The 2017 Ford’s Escape is the company’s latest answer to the city SUV. With the Territory and Kuga making way for the Escape and Everest, Ford’s latest SUV offering is now more evolved, more mature and more reliant on technology as a key selling point than ever before.
If I’m honest, I’ve was never really one who understood the desire for an SUV, with a sedans offering far more appeal for someone after an vehicle that can connect you to the road. Every SUV I’ve been suffers many compromises with its extra weight and elevation dramatically decreasing driveability.
After spending a week behind the wheel of the Escape, I totally get it. I now understand why this market segment has exploded in recent years. The higher seating position for the driver gives a better perspective to the road and traffic around you. It also provides a feeling of additional safety, even if that’s not reflected in reality, its important to the driving feel. The diversity of applications from driving off-road (get the Everest if you’re after serious 4×4 action), paired with the ability to tow a small trailer if you need, the modern SUV does have many appealing attributes and has eliminated many of the negatives.
Design & Style
The Escape looks like a very capable car, capable of carrying its 5 passengers safely to their destination. It looks like the kind of car your mum drives, especially if she’s on her way to drop you off at soccer. Depending on your colour choice, guys can certainly get away with it as well, however its not an aggressive styling that screams ‘buy me’ and look out if you didn’t. Instead its about appealing to a mainstream audience and not being offensive to anyone. In that respect its a little boring when it comes to design.
Ford will tell you it bolder, sportier and the new exterior design stands out from the rest, the truth is it doesn’t, its pretty forgettable. The customers of this car are unlikely to care, as this car will sell on what’s on offer inside, rather than out. Its perfectly at home transporting its 5 occupants through the city or on a weekend road trip and delivers a pretty stylish and comfortable cabin.
While the hood has some shoulders to it, the wheel arches are flared and the body has some nice lines, its certainly not a head turner like the Mustang.
Power opening panoramic roof
If you do opt for the Titanium (review model) you’ll get a pretty amazing panoramic sunroof. While its not the endless single piece of glass like the Model X, it does a great job of bringing loads of light into the cabin. So large is the sunroof, that it takes up almost 50% of your roof space and lets you and your passengers see more of the outdoors. Ford engineers have done a great job at finding the right tint level as to keep the heat out and what I thought would be a sometimes thing, turned out to be an always thing. Closing the roof made the whole car feel smaller and more constrained. Opening and closing is pretty straight forward, just use the dedicated buttons overhead and decide if you just want light, or a bit of breeze as well.
Another nice touch in terms of design is Ford’s inclusion of ambient lights in the front footwells, cup holders, door pockets and door handles. This adds a certain internal personalisation to the vehicle. Owners can choose from a range of eight colours.
Performance & Handling
The Escape Titanium has firm suspension and while this won’t let you sail over speed bumps and driveways at 50km/h, it prevents the car from feeling like a boat around corners. The steering feels remarkably direct for something this high off the ground.
When it comes to power, its worth remembering the goal of this vehicle isn’t the fastest breakneck speed, but rather fast enough to get the job done, while being efficient in its power delivery. The car’s available in 2 power options, the 1.5 and 2.0L EcoBoost engines with twin-scroll turbochargers that provides decent enough low-end torque to get off the line, while taking just sips from the fuel tank.
At the top end, the car’s good for 178kW and 345Nm of torque, which does allow you a towing capacity of 1600kg if the trailer has bakes, 750kg if it doesn’t. These are staggering numbers, but for small trailers, small boats, it’ll get the job done, if you’re looking to tow a caravan, get an Everest.
The 5 seater SUV tips the scale at 1,751 kg. In terms of the economy, the AWD 2.0L EcoBoost Escape is good for 8.6L/100km combined highway and street driving.
The Escape rolls on 19″ x 8.0″ rims, wrapped in 235/45 R19 tyres. To save space in the boot, the spare wheel is a 17″ mini steel space saver. The tyres and technology combine to ensure you have plenty of traction and can corner at speed. Its not exactly on rails like a low-slung sedan, but in terms of responsiveness to driver input, this is easily the best SUV I’ve driven.
