Test Drive: 2017 Ford Escape Titanium

The Ford Escape was the second-highest-selling compact SUV in 2016, shifting 46,661 units for the year. That was only a touch behind the Toyota RAV4 at 49,103. As of August, the 2017 Ford Escape has been overtaken in the sales race by the refreshed CR-V. Ford’s most popular SUV is in a close fight for top spot on the charts though, with 31,918 units sold so far compared to the Rogue (29,468), CR-V (32,467) and RAV4 (34,365).

Driving the Escape, it’s not difficult to understand why it appeals.

So to claim that the 2017 Ford Escape is a vital component in the lineup is a dramatic understatement. To say that this SUV ranks as one of the most important cars in the market place is similarly understated.

And driving the Escape, it’s not difficult to understand why it appeals. The 2.0L turbo is a solid little unit paired with a six-speed automatic. The combination runs more smoothly than its low displacement might suggest. If fed with the correct juice (premium), it’ll give you 245 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Throttle response is brisk, and the 1,707 kg Escape is plenty fun to drive if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s about a 10 percent penalty at the fuel pump for choosing this engine though, and at 11.5/8.7/10.2 L/100 km city/highway/combined, coupled with the need for the expensive button on the pump handle, the 2.0T isn’t exactly frugal.

Better results await those who opt for the 179 hp/177 lb-ft regular-fuel 1.5L turbo, which returns 10.7/8.3/9.6 L/100 km. For the record, my time in the Escape ended with an average of 9.6.

You can also opt for this engine to power just the front wheels, which will give you slightly better fuel economy, but then, who wants an SUV with FWD?

And honestly, if you do select the 2.0T, it’s likely you’re excited about the top-of-class (though not quite best-in-class) power provided here, with the Escape bested only by the 250 hp Subaru Forester.

You’ll be impressed with the Ford’s suspension too. Independent MacPherson struts are given extra support by a stabilizer bar upfront, helping the Escape feel reasonably athletic without compromising much on ride quality. The double-lateral-link semi-trailing arms with another stabilizer bar at the back are not as complex as their name suggests, but are a respectably elegant solution to the problem of balancing a top-heavy SUV with dodgy roads and off-ramps.

This is a good little handler, and the Escape drives as car-like as any SUV could hope to. So, a solid engine, and a very good suspension package – what could go wrong?

Inside, the Escape gets Ford’s quite good Sync 3 system complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, all displayed in a moderately sized centre-stack screen. The additional hard-button controls for this system are well executed, but the whole centre stack is burdened by bulk.

In an age of ever-sleeker dashes and centre stacks, the Escape one looks and feels busy and intrusive. The instrument cluster has a knack of being in your face in an unpleasant way too. The gauges are easy to read, and the TFT screen is rich with information, functions and colours – so that’s all positive, but the cluster itself is carrying a lot of unnecessary bulk. Add in the all-black-on-black plus some-more-black and here-have-some-black interior colour scheme and the Escape has one of my least-favourite interiors of 2017. The twin-panel sunroof, fitted here as part of the $2,000 Canadian Touring Package that also includes voice-activated navigation but nothing else, is an expensive must-buy.

The seats aren’t quite up to par either, they’re short in the base and the leather lets a little too much of the seat frame through.

It’s also a function of Ford’s pricing fit-out that the Escape generally ends up being more expensive than its similarly equipped colleagues.

The styling is kind of bland, despite the vivid blue paint and silver-painted skid plate, and even the 18-inch alloys look dowdy.

Shoppers in this segment will likely appreciate the Enhanced Active Park Assist System, which for $1,750 will park the car for you – and I’ll admit to getting a kick out of using it to parallel park. Do remember to keep your foot on the brake pedal, however.

Adaptive Cruise Control is an example of something Ford charges you extra for. It’s $1,350 but in a mainstream car that starts at $35,999 and claims to be the top trim, I’d argue it should be included.

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Back to the things that justify the Escape’s excellent sales performance, a very competitive cargo volume of 964 L is accentuated by a wide and low tailgate. And Ford should be commended for putting the handle down low, instead of in the more aesthetically pleasing but awkward higher position most other manufacturers prefer.

When you fold down the Escape’s second row of seats, that cargo area balloons to a flat, uniform 1,925 L of space. If you need more haulability, this tester was fitted with the $500 Class II trailer tow package, which elevates its tow rating to 1,587 kg (3,500 lb).

It’s an example of how this SUV ticks boxes and takes names on its way to a podium place in the sales charts. The 2017 Ford Escape is a mid-size SUV, but a heavyweight contender in the marketplace.

2017 Ford Escape Titanium
Engine Displacement: 2.0L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 245 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Peak Torque: 275 lb-ft @ 5,500 rpm
Fuel Economy: 11.5/8.7/10.2 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 694 L/1,925 L seats down
2017 Ford Escape Titanium
Base Price $35,999
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,690
Price as Tested $43,689
Optional Equipment $5,900 – Enhanced Active Park Assist $1,750; All-weather floor mats $150; cargo mat $150; Adaptive Cruise Control $1,350; Class II Trailer Tow Prep $500; Canadian Touring Package $2,000
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.5
7 Styling
8 Powertrain
7 Quality
8 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
6 Fuel Economy
8 Features
7 Value