Engine: 2.5L 4-cyl/1.5L turbo 4-cyl/2.0L turbo 4-cyl
Power: 168 hp and 170 lb-ft/179 hp and 177 lb-ft/245 hp and 275 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy (MPG): 22 city, 28 hwy (1.5L AWD)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 10.7 city, 8.3 hwy (1.5L AWD)
US Price: Starts at $24,245, Top model $29,745
CAN Price: Starts at $25,099, Top model $35,999
The Canadian Rockies may not be the most obvious pick for a vacation: There are no beaches, no modern architecture or fancy world-class museums and it’s definitely not known for its drug-fuelled full moon parties.
But once you get a chance to drive through it, the staggering and infinitely Instagrammable beauty of the snow capped mountains, a fresh piney smell that reminds you of Christmas, and the zoo of wild animals like bears, elk, and ram just outside your window make you start wondering why more people don’t come here to get away.
In the same way, the Ford Escape may not be the most obvious choice for a compact crossover. Like an all-inclusive beach resort, most people will gravitate towards a Honda CR-V or a Toyota RAV4, but once you drive the new 2017 Ford Escape, you come to appreciate that it also has a lot to offer, just like the Canadian Rockies. Especially if you only buy domestic cars, the Ford is leagues ahead of its Chevy competition.
The Ford Escape has always been a top seller in the compact crossover segment, and it’s the second best-selling Ford model after the F-150. It was starting to feel dated, but the refreshed 2017 Ford Escape finally gets the infusion of technology that will make it more competitive. Technology is the Escape’s defining feature, just like the one defining feature of the Canadian Rockies is the raw, elemental natural beauty.
Outside, the biggest change is a new grille that makes the Escape look like a smaller Ford Edge. The big grille helps give the crossover a wider stance and gives it more presence on the road. Ford says the updates make it look “unstoppable,” and while that is a huge exaggeration, I do agree that it looks more capable and rugged. A new sport appearance package with blacked-out features helps this cause. Available LED headlights freshen up the look, and adaptive headlights are also available.
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Inside, not too many changes have been made. Ford is making a big deal about getting rid of the parking brake lever and using an electronic parking brake instead. This frees up space on the centre console for storage cubbies. One of the cubbies is specifically designed as a phone holder and it’s close to USB ports that can be used for charging or using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
ALSO SEE: 2016 Ford Explorer Review
The biggest phones won’t fit in the cubby. My Samsung Galaxy Note 4 won’t fit, and I don’t think an iPhone 6 Plus will fit, but most other phones should fit easily. Luckily there are many other cubbies you can use if you have a bigger phone.
The other big change inside is a new steering wheel, which feels nicer in your hands and is available heated. The rest of the interior is much the same, so it has a clean and user-friendly dashboard layout and no mystery buttons.
The Escape is also much quieter from the inside, and I often didn’t realize how fast I was going because the crossover is so smooth, quiet and composed at higher speeds.
New Engines, Better Driving Dynamics
The first big news is two new EcoBoost engines: a 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a twin-scroll turbocharger. They both come standard with stop/start, and it is one of the most seamless and least annoying stop/start systems I’ve ever experienced. I usually turn these systems off because they’re so intrusive, but the Escape’s stop/start was so quiet and smooth that it didn’t bother me at all and I kept it on the whole time. The intelligent system improves fuel economy by 4 to 6 percent in stop and go traffic and won’t activate if the car is in extreme temperatures.
The carryover 2.5-liter four-cylinder is still available, but it’s really not the engine you want because it makes the Escape feel lethargic. The EcoBoost options are much better. On a few stretches of two-lane mountain roads, passing three slower moving cars at a time was surprisingly quick and wasn’t at all anxiety-inducing. The 1.5L outputs 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, while the 2.0L delivers 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. All engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and upper trim levels even have paddle shifters.
Front-wheel drive Escapes are available, but most people will opt for the AWD system, which reads the road conditions every 16 milliseconds. The system can transfer up to 100 percent of the power to the front or rear wheels if needed. The system makes the crossover feel sure-footed, and it never lost traction in the rain, snow or freezing rain we experienced while driving in the mountains and the engine never lost steam at higher altitudes. Even when we had to go off-course into a steep gravel area, the Escape never felt like it was going to get stuck.
All of this makes the 2017 Ford Escape easy, familiar, and predictable to drive. It’s easy to park and maneuver, it feels confident and planted, and driven in many different conditions over the course of two days, there were no bad surprises. The steering is well weighted around town, and while it’s a bit too light and twitchy on the highway, there’s nothing about the crossover’s driving dynamics that really turn me off. It has everything you’d expect in a modern crossover.
New Tech is the Main Attraction
Besides new engines, a load of new driver assistance technology is available as well. Adaptive cruise control, collision warning, automatic emergency braking, perpendicular or parallel park assist with park-out functionality and lane keep assist are all available.
Also new is SYNC3 with Apple Carplay and Android Auto support, SYNC Connect and a new Ford Pass app for your smartphone. SYNC Connect is a telematics system that allows drivers to use a Ford Pass app to give remote access to their cars and provide real-time status updates. A driver can use the app to remote start their car, check fuel levels, lock the car, remind them where they parked it, and assist in making service appointments. The Escape is the first Ford to get SYNC Connect. It will roll out to the Fusion later this year, and is free for five years.
SYNC3 is also a very user-friendly infotainment system that has become one of the idustry’s best.
The Verdict: 2017 Ford Escape Review
The 2017 Ford Escape has everything you would want if you’re shopping for a compact crossover and our time in the Canadian Rockies proved it was a comfortable cruiser and a great road trip companion. When equipped with the right engines, it has confident driving dynamics and is capable in all the right ways. Now that it has all the best technology and a new look, it really deserves to be one of the top-selling crossovers.
Also, if you haven’t been to the Canadian Rockies, it’s really worth it and you should definitely give it a chance. And if you’ve never considered the Ford Escape, this is the year it finally deserves your attention.
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