Features & Technology
A key selling point of modern vehicles is the technology that improves the driving experience. Ford are now shipping SYNC3 in new vehicles and the experience is dramatically improved over the last generation. Voice input is significantly more natural and I found the accuracy much improved.
If you jump in the car, you’ll sit in front of SYNC3, but if you connect your phone, you’ll get to choose from Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. When we first heard Ford announce they’d support mobile OS overtakes on their displays, the actual implementation was unclear. After using it in the Escape, I found you have to enable these additional functions in settings before they’re available.
If you have the option to use the smartphone platform, do it, they’re leaps and bounds ahead of any on-board infotainment system.
If you don’t have a compatible phone, SYNC 3 is actually a decent fallback. It continues to execute on Ford’s long standing mantra of keeping your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, allowing most operations to be done through voice. Pressing the sync button on the wheel, the voice recognition software takes your inputs and makes it easy to make hands-free phone calls, listen to text messages, and play your favourite music. If you’re stopped, or trust your passengers, interacting with the 8-inch capacitive touchscreen is fast and generally a nice experience to interact with.
A key line in the sand between SYNC2 and SYNC3, is that the system supports OTA updates automatically via WIFI. Just connect your car to your home WiFi, assuming your AP is reachable from your garage.
Adaptive Cruise Control
This feature is on my must have list and it should be on yours. Adaptive Cruise Control is changes your speed, based on the vehicle ahead of you. This makes the pain of a daily commute, much more bearable with the mental energy expended on managing the space cushion, now deployable on other tasks.
The system isn’t perfect. I often found the sensors being over sensitive and braking abruptly despite there not being a real threat ahead. It didn’t happen often, but often enough Ford should look at updating and improving it.
I’ve used other ACC systems that allow the car to slow to 0, then when the car ahead turns off, accelerates you back up to your set speed. In the Escape, the system works differently. It will slow you to a stop, then flash an alert to the driver’s display and sound an audible tone to demand you take back control. Not sure why this decisions was made, it seems straight forward and we know the technology exists. The system would be dramatically enhanced for city commutes, which lets be honest, will be a large majority of the future owners of this vehicle.
Enhanced Active City Stop
With your attention span continuing to diminish, its easy to miss a vehicle that abruptly stops in front. The Enhanced Active City Stop now supports speeds of up to 50km/h and applies the brakes if you don’t. Does that mean you’ll absolutely stop, everytime without impacting the object in front, no that can’t be guarenteed, but it will significantly reduce the impact. If you’re a pedestrian who is the object in question, you’ll might walk away with a sore leg, versus having both legs broken. This is technology helping humans be safer drivers. The best prevention is always to give yourself more distance between you and the car ahead, but we know in reality, distractions are high, gaps are smaller than they should be and humans make terrible drivers.
Intelligent All-Wheel Drive
This model is an AWD variant of the Escape and if you do take it into challenging conditions, the intelligent All-Wheel Drive system is designed to monitor the performance of the vehicle and adjusts the delivery of torque to each wheel every 16 milliseconds.
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)
BLISS is one of those features that isn’t front and center in your buying decision, but after driving with it for a week, I absolutely came to rely on it to eliminate blind spots. Changing lanes became easy, a simple glance to check the indicator light in the mirrors wasn’t on, then I could change without worry. This is particularly useful when merging back to the left lane after an overtake. It’s a small thing but a very important one.
While the transmission is automatic, you can take some level of control over the shift points using the flappy paddles on the back of the wheel. I’m a massive fan of paddle shifting, delivering a faster overall shift than a manual clutch and H pattern box. The Escape’s Paddle Shifters have a very plastic feel. I want paddles that give you confidence and the paddles on my $500 Logitech G920 Gaming Wheel are better by a mile. To start, they’re made of metal and respond with a confident click when engaging a gear. This is definitely an opportunity to improve.
