By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Aptly named, the 2016 Ford Escape offers a stimulating ?escape? from the sometime hum-drum manners of many compact SUV/crossovers. Rather than the typical nondescript ride, marginal handling and lackadaisical performance of a many of the pseudo off-roaders, the Escape has traits more closely fitting those of a sport sedan.
The 2016 Ford Escape is available in three trim levels: S, SE and Titanium, with the standard power in both the SE and Titanium from a four-cylinder 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine rated at 178-hp. The turbocharged engine has an aluminum block and twin cams. The EPA rate the engine at 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
The optional engine ($1,195), which was in our test vehicle, is a 2.0-liter version of the same EcoBoost four-cylinder only with 240 hp. This is the engine that gives the Escape that extra kick setting it apart from many competitors. The EPA rates the fuel economy of the larger engine at 21/28/23 mpg. We averaged 25.9 mpg during the week we drove it trying to simulate how a typical driver would drive. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds according to buff magazine testing.
The S version is powered by a 168-hp naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. All three engines use a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. The transmission can be shifted manually using the toggle switch mounted on the left side of the console-mounted shifter stock, although we would prefer the more intuitive steering wheel mounted paddle shifters or a gated shifter on the console. We believe the ability to manually control the transmission is important for slowing, holding a gear in corners or not having to ride the brakes going down a hill.
The three trim variations have towing capacities ranging from 1,500 pounds for the S to 3,500 pounds for the Titanium with the towing package and the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine.
All-wheel drive is an option on the SE and Titanium. The Ford AWD system gathers data from 25 sensors to instantly evaluate road conditions and driver input, then automatically adjusts the torque to the front or rear wheels through an electromagnetic clutch.
The Escape also has a Curve Control technology that determines if the vehicle is entering a corner too fast and automatically applies Torque Vectoring Control to apply braking force to the front inside wheel so more engine torque is applied to the outside wheel for better handling and traction.
These technologies combine with the sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension and stiff chassis to produce that sport sedan like handling that sends the Escape toward the head of the compact SUV class in handling and performance. The downside is a harsher ride, but we think the excellent handling is worth the tradeoff.
Escape styling even fits the part with a racy wedge-shaped body structure that looks aggressive fitting nicely with a sportier character rather than settling for the typical boxy look. The Escape front end has a trio of lower grilles with horizontal bars and a small upper grille with the Ford oval, however most the air inlet capacity is decorative. The sloping sides enhance the aggressive look and it?s finished in the rear with large taillights, contrasting trims and dual exhaust outlets. It?s all brought together with a sweeping roofline that tapers toward the rear ending with a triangular ?D? pillar.
The interior has busy lines and the cloth seats in our test vehicle were lightly padded, so the stiffer suspension was quite noticeable. The five-passenger interior space is about average for vehicles in this category. The cargo space is 34.3 cubic feet with the rear seatback in place and it expands to 67.8 cubic feet when the seatback is folded. One option package offers a power liftgate that can be opened with the driver simply waving a foot below the rear bumper.
The 2016 Ford Escape feature list includes an extensive group of available tech, navigation and safety features accessing them through the large touch screen mounted near the top of the center stack or using voice commands. The technology group includes Ford SYNC?3, the latest generation of the connectivity software. SYNC 3 is also a communications and entertainment system which offers abundant sources of music, news and entertainment, along with a variety of apps to provide information. The Connect function of SYNC 3 allows the owner to remotely start or schedule a future start from a smartphone. It also allows the owner to check key vehicle information like tire pressures, battery and fuel levels.
Important safety equipment offered through a variety of packages include a reverse sensing system and backup camera, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning, cross traffic alert, forward collision warning with brake support, lane keep assist and a system that warns if the driver appears to be getting fatigued. Other handy driver aids include hill-start assist, auto high-beam headlight control, active park assist and the MyKey? system.
The pricing ranges from $23,995, including the destination charge, for the 2016 Ford Escape FWD S model up to $30,400 for the Titanium. With all the available option packages the Titanium can go to $33,560. We noticed there were several incentives available so check with your local Ford dealer for the best price. For more information about features and pricing go to http://www.ford.com/suvs/escape/ .