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.