Active Grille Shutter
Cars today are incredibly evolved and engineers are extracting every last possible piece of performance and efficiency available. The latest addition in that quest is an Active Grille Shutter which closes to reduce aerodynamic ‘drag’ and opens to help cool the engine when required, allowing to hit those important fuel numbers.
Automatic headlights and high beam
Automatic headlights mean you never have to think about them. This is the first car I’ve driven that also featured automatic high-beams meaning you really do forget about external lights, its completely take care of for you. When you consider what’s required to pull this off, its actually a pretty amazing piece of technology.
You car, travelling down a highway, needs to detect tail lights of any cars ahead of you, as well as any headlights from oncoming traffic dozens of meters away. If the system gets this wrong, you’d be getting flashed by frustrated drivers. After driving most nights of the week I had the car, I never once got flashed by oncoming traffic, the system works. As someone who’s had kangaroos jump in front of the car, seeing more of the road ahead is an absolute requirement in improving safety for the occupants.
The lights are adaptive bi-xenon HID headlights, twice as powerful as conventional lights and it really does a great job at turning night into day. They even help you see around corners by directing light into a bend when you turn. During daytime, there’s LED running lamps help make you more visible to other drivers.
Enhanced Active Park Assist
Parking is stressful to many people, and the Escape helps in a number of ways. Enhanced Park Assist helps you find a park, then helps to steers you in and even helps you with the forward and back process.
Once parked, you can pull on the electronic parking brake with the touch of a button. If you forget to disengage it before driving off, the system is smart enough to disengage.
Reverse Parking Camera
When you shift into reverse, the car’s rear view camera turns on automatically and takes over the large display, allowing a wide field of view of the environment behind you, which also combines with visual and audible warnings which objects are close.
External shots show the styling detail of the Escape. The external sensors and cameras that power the technology that enhances the driving experience.
Internal photos give us a look at the experience on offer for the driver and passengers.
Price & Availability
The 2017 Ford Escape is available now in a variety of trim levels, but don’t cheap out, the Titanium is where you want to be.
The SUV is available in 8 colours, Frozen White (reviewed), Copper Pulse, Deep Impact Blue, Magnetic, Moondust Silver, Ruby Red, Shadow Black and White Platinum. Inside there’s just one trim option at the top tier, the Charcoal black leather accented trim and to be honest, that’s a very tidy selection.
The list of accessories is extensive include racks for snowboards, bikes, lighting kits, luggage storage to name a few.
The technology pack does cost an additional $1,300 but what you get for it well justified.
- Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
- Driver Impairment Monitor
- Automatic high beam
- Lane Keeping Aid with Lane Departure Warning
- Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Blind Spot Information System (BLIS)
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
- Active City Stop
Out the door, this review vehicle costs A$51,160 drive away. The base model starts at $32,221, but what you loose for that price, makes the value proposition a very different one. The Escape Ambiente 1.5L FWD Petrol is so much of a different vehicle, less technology, less performance and ability thanks to a lower power to weight ratio.
What Ford has created here gets the job for the target market. It’s smart with the technology inclusions and the Titanium trim level certainly gives it a premium finish above its price point. While the car certainly won’t set any speed records, it is a bold choice to make the suspension as firm as they have, but that pays dividends for anyone looking for an SUV that handles more like a sedan.
While the car isn’t without issue, like the fact the rear cup holders can’t actually fit a standard bottle of water of soft drink in. Or that the sensors are a little over sensitive at times. Or that the 12v power adapter gets prime position, while the more relevant and useful USB ports are hidden away.
Overall its a comprehensive package that should appeal to the city commuter as well as those who like a touch of the off-road action on the weekend. Thanks in large part to the sunroof, the cabin feels large and spacious beyond what’s suggested by the modest body size. The seating position is high in the car, which allows a great view of the outside environment.
What you get if you own this car is a well designed, well thought through SUV that’s packed with technology for a decent price. It won’t turn heads, but you’re probably not after that, the Ford Escape is smart and capable.