Ford Escape EcoBoost Review: Turbo Four-Cylinder Double Take

wheel-to-wheel new car reviews

2017 Ford Escape | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

2017 Ford Escape | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Back-to-back loans of the redesigned Ford Escape have left us with an interesting conundrum: Which is better, the smaller 1.5-liter Ecoboost fuel sipper, or the 245 horsepower 2.0-liter with its torque focused turbo? Both vehicles have the looks we like, plenty of options to ogle over, and tons of clever tech, but is one powertrain preferable over the other?

Ford did a fantastic job of jumping the gun in the race to turbocharge everything a few years back, with its EcoBoost line of powertrains impressing critics and consumers alike years later. The Blue Oval has done a damn good job of addressing any complaints or shortcomings within the Escape line too, reshaping the current generation into a capable and clever crossover for the masses to enjoy and utilize.

2.0-liter EcoBoost Escape | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

2.0-liter EcoBoost Escape | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Driving the Escape forces you to ponder its namesake, and whether it was coined to encourage drivers to tune out the world around them thanks to having a quiet, tech-filled cabin that’s as smart as it is sensationally equipped. Or perhaps the badge was designed to inspire owners to elude the constraints of urban gridlocked life, and use the standard all-wheel drive system that comes on EcoBoost models to hit the back roads in order to simply “go further.”

Whatever the reason, the all-new Escape is happy to help, and regardless of whether you opt for the 1.5 or 2.0-liter turbo engine, chances are it will give drivers exactly what they want and need in a crossover. But be forewarned: While they are closely related, these two engines perform quite a bit differently from one another. And though both models we tested came to us in Titanium grade, we found ourselves leaning toward certain add-ons, and recommend foregoing others to cut down on cost.

Sport appearance package | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

2017 Ford Escape with the sport appearance package | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior

So much of the Escape’s appeal comes from its sharp looks, and the Titanium grade takes it up a notch when it comes to appearances. With additional packages giving drivers things like 19-inch black alloys, mirrors, and roof rails, standard features sport LED lighting that add extra appeal to the slick CUV. It’s a nicely-sized and stylish spin on a Ford staple, and outside of a few small hiccups, hits the piston on the head.

Active grille shutters | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The 2017 Ford Escape comes with active grille shutters | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Exterior pros and cons

+ Adaptive grille shutters, a large, foot-activated rear liftgate, and keyless entry choices place function up there with form.

+  In Titanium trim, this generation looks great, and with the optional Sport Appearance Package, buyers can get sharper aesthetics with black mirrors, trim accents, headlamps, performance-focused wheels and tires, and roof rails. 

+ The tech package offers tricky adaptive lighting and sharp external LED touches.

–  The rear rides noticeably higher than the front, making for a peculiar looking profile.

– No keyless entry to the rear bench, exhaust tips look cheap despite being Titanium-grade, and fake plastic portholes cheapen the overall look.

1.5-liter EcoBoost motor | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

1.5-liter EcoBoost motor | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain

Although both Escapes came to us as top-tier models, the results you get from going half a liter in one direction or the other is astounding. While both EcoBoost engines remained mated to six-speed automatic gearboxes, the 245 horsepower 2.0-liter, with its 275 foot-pounds of torque was a big winner for us compared to the 1.5-liter option. That’s not to say that the smaller, 179 horsepower motor would not be adequate for most commuters in normal driving environments, but anyone living in mountainous terrain will likely find themselves over revving to get over a pass, which defeats the purpose of having a more efficient motor.

EcoBoost AWD | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

EcoBoost AWD | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Powertrain pros and cons

+ Both EcoBoost motors pull hard in Sport Mode and get respectable fuel efficiency estimates from the EPA.

+ The six-speed automatic feels confident and can be manually controlled via paddle shifters or buttons on the gear selector.

+ 2.0-liter option has 245 horsepower and 275 foot-pounds of torque, and feels rightfully quick for the segment.

– Manually clicking paddle shifters resulted in noticeable gear selection delay.

 – The 1.5-liter motor struggles on inclines, and negates the purpose of going with a smaller, more efficient engine. 

