FTE REVIEW: 2017 Ford Escape SE

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Host of improvements take the fourth-generation crossover to a whole new level.

For decades, the automotive industry has been dominated by cheap cars selling in volume, yet in the last year, we have seen a significant change — SUVs and crossovers. These utilitarian and practical machines are now dominating the sales charts. A byproduct of this explosive growth in SUVs, has been entry-level models being offered with more technology, more style, and more performance. Much like the 2017 Ford Escape SE.

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Since 2000, Ford has offered the Escape after teaming up with Mazda to co-develop the vehicle. Now in its fourth generation, the Escape has lost its boxy design, gained performance through two different EcoBoost engine offerings, and added a host of new technology features. Needless to say, its sales have climbed from 42,635 in 2000 to 307,069 in 2016, according to sources.

New Engine Choices

Leading the changes in the fourth generation Escape are the two EcoBoost engine offerings under the hood: a 1.5L and 2.0L. The twin-scroll 2.0L EcoBoost, as found in our test model, is a $1,395 upcharge over the base 2.5L naturally aspirated engine. And while the price increase isn’t peanuts, the improvement in driving satisfaction is immediate. With 245 horsepower, the 2.0L EcoBoost feels considerably faster than other non-turbo engines found in segment competitors, therefore making upgrading an easy choice.

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The new engine also comes equipped with auto start/stop. This new feature shuts off the engine while idling, and immediately starts it up after the driver’s foot depresses the brake. The upside of it is the fuel savings when idling at a long stoplight, or in a traffic jam. The downside is the speed at which the engine engages, which can be nerve racking for some. I feel mixed about it, and I will say there is a definite learning curve when driving it.

One thing I’m not mixed about is the performance of the 2.0L engine, especially with the light-weight SUV. Off the line you can really get into it, and I even dare say it’s a fun drive. Over time, like most things, the initial impression of the performance diminishes, yet when passing or trying to quickly get up to speed the Escape reminds you of its quickness. This is even more evident when driving one of its competitors, such as the Chevy Equinox, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, etc.

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Furthermore, it delivered good fuel economy figures with an EPA estimated 20/27/23 city/highway/combined rating, which ultimately turned into 22.5 MPG combined even with some spirited driving during our week-long test.

Styling Upgrades

Outside, the fourth generation features a newly designed front end with a two-row grille. It is a better look and makes the Escape seem more rugged than it truly is.

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Inside, Ford added more storage by redesigning the center console, as well as improved the access to a lighted USB port and power outlet. The storage along with the clean interior design provides a roomy (for a compact SUV) driving experience with good outward visibility.

While my test model wasn’t the top-tier Titanium, it did have some packages that helped make it feel less plain. For example, the Blind Spot monitoring system was feature I often found myself relying on.

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Also, it included the SE Leather Comfort package with leather-wrapped steering wheel, power and heated side mirrors, and heated front seats. The heated features worked as expected, especially on one memorable long day of driving with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. In addition, I was truly surprised at how comfortable the seats still felt after hours of driving. Typically, entry-level SUVs feature seats that don’t hold up for me during long rides.

Technology Improvements Add Up

Leading the way on improvements is a suite of high-tech features. Starting off these changes are the much improved SYNC3 infotainment system, along with rather interesting FordPass app. You can use this app for a variety of things like lock, unlock, remote start, and locate the vehicle. In testing it works well, one just wonders how much use it will receive in the real world.

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Also new for 2017 are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Using either of these systems is a big benefit to consumers with their ease of use, and mirroring of their smartphone’s screen. It just simplifies the entire infotainment experience, and should eliminate any hassle over the SYNC3 platform.

Last but not least is a host of driver-aid technology features like available adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support, active park assist, and a lane-keeping assist. Unfortunately, my test model didn’t include any of these features.

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Overall

The 2017 Ford Escape SE likely won’t blow anyone away with its powertrain or looks, yet it’s very comfortable and offers plenty of space for a small family, or a baby boomer looking to move up from a sedan. It is an affordable option as well, with our test model coming in at $33,915.

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Tim Esterdahl is a regular contributor to Ford Truck Enthusiasts and YotaTech. He also produces the weekly podcast Pickup Truck Talk.

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