Rejuvenated, this version of the Ford Escape came to market solid, sophisticated, and athletic. Genuinely qulifying as fun-to-drive, this one delivers agile handling, along with an impressively supple and composed ride. The cabin is quiet and feels substantial. Further, a long list of desirable and high-tech options can make the Escape feel like a luxury-branded small SUV.
Three different engines were offered. The base was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. However, most Escapes of this vintage will have one of the two EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinders; either the 173-hp, 1.6-liter; or the 231-hp, 2.0-liter. Both deliver responsive performance and the same 22 mpg overall. All things being equal, we'd opt for the larger engine's added oomph and refinement.
This Escape is not without shortcomings however. Poor performance in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's small overlap test is a concern. Despite the marketing hype, Ford's EcoBoost engines don't provide the fuel economy or performance of some rivals with larger, non-turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Cruising range is limited, driving position is narrow and the low rear seat lacks support. While controls improved considerably with the addition of Ford's optional Sync 3 infotainment system, basic radio and climate controls could still be simpler and better-designed.
The mid-level SE all-wheel-drive lacked some features (like a sunroof) commonly found on similar SUVs that cost thousands less. A long list of features and options, including a hands-free tailgate and self-steering parking assist, can make the top-level Titanium trim a credible competitor for significantly more upscale small SUVs.