Leather interior | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

2017 Ford Escape’s leather interior | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior

When it comes to optioning out a cabin, Ford does a solid job. In the Escape, this translates to 10-way heated power seats up front, one-touch windows on all four doors, smart-charging USB ports, and an electronic e-brake. It also sports a 10-speaker Sony audio system, loads of leather, plenty of deep storage pockets, and easy fold-flat seats. With the optional panoramic roof installed, and customizable mood lighting aglow, the interior of both vehicles felt welcoming and well-engineered.

Fold-flat seats | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Escape’s fold-flat seats | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Interior pros and cons

+ Heated steering wheel, customizable mood lighting, supple leather, and a nicely designed cabin.

+ The fold-flat second row is easy to engage and storage compartments are plentiful and deep.

+ Two USB ports, a 110V plug, electronic e-brake, 10-speaker Sony audio system, two 12V plugs front and rear, and one-touch controls for windows and sunroof.

–  Flimsy-feeling interior door handles, no vented seats, rear seat feels heavy when lifting back into place, and steering wheel won’t telescope very far. 

Ford SYNC 3 infotainment | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Ford SYNC 3 infotainment | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Tech and safety

While Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system comes standard on Titanium models, it was the optional tech package that came in our 2.0-liter loaner that impressed us the most with things like rain-sensing wipers and lane-keep assist being two notables. Stepping up and spending an extra two grand also gives buyers things like Bi-Xenon HID headlamps, and an enhanced active parking assistant that tackles parallel, exiting, and reverse perpendicular moves. This setup also features forward and side sensors, auto high beams, and the aforementioned LED external lighting touches for greater appeal.

Securicode keyless entry | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Securicode keyless entry | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Tech pros and cons

+ Optional $600 variable cruise control works well, as do other tech safety features like lane keep assist, and Ford’s fantastic park assistance setup. 

+ SYNC 3 works extremely well and comes loaded with weather maps, gas info, traffic updates, and more via Sirius Travel Link. 

+ Driver display is easy to read and navigate through, and camera lenses offer crisp images, day or night.

– Side sensors fire off warnings randomly, even when there is no danger present, and weather maps are graphically dated compared to alternatives like VW or Nissan.

– There’s no central command knob, so drivers are split between steering wheel controls, a few center stack buttons, and the touchscreen.

2017 Ford Escape cockpit | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

2017 Ford Escape cockpit | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

The drive

‘Encouraging’ would probably be the best word to describe the drive feel of the latest generation of Escape. Although the steering can feel a bit emotionless, the response one gets from the suspension and traction control system is commendably sharp, which makes for a fun driving experience. The braking and paddle shifter response times were also on the tired side, but the gliding sensation one gets on the highway squashes those minor qualms with an exceptionally smooth ride and cabin calm that’s world-class.

This CUV makes a strong case for making time for fun drives, especially when outfitted with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels and low-profile performance tires, both of which make for a sharper appearance that pays off in the traction department as well. Sport Mode engages sharper responses from the gearbox, and keeps revs considerably higher in order to force the  turbo to spool all the harder.

As for recommending one of the EcoBoost engines over the other, we are quick to stand behind the 2.0-liter option. With 275 foot-pounds of torque and 245 horsepower at the ready, the larger motor feels lively and willing to tow its 3,500 pound maximum capacity. Plus, with a 20/27 fuel mileage estimate from the EPA for city/highway driving, it averages just 1 mile per gallon less than its 1.5-liter baby brother. This isn’t to say that the 1.5-liter variant is a bad option, but it struggles a bit at times and in our mind doesn’t offer enough significant gains in fuel efficiency or power to make it the obvious choice.

American made crossover | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

2017 Ford Escape | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Wrap up and review

Ford has done a great job of turning the Escape into a CUV that goes above and beyond, especially when optioned out in Titanium trim with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost upgrade at the ready. It’s a very rewarding drive with many internal and external updates to make it both attractive and practical, and outside of the small faux pas here and there, makes for an excellent contender for CUV shoppers.

One downside, however, is the Titanium’s price tag, which starts at $30,850 and jumps to almost $40,000 after adding a tech package, wheels, sunroof, navi, adaptive cruise control, and the $1,295 engine upgrade. That price point opens you up to numerous other options, including the svelte Lincoln MKC, or a bigger and better SUV from Ford.

But the Titanium Escape offers far more appeal and purpose than problems. The 2017 model won’t be the final say for the now well-established nameplate. Ford will keep honing its well-rounded CUV for years to come, and with installments like this making waves, we are excited to see how much further the Blue Oval can take the CUV game.

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