While there are plenty of players in the thriving compact-crossover segment, only the 2017 Ford Escape offers consumers their choice of three four-cylinder engine options, all paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain trifecta starts with the naturally aspirated 168-hp 2.5-liter inline-four, which comes only in the base, front-wheel-drive Escape S, a configuration that we’d recommend skipping. Next up is the turbocharged 179-hp 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that comes standard in the 2017 Escape SE and Titanium trims, and both of which offer all-wheel drive. Things escalate quickly from there, with Ford giving SE and Titanium buyers the opportunity to add a tidy 66 horsepower by checking the $1295 option box for the turbocharged 2.0-liter EcoBoost four, as on the 2017 Ford Escape Titanium tested here.
(Almost) King of the Compact-Crossover Hill
Rated at 245 horsepower and 275 lb-ft of twist, the EcoBoost 2.0-liter sits near the top of four-cylinder compact-crossover power ratings. Only the Subaru Forester with the optional 2.0-liter turbo tops it, putting down five more ponies for a total of 250 horsepower. Torque is a different story, with the Subie’s 258 lb-ft falling 17 notches short of the Escape. Although the optional naturally aspirated V-6 engines in the Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Equinox, and GMC Terrain top the 2.0-liter EcoBoost in horsepower, they fall just short of its torque figure.
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To compare apples to slightly smaller apples, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost in our all-wheel-drive Escape Titanium made sauce of the numbers posted earlier by a front-wheel-drive 2017 Escape Titanium with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine. With a zero-to-60-mph time of 7.1 seconds and a quarter-mile run of 15.6 seconds, the 2.0-liter shaved 2.1- and 1.3-seconds off the 9.2- and 16.9-second times returned by the lighter, two-wheel-drive, 1.5-liter Escape. Among the four-cylinder competition, only the aforementioned Subaru Forester with its 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four manages to outrun this Escape, reaching 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and completing the quarter in 15 seconds flat. The 2.0-liter EcoBoost’s horsepower superiority pays dividends in towing, where it’s rated to haul 3500 pounds; the 1.5-liter EcoBoost is rated for 2000 pounds, and the base 2.5 four-cylinder can tug only 1500 pounds.
This statistical shakedown is not to whet the appetite of power-crazed suburbanites, but rather to illustrate what the $1295 price premium for the 2.0-liter EcoBoost brings to the table. Yet Ford’s upcharge for the 2.0-liter’s extra hustle doesn’t stop at the dealer; in addition to that, Ford recommends (as it does with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost) that you feed the 2.0-liter engine a steady diet of premium fuel for maximum performance—and you’ll be buying more of it. The Escape with the bigger EcoBoost is EPA rated at 20/27 mpg city/highway, but we could squeeze only 21 mpg from it over 700 miles, even with the standard stop/start system doing its shutdown routine. Did we dip into its meaty, all-hands-on-deck torque more frequently than the average driver? Definitely. For reference, that’s 3 mpg less than the 24 mpg we earned in its 264-pound-lighter doppelgänger with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine and front-wheel drive. In our real-world highway fuel-economy test, run at a steady 75 mph, the Escape 2.0T achieved 26 mpg, a single mpg below its EPA highway rating.
With full grunt online at a relatively low 3000 rpm, the power to merge or dart for holes in traffic is never more than a pedal stomp away. Gear swaps are performed by a six-speed automatic with manual shifting capability, the sole transmission available across the lineup. Programmed for smooth performance rather than split-second action, the transmission will likely never give the average buyer a second thought. Only once did we catch it flat-footed and slow to react to an abrupt application of full throttle, where it missed a beat before downshifting. Shifting for yourself is an option (via steering-wheel-mounted paddles on the SE and Titanium and also by a thumb switch on the shift lever), but if compact-class thrills are your ultimate goal, Ford sells a dandy hatch called the Focus ST that will let you get your groove on wherever and whenever you wish.
The Same But Different
Unsurprisingly, we found the 2.0-Liter EcoBoost Escape to display the same competent road manners as the previously tested 1.5-liter EcoBoost Titanium. That car rode on 18-inch wheels with 235/50 Michelin Latitude Tour HP rubber; our tester sported 19-inch aluminum wheels shod with 235/45 Continental ContiProContact tires. Despite this Escape’s lower-profile tires, maximum cornering grip on our skidpad measured the same 0.85 g as its 1.5-liter sibling, which is still well above average among compact crossovers.
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The bigger wheels and low-profile rubber didn’t translate into similar braking performance; our 2.0-liter Escape required 184 feet to come to a halt from 70 mph, adding 11 feet to the 1.5-liter Escape’s performance. The 19s don’t, however, upset the Escape’s smooth ride. Despite chassis tuning aimed at providing predictable handling and unremarkable body motions (rather than clinically precise dynamics), the steering and suspension are still taut enough that occasional aggressive inputs don’t make it go weak in the knees.
Pricey Escape Plan
For all the amiable and competent qualities displayed by our 2.0-liter Escape Titanium test car, it does have a single, potentially deal-breaking character flaw: its price. Starting with a base MSRP of $31,745 for a four-wheel-drive Escape Titanium (base Escape S models start at $24,495), our tester added $5770 with just six options: Ruby Red metallic paint ($395), adaptive cruise control ($595), navigation with voice activation ($795), the aforementioned 2.0-liter EcoBoost ($1295) and 19-inch painted aluminum wheels ($695), and, finally, Equipment Group 301 ($1995), which brings the Titanium Technology package (heated steering wheel, enhanced park assist with automated parallel and perpendicular parking, rain-sensing wipers, auto high-beams, lane-keeping alert and assist, bixenon HID headlamps, LED signature lighting, and a supplemental electric heater to help speed up cabin heating in cold weather). The MSRP was $37,515.
At that price, shoppers will find a host of alternatives, including less well-equipped versions of Ford’s larger Edge and Explorer, which should be a serious consideration for buyers looking for maximum space, as the Escape is only average in that regard. Jumping brands reveals a host of competitors such as our favorite, the Mazda CX-5, as well as the Honda CR-V, both of which offer more rear-seat room. But if technology, safety features, and a little extra grunt rank high among your needs in a compact crossover, the 2017 Ford Escape Titanium with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost is a good place to start your search.