Ford revealed a refreshed 2017 Escape last night at a special event before the Los Angeles auto show. While the manufacturer calls this the fourth-generation of its best-selling crossover model, in truth, it’s a warming-over of the second gen introduced in 2012.
In Canada, Escape is the best-selling crossover, period: Ford sold more than 52,000 of them in calendar-year 2014, handily beating the next-best Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, of which Canadians bought about 37,000 each. Ford expects compact SUVs and crossovers to become the most popular segment in Canada (according to sales) by next year, and the changes it has made to the Escape reflect its desire to stay on top. (On the topic of numbers, Ford says it is on track to sell its 500,000th Escape in Canada sometime in 2016.)
Milton Wong, Ford’s engineering boss for the Escape, says the car was “transformed” from the inside out, but we think that’s a pretty strong word to describe a car that’s instantly recognizable.
While the new look more closely links the brand’s smallest crossover with its Edge and Explorer siblings, the highlights are a pair of new Ecoboost motors with auto start/stop, and new high-tech convenience features.
The new engines are similar in spec to last year’s EcoBoost choices, but with mechanical revisions to improve refinement, and fuel-saving start/stop technology. As before, the top motor is a 2.0L, but now with new pistons and an integrated exhaust manifold Ford says is optimized for a new twin-scroll turbo. Power output is 245 hp and 275 lb-ft, up from 240 hp/270 lb-ft (on premium fuel).
Replacing last year’s 1.6L motor is a 1.5L turbo Ford expects will make 180 hp and 185 lb-ft, against the 178 hp/173 lb-ft of the outgoing 1.6L.
Ford anticipates auto start/stop will improve fuel economy by four to six percent in stop-and-go traffic; the company also figures 90 percent of 2017 Escapes will be sold with these start/stop engines, the balance leaving showrooms with a bottom-rung 2.5L four-cylinder carried over from the outgoing car.
A new rear suspension was designed to improve ride comfort and control, and to “keep the steering and handling our customers say they like,” said Wong.
Ford seems most excited about the new tech that has migrated into the Escape. Among the tech highlights is SYNC Connect, which uses a modem built into the car to allow an Escape driver to remotely lock or unlock doors, check the fuel level, start the engine, and (good for those who frequently forget where we parked) locate the car, all through a smartphone app.
Other available tech additions are more about bringing Escape in line with what’s offered by many of its recently-updated competitors. These include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with brake support, lane-keeping alert and assist (which can steer the car back into its lane), and a driver alert system that uses lane-keeping data to recognize the signs of a sleepy driver, and can flash a warning in the instrument cluster.
Safety kit carried over includes blind spot information system (BLIS), hill-start assist, automatic high beam, and a hands-free foot-activated tailgate. Park assist returns, but now with the ability to steer the car into a parking stall, in addition to hands-free parallel parking.
Ford says mild interior revisions make better use of centre console space, by ditching the mechanical parking brake handle in favour of an electric brake. Once we’ve had a proper poke-and-prod at the Escape after its auto show unveiling tomorrow, we’ll have more to tell you about how the updated interior looks and feels.
Wong says that, tech-wise, “We’re bringing our best stuff down to our most affordable SUV.”
The 2017 Ford Escape is set to go on sale in early Spring of 2016.