Wednesday, June 21, 2017


You probably are well aware that Ford’s F-Series pickup truck is the America’s top-selling vehicle. The company rarely misses the opportunity to pass on that information through print and over-the-air ads.

But what do you think is the company’s No. 2 seller?

The Fusion sedan?





No. No. No. No. And definitely no.

Nope, Ford’s No. 2 seller is the Escape, which is still going strong since the company introduced it into the small SUV segment for the 2001 model year. In 2016, Ford reported sales of 307,069 Escapes, up slightly from 306,492 for the year before. That’s well behind the 820,799 F-Series trucks reported sold last year, but also comfortably ahead of the Fusion (265,840), Explorer (216,294), Focus (168,789), Edge (134,588), and Mustang (105,932).

And the trend is continuing in 2017. The company recently announced it was cutting its usual summer two-week production layoff at its Louisville, Kentucky, plant to just one week because of stronger demand.

Escape sales through May were at 129,805, an increase of nearly 3 percent for the same time period last year and the strongest start yet for the versatile vehicle that provides nice room for both passengers and cargo alike, especially for its class.

Ford has significantly updated the Escape for 2017, adding a new 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder to the engine choices, giving the 2.0-liter turbo a power boost, and adding a stop-start feature for the fuel-conscious on both Ecoboost engines. (It’s not as intrusive as some others, and it can be turned off with the push of a button on the lower end of the center stack.)

Designers gave the roomy cabin a somewhat classier look with a push-button electronic parking brake replacing the large hand brake that rested alongside the center console. (It’s just back of the gearshift lever.) They also moved the gearshift back a bit to open up access to the climate controls.

Other refinements include redesigned cupholders, a spot on the center console for a USB port and power outlet and controls on the steering wheel for operation of the phone, audio, cruise control, and information systems.

The Escape is available in three trims, S, SE, and Titanium with SE likely hitting the sweet spot for most buyers. It offers more niceties than the base S, including the 1.5-liter turbo that boosts horsepower and torque to 179 horsepower and 177 pound-feet over the 168/170, respectively, of the S’s 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-banger. The optional 2.0-liter turbo takes the power figures up to 245/275, respectively. A six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift capability is standard in all trims.

Other standard features on the SE include dual exhaust tips, fog lamps, LED taillights, 60/40 split fold rear seat, dual zone automatic climate control, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters (imagine that!), rearview camera, roof rails, and more.

The Titanium edition picks up where the SE leaves off and among other things adds a foot sensor to operate the power lift gate (after all, pushing a button on the key fob is so demanding), keyless entry and ignition, a 10-speaker Sony sound system, and memory settings for the driver’s seat.

My vehicle for the week was the Escape SE which came with option packages that included such features as blind spot warning, a power lift gate, panoramic moonroof, and a voice-activated navigation system. That added $5,475 to the base MSRP of $25,100 for a total of $30,575 (including destination and delivery). That’s pretty much in line with others in the genre.

Overall, it was a pleasant time. Operating the 1.5-liter turbo-4 in Sport (S) mode added noticeable punch to the driving performance, but even in Drive (D) the throttle responses were quick enough to assure safe entry into heavy traffic lanes.

The 1.5L Ecoboost engine also offers decent enough fuel economy. EPA ratings are 23 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, and 26 combined with front-wheel drive compared to 21/29/24 with the base 2.5L and 22/29/25 for the more powerful 2.0L Ecoboost. That’s using regular fuel. AWD knocks off a couple of miles-per-gallon, of course.

The cabin is very quiet — you can hardly notice with the stop/start kicks on and off — and roomy. Up to 43.1 inches of legroom is available up front, and the three backseat riders get 36.8 inches. Cloth seats are standard with leather optional.

SYNC Connect is available as part of a technology package on SE models and is standard on the Titanium edition. It’s easy enough to operate and responds quickly and accurately to voice commands.

If you want to dress up your Escape a bit, for an extra $1,295 a Sport Appearance package adds 19-inch ebony black aluminum wheels, black headlamp and taillamp bezels, and black upper grille and side vents.

What I liked about the 2017 Ford Escape SE: Storage space is excellent. There’s 34.3 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row. Fold those seats and it increases to 67.8 cubic feet. The overall driving experience was excellent.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Ford Escape SE: I know the dash looks cleaner with a minimum number of knobs, but I still like to have one to surf the radio dial. There is a knob to adjust volume, but not change stations.

Would I buy the 2017 Ford Escape? Sure (but not this color). It’s a competitive segment with some really nice choices these days, and the Escape is among them. 

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