by: Jag Dhatt
When it comes to the domestic SUV, there’s really only one name that comes to mind; the Ford Escape. In the last 16 years, Ford has done a great job converting most small family homes from minivans to sport utility vehicles. Every other domestic manufacturer has tried to take the throne, but in my opinion Ford is still king. Don’t get me wrong – the Jeep Cherokee is hot on the Escape’s heels but it’s not quite there yet. This particular model has the optional Sport Package and 2.0L turbocharged EcoBoost engine. For a family SUV, the 2017 Escape has plenty of get up and go. Top that off with a 3500lb tow capacity and you’ll be able to carry the kids, dog, cat, groceries, other dog, baseball gear AND a trailer with a few quads on it. Not too shabby for a grocery getter.
The current generation of Escape has been around since 2012 and some might say it’s about time for a facelift. In the meantime, Ford has made a few design tweaks inside and out. They’ve also offered a Sport Package to give the Escape a more aggressive look. The whole “sport” thing doesn’t really sit well with me, but for $1200 you do actually get a fair bit. I think a sport package should include more horsepower, more capable suspension and a mean exhaust. Now, I understand that being a single guy with no family that my opinion is totally irrelevant and completely impractical. But still, a guy can dream right? Now back to the $1200 sport package.
The 19” wheels look fantastic on the Escape and really suit the larger SUV body lines. Not to mention they could easily cost up to $1000 if not more. Also included on the exterior of the Ford are black bezel projector headlights, smoked taillights, black roof rack rails and a unique to the sport front grill. The $1200 cost of the package suddenly starts to look like a bargain. It doesn’t even cover the cost of the exterior upgrades, let alone the interior. Overall, the Escape is still a good-looking SUV. But after 5 years on top, maybe it’s time for a refresh?
One of the big changes to the interior in 2017 is the redesigned center instrument panel. The key changes are a more ergonomic layout, redesigned climate controls and front mounted USB ports that not only look great but are very practical. As with every Escape since 2012, the front windshield and fantastic visibility are one of the key reasons Ford has been leading the domestic SUV market. After I test an Escape, every other car feels like I’m driving with blinders on. Yes, it’s that good. The Sport Package mentioned earlier does have a few additions to the interior, most significant of which are the sport bucket front seats. They are very comfortable; the driver seat is 10-way adjustable and the bolsters are very supportive. The big downside is that they are only available in partial leather. There’s a big fabric strip down the middle that doesn’t really match anything and gives the interior a tacky, kind of cheap look. If I’m going for a fully loaded Sport Package, the last thing I want is fabric inserts in the seat that stain whenever I even think about buying a coffee. The leather steering wheel and shifter are a nice touch, but again are a great reminder that the seats don’t match. Another big selling feature is the foot actuated tailgate. Ford advertised the bajeesus out of this option and it’s a great idea, when it works. And don’t get me wrong, it does work 90% of the time. But for some reason, it never worked when I went to show my friends or when I had 12 grocery bags in my hands and was trying to do everything without putting them down. Granted, there may have been dirt on the sensor or it very well could have been operator error. But when the tailgate works it’s actually pretty cool.
Besides the updated 2.0L EcoBoost engine, the handling and ride of the 2017 Ford escape is relatively unchanged. Now armed with 245hp and 275lb.ft of torque, passing on the highway is a breeze. Keep in mind this SUV weighs 3700lbs (if you get the four-wheel drive version) so don’t expect Bugatti Veyron speed here. But, all things considered the Escape is surprisingly quick. The ride is a little soft but comfortable and the body roll is actually bearable for an SUV this tall. But just because it has a Sport badge on it doesn’t mean it’ll corner like a GT40. That’s a one-way ticket to merging on the highway on your roof. The upgraded 3500lb towing capacity for 2017 is an excellent upgrade; 90% of people that own small pickup trucks really only tow a trailer 3-5 weekends a year anyway. Having an SUV that can take your canoes to the lake helps save money on insurance and car payments. Even just having the capability is an asset.
In 2017 the Ford Escape is still King of the domestic SUV’s. The overall package is great and hard to beat on price, but I’m still not too sure how I feel about the whole Sport thing. A little more horsepower and a louder exhaust would make me happy, but then again that’s not what most people are buying a family vehicle for. As a compact SUV, the Ford ticks all the boxes and then some.