Ford needs its Escape SUV to be more things to more people. Now that the large Territory no longer exists and the full-size Everest might be too big and bulky for the average suburban family, the Escape finds itself holding the fort for family buyers.
It won’t ever have the size or seating capacity to replace the Territory, but the Escape does at least have a strong list of standard equipment, even in its entry level form, but this range-topping Titanium model adds all the bells and whistles you could need.
A name change and fresh face earlier this year saw the previous Kuga become the Escape, but apart from some minor styling and specification changes its mostly the same vehicle at its core, and with Australia’s medium SUV market dominated by Mazda, Toyota, and Hyundai the Escape has its work cut out for it.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $44,990 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 178kW/345Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.6 l/100km | Tested: 10.1 l/100km
The 2017 Ford Escape comes in three trim levels: Ambiente, Trend, and Titanium. The cheaper models are available with a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine and front wheel drive, but moving up the range adds a more powerful 2.0-litre petrol and all wheel drive like the car tested here.
A 2.0-litre diesel is also offered, for a $2500 premium, but the petrol Titanium at $44,950 seems like the right fit for an average Aussie budget and is set to be more popular than the diesel.
With some of the most impressive engine output figures in the class, Ford hopes the Kuga will satisfy demanding drivers thanks to a punchy 178kW/345Nm turbocharged engine, backed up by a bulging equipment list that borders on premium with its generous standard equipment.
- Standard Equipment: Leather seat trim, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, panoramic electric sunroof, keyless entry and start, LED ambient lighting, auto headlights and wipers, bi-Xenon headlights, cruise control, powered tailgate, 19-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, voice control, nine-speaker Sony audio
- Options Fitted: Technology Pack (see Safety for details) $1300
- Cargo Volume: 406 litres minimum to cargo blind, 1603 litres rear seat folded to roof
Despite being a member of the medium SUV class, the Escape doesn’t feel very mid-sized from the driver’s seat. Blame the long dash and distant windscreen for that, which makes getting set behind the wheel less than ideal.
The driving position seems a little off too - you’re forced to sit upright, almost over the top of the pedals.
The dash design doesn't help either, it’s an evolution of the design used in the Focus, and like its hatchback sibling it tends to ‘crowd’ front seat occupants with a design that robs knee room and thrusts the centre stack towards passengers.
That’s a real shame too, because jump into the back seats and there’s a far more spacious feel, with tall side windows for great outward visibility, and a reclining backrest to let rear passengers get as comfy as they’d like on long trips.
Rear passengers also get face-level ventilation outlets - essential for quick comfort during an Aussie summer - and the seatback tray tables will appeal to family users making for a more flexible user experience. All passengers can enjoy the overhead view of a standard panoramic roof too, with a proper blockout blind to keep the sun’s rays at bay.
Ford also stacks the Escape Titanium with neat premium features like customisable LED ambient lighting to give the cabin an upmarket presentation at night, with soft-touch dash surfaces and leather trim as well as front seat heaters for a more upmarket look and feel.
Boot space isn’t as big as some competitors, so if you’re looking to load in prams and portacots it might be worth doing a trial-fit first to make sure everything can be accommodated.
Cabin storage isn't as versatile as it could be either - there’s the usual door pockets and cupholders, but there’s also a lot of wasted space that could have been better utilised inside the cabin.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0-litre EcoBoost 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 178kW @5500rpm, 345Nm @2000-4500rpm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering, 11.2m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1600kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Ford has expanded its powertrain options for the 2017 Escape, but for the top of the range Titanium there’s a choice of diesel or petrol engine both matched with a six-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.
The petrol version driven here produces a very healthy 178kW and 345Nm from its turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, impressive outputs for the medium SUV class and handy for making the Escape feel a little more spritely than some non-turbo competitors.
For the school run or work commute those extra kilowatts don’t particularly make themselves known in any distinct way, but during overtaking or over rolling hills you’ll appreciate the extra urge.
The six-speed automatic transmission gets by just fine, though it can be a little apprehensive at lower speeds, never quite blotting out gear changes while shuffling through slow-moving peak hour traffic.
Ride quality feels like a good fit for Australian conditions. From the train-crossings of city streets to the variable surface quality of a weekend in the country, the Escape rides out most imperfections well.
There’s a confidence at speed that’s reassuring, with a settled on-centre feel from the steering, but get the Escape into a more urban setting and the easy to twirl wheel at low speeds making three-point turns a breeze.
Easier still, the Escape Titanium comes standard with Enhanced Active Park Assist meaning you can just as easily let the car do the steering into and out of parallel and perpendicular parking spaces, leaving the driver to control the gear selection, brake and accelerator.
The bigger 19-inch wheel package of the Titanium doesn’t exactly upset the ride, but over high amplitude bumps and smaller road niggles the Titanium tends to lack some of the all-in absorbency you might get with the Ambiente or Trend - such is the price of the sharp-looking wheels and tyre package.
Refinement is where it should be though. On a settled cruise there’s little disturbance from outside conditions, and unless you really push the 2.0-litre engine to its limits there’s not much to hear from under the bonnet.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - the Ford Escape scored 36.33 out of 37 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2012 (as the Kuga) with adjustment made to suit the 2017 ANCAP assessment criteria.
Safety Features: All Escape models come standard with seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain, driver’s knee), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with emergency brake assist, rollover mitigation, rear parking sensors, reversing camera, front seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters, Emergency Assistance (calls 000 via Bluetooth in the case of an accident).
An optional Technology Pack adds tyre pressure monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking (called Active City Stop), blind spot monitoring, lane keeping aid with lane departure warning, auto high beam, adaptive cruise control and tyre pressure monitoring for $1300.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: Ford offers lifetime capped price servicing for the Escape at 12 month/15,000km intervals (whichever occurs first) priced from $375 for the first three services, with every fourth service priced at $625. Brake fluid, coolant, and belts are replaced at separate intervals with additional pricing for those items. Your Ford dealer can explain full terms, conditions, and exclusions in more detail.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Mazda CX-5 continues to be Australia’s favourite SUV with car-like handling, and adventurous but handsome styling. At the top of the range near-premium trimmings and a strong list of safety features help boost popularity.
Like Ford, Subaru sees room in its range for a slightly better performing model with the Forester XT. Although priced with a slight premium and starting to show its years, the Forester is still well equipped and rewarding to drive.
Toyota’s sharply styled RAV4 blurs the line between hatch and SUV much like the Escape, but in this instance a less powerful engine, and some refinement issues put the Toyota a step behind the Ford.
Hyundai packs its Tucson Highlander full of equipment, and provides plenty of showroom appeal. On paper the Tucson’s smaller turbo engine isn’t as strong, but on the road it drives well enough so as not to notice the shortfall.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Across the board Ford is showing that is has what it takes in the technology stakes to compete with more prestigious rivals, but in the case of the Escape there’s no real price penalty for picking the fully-stocked Titanium over its top-spec competitors.
With a healthy driving feel thanks to the powerful EcoBoost engine, and decent refinement the Escape feels comfortable and secure from behind the wheel. It’s a shame that the interior, while still nice, isn't as thoughtful in its execution as it should be.
Ford also seems to have trouble getting the message across about its new SUV - there’s no reason for the Escape to languish on dealer lots, though that seems to be what’s happening as sales fail to ignite which is no fault of the car itself, and represents a prime opportunity for buyers to drive a hard bargain.
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