, but still allows the driver to make voice-activated outgoing calls. Incoming calls are changed into text messages on the cellphone where they are stored to be read at a later date.
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At the Canadian press launch, the drive route was Calgary to Jasper and back again the next day, providing some 800 km of “seat time”
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There were no 2.0-litre models available, but a mix of SE and Titaniums including some Sport models.
I drove a SE Sport up to Jasper with the 1.5-litre engine and found it a very tightly put together package that tracked exactly where pointed with spunky acceleration and seamless shifting.
During the drive, the Ford spokesman I was with explained SYNC in detail including pairing his cellphone, which we used as our navigation system on the centre screen.
On the way back, I had a base SE, which did not have the leather trim of the Sport Package, but was the same in every other way.
Gotta tell you we had a great time seeing at least two very large bears along the roadside and even two shaggy looking mountain goats just standing in the centre of the road being nonplussed as we crept by within an arm’s length.
One of the features on the Escape is called Driver Alert that uses the available lane keeping system and senses when the vehicle is veering and provides a warning in the instrument cluster and vibrates the steering wheel.
Escape also offers Adaptive Cruise Control that uses sensors to spot a slow moving or stopped vehicle ahead and automatically starts braking.
The Escape has all the qualities that are attracting buyers to crossovers, compacts in particular.
And now with smaller, frugal but powerful new engines, the Escape has more to offer than ever.
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Ford Escape 2017 at a glance
BODY STYLE: Compact five-seat crossover
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive with six-speed automatic transmission. No manual available
ENGINE: 2.5-litre inline four cylinder (168 hp, 170 lb/ft); 1.5-litre direct injection twin-turbo four-cylinder (179 hp, 177 lb/ft); 2.0-litre direct injection twin turbo (245 hp, 275 lb/ft)
CARGO VOLUME: 34.0 cu ft behind the second row, 68 cu ft behind front seats
TOW RATING: (Properly equipped) 2.5-litre, 1,500 lb; 1.5-litre, 2,000 lb; 2.0-litre, 3,500 lb respectively
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 2.5-litre, 11.1/8.1L/100 km city/highway; 1.5-litre (FWD/AWD) 10.2/7.9L/100 km and 10.7/8.3L/100 km respectively; 2.0-litre, 10.6/8.0L/100 km and 11.5/8.7L/100 km respectively.
PRICE: (Starting) S FWD, $25,099; SE FWD, $27,599; SE AWD, $29,799; Titanium FWD, 33,799; Titanium AWD $35,999; shipping fee, $1,690
WEB SITE: www.ford.ca