As far as naming a family vehicle goes, Escape is a pretty good moniker. Check it: Edge for urban style, Explorer for the off-roading it’ll almost certainly never do, Flex for the way it contorts between minivan and wagon, and Expedition because a couple of fuel-ups could pay for a trip to the Amazon river basin.
But Escape, man, that’s genius. When you’re up to your elbows in diapers, when both kids have gone scream-o like a couple of linked smoke detectors, when you’ve collapsed beside your spouse at the end of a long day and are staring around at the drifts of stuffed-toy detritus, an Escape is just what you need. Get out of the house. Hit up a park. Drop them off at Grandma’s house. When you’ve got kids in your house, sometimes your vehicle becomes the only refuge you’ve got.
To that end, the Titanium edition of the Ford Escape takes the recipe for a small crossover – the new mammalian species out-competing the getting-stale-and-scaly family sedan – and adds plenty of gadgets to make life more bearable. No, they haven’t added ceiling-mounted Thorazine dart guns, rear-seat sleeping gas dispensers, or a deployable soundproof passenger divider (despite my repeated letters and/or drawing of same), but Ford has crammed this little everyday getaway full of technology, up to and including an updated Sync.
On the exterior, not much has changed for the 2016 version of the Escape. It still is to the Focus what the Cayenne is to the Porsche 911: bigger, more grilled, plumper, taller. Chrome exists in abundance, and this one has both the optional $550 pearlescent paint and big 19-inch alloys to better exude the sense that this is a cut above your usual people mover.
It’s all very Euro-Ford, but remains slightly homely, not quite the looker that Ford’s managed to turn the larger Edge and even more mainstream stuff like the Focus into. I’d expect a more Aston-Martin-ish face to be in the pipeline for an upcoming model; for now, the side-profile shows the Escape to greatest advantage.
Inside, the Escape is surprisingly sporty. The seats are very well bolstered for this class of vehicle, and as the layout is very similar to the Focus – already a relatively driver-focused machine – it’s got far more of a cockpit feel than the utilitarian box of the old Escape. Heck, that’s even a real handbrake: when’s the last time you saw one of those in a crossover?
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Titanium models are very well equipped, but even so this tester came with some pricey-but-nice options, most notably the huge panoramic sunroof. It also came with satellite navigation and infotainment (more on that in a bit), rain-sensing wipers, parking assist, and even a self-parking mode.
Probably the biggest change, and the one that will have you skipping deals on 2015 models and waiting for the 2016 is the new, updated Sync infotainment and navigation. Now incorporating pinch-to-swipe tech like that found in some newer Subaru offerings, it’s easier to use and easier to read than ever. Further, it’s also a sight quicker to react, and the voice command system works very well. Screen placement is still a bit of a stretch forward, but overall this is a huge improvement over what was previously something of an Achilles’ heel for the Escape.