Just a few months ago, Ford announced a mild-refresh to the popular 2017 Ford Escape. While we have not yet been able to drive this refreshed compact crossover, I just took its outgoing 2016 model for a drive. The “lame duck” Escape impressed me far more than I would have expected. With the new-ish 2017 model just around the bend, no doubt dealerships will begin selling this exact model at a big discount in the near future. If you’re in the market for a compact crossover, listen up.
Not much will change for 2017
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Yes, the 2017 Escape will be out really soon. Ford has upgraded the Sync system with a larger screen and slightly updated the interior. The brand is also offering other extra cost features such as lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control. The new Escape also has also gotten an exterior makeover and now resembles its bigger brother the Edge. However, under the skin, not much has changed from 2016.
If paying more for those features wasn’t really on your radar in the first place the current model represents nearly the same vehicle at a (soon to be) huge discount.
SYNC 3 is a fresh start
The biggest feature of the 2016 Escape is Ford SYNC. Now, we’ve all heard about SYNC and those whom have used it probably have a strong opinion. Clunky to operate, blocky in design, and slow to do anything right.
But stand back, for 2016 the company is producing the third iteration of the system that they hope will wipe your memory of all past grievances. SYNC 3 is Ford’s fresh start and fixes many of the issues that plagued previous generations. Most noticeably, SYNC 3 is fast. Hardware and software button pushes are quick and responsive. Second, it’s bright and fresh looking. The screen is now laid out similar to Chrysler’s infotainment system, with a bottom oriented menu. The feature set of this generation is very similar to the past, despite the all new looks. That’s good news for anyone who previously owned a first or second generation unit.
A few things are “meh”
For all that there is to love about the Ford Escape, the interior was front and center on our complaint list. Too many of the surfaces are hard, plastic-like, or devoid of warmth. While we appreciated that the Escape’s seats looked and felt durable, the industrial cloth covering was off-putting.
Our Escape SE didn’t have leather, so the steering wheel was covered with a rather drab plastic. While not uncomfortable, the semi-slick feeling was unnatural and hard to predict at times. The odd angle of the steering wheel buttons also contorted our fingers.
But the Ecoboost 2.0L Turbocharged engine is amazing
The star of our example Escape was the 2.0L Ecoboost four-cylinder engine. Ford, clearly on top of its turbocharging game, has produced a small displacement engine that feels far more powerful than its size would suggest. Abundant low end torque and smooth operation throughout the entire operating range make this engine a no-brainer for anyone considering an Escape. From cruising to passing, this Ford was never at a loss for power.
The Escape also behaves well on the road. Our example had crisp steering and a controlled ride that gave us confidence on the road. We were also amazed how much the Escape drove like a car and almost nothing like a crossover, despite its size.
Our front-wheel-drive Escape achieved fuel economy on par with its government ratings. Around town and on rural roads between home and work, our 2016 test example averaged around 24mpg. This is higher than the 2.0L’s 22mpg city rating but lower than it’s 30mpg highway rating.
The Only Conclusion
The 2016 Ford Escape is a solid small crossover and this mid-cycle refresh provides buyers with the perfect time to buy one at a discount. That said, If you want a more refined interior and active safety features, it’s better to wait for the 2017 in a few months.
2016 Ford Escape SE – Front Wheel Drive
2.0L I4 Ecoboost Engine
Sunset Exterior / Charcoal Black Cloth Seats
Equipment Group 201A
Approximate MSRP as of time of review: $30,070