Ford gives Escape new style, features for 2017

The 2017 Ford Escape has freshened styling with the Ford-family grille, and a turbocharged engine putting out 179 horsepower lies under the hood. The SE starts at $25,250.

Ford has raised the price of its affordable Escape for 2017, but it has given its lowest-priced SUV new styling touches, safety features and engine options that should keep it popular with consumers.

The starting price for a base, two-wheel-drive Escape S is $24,645, or $650 more than the 2016 base model, which didn’t have quite as nice looking exterior and interior. Those prices include the destination charges.

The base five-seat Escape comes with a 168-horsepower, nonturbocharged, four-cylinder engine, six-speed automatic transmission and standard keyless remote entry, power windows, mirrors and door locks, rearview camera, seven air bags, four power points, 17-inch wheels and carpeted floor mats, among other things.

The lowesprice, including destination charge, for a Escape with all-wheel drive is $27,895. This is an SE model with 179-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that includes more features than the base model, including a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control and fog lamps.

The Escape is a Consumer Reports recommended buy and the magazine predicts it will have above-average reliability. The federal government said the 2017 Escape earned an overall five out of five stars for occupant protection in frontal and side crash testing.

Now in its 17th model year, the Escape helped pioneer the compact SUV segment that is so popular today.

With sales of 307,069 in the U.S. last year, the Escape is Ford’s second-best-selling vehicle after the Ford F-150 pickup, and sales have increased 6.6 percent this year.

Along with its affordability, the Escape’s pleasant looks, practicality and wide-ranging engine and option lists help make it a go-to vehicle for shoppers who want an agile SUV.

The Escape has three engine options: the base, nonturbo, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine from last year’s model; a new 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder; and a top-of-the-line 2-liter twin-scroll turbo four-cylinder that produces 245 horsepower this year, up from 240 horsepower in 2016.

Each engine can give the Escape a slightly different personality, ranging from utilitarian to sporty. Unfortunately, none of them put the Escape at the top of the pack in terms of fuel mileage, and none appreciably improved its federal government fuel economy ratings for 2017.

Mileage ratings this year range from 21-23 mpg in city driving, depending on the engine, and from 28-30 mpg on the highway.

The tested SE with front-wheel drive and the midrange 179-horsepower turbo four-cylinder engine averaged 23.9 mpg, which necessitated a fill-up after about 370 miles. There was noticeable turbo lag, too, and the engine could get noisy when pressed hard to accelerate.

The travel was comfortable, for the most part, as the interior remained relatively quiet and the front seats provided good support and had decently long seat cushions.

The front seats have a generous 43.1 inches of legroom, while backseat legroom is a sufficient 37.3 inches. The back seats fold flat easily to expand cargo space to a maximum 67.8 cubic feet.

Everyone has a good 39 inches of headroom and everyone sits up a good ways from the pavement for adequate views of traffic ahead. Getting into and out of the Escape is easy.

Ford revamped the interior by removing the parking brake handle in the center console area and arranging more useful storage there, including a thoughtful spot for a phone.

But there is only one USB port, and it’s at the dashboard and difficult for back-seat riders to use.

Plastic on the dashboard is more upscale than before, and the mix of cloth and vinyl on the SE seats in the test-driven vehicle was tasteful.

Ford has dropped its irksome MyFord Touch infotainment system for the latest Sync 3 system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability.

SPECS

THE VEHICLE: 2017 Ford Escape, a front-wheel-drive, five-passenger, compact SUV

2017 Ford Escape SE FWD

BASE PRICE: $23,750 for S; $25,250 for SE (tested)

DESTINATION FEE: $895

AS TESTED: $30,125

ENGINE: 1.5-liter, double-overhead-cam, turbocharged EcoBoost four-cylinder producing 179 horsepower

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic

EPA MILEAGE: 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway

LENGTH: 178.1 inches

WHEELBASE: 105.9 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 3,678 pounds

BUILT IN: Louisville, Ky.

OPTIONS: Equipment group 201A (includes Sync 3, reverse sensing system, roof rack side rails, blind spot monitoring), $1,395; SE sport appearance package (includes leather-wrapped steering wheel, 19-inch, premium painted wheels) $1,295; voice-activated navigation system, $795; power liftgate, $495

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