REVIEW: 2017 Ford Escape SE FWD – Leading the Class In Three Key Ways

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2016-08-12 12.22.26

The 2017 Ford Escape SE FWD does many things well and is the clear leader of its class in three important ways.

What is it? 

New for the 2017 model year, the Ford Escape compact crossover brings needed improvements in safety, new infotainment that may be the best in the industry, and combines many outstanding driving-related features.

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Pricing and trims

The 2017 Ford Escape is offered in three trims and has three engine options. Starting at about $24K in its base S trim, and ending up at around $37K in a fully-equipped Titanium trim, the Escape fits many budgets.

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Our $31K Ford Escape SE trim with front-wheel drive is a mid-trim model that would work well south of the snowbelt.


Safety ratings have been a shortcoming of the Escape line for generations. Though the 2017 Escape does better than previous years, it still does not earn the top safety rating from IIHS, something that almost every one of its competitors does. The SE trim we tested did not have forward crash prevention with auto emergency braking. Our efforts to find that as an option in the Ford configuration showed it was not available on the SE trim. A Subaru Forester, by contrast, can be equipped with a Superior-rated FCP system for well under $30K.

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Our Escape SE FWD did have rear cross traffic alert, a back up camera, and back up aids. These are important, and they worked well. It also had Blind Spot Monitoring. This was unimportant, since the Escape has generally excellent visibility.

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Even the most expensive Escape can only be equipped with Basic-rated FCP. Coupled with an Acceptable small frontal overlap rating, rather than the Good most of the Escape’s peers have earned, the Escape is behind the segment’s average for safety.


Ford offers a base 2.5-liter engine and a powerful 2.0-liter turbo that is at the top of this segment for power and torque. Our SE FWD test vehicle had the mid-range 1.5-liter Ecoboost turbo, and we felt that it was a perfect fit for the vehicle and its mission.

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The 179-hp, 1.5-Liter EcoBoost Turbo engine in our test vehicle had smooth, ample power. In Sport mode, it was peppy and quick, but the engine’s abundant torque could overpower the front wheels and make quick getaways from a stop sign a bit squirrelly when turning into traffic.

Fuel economy for our front-wheel drive Escape was 26 mpg combined. Add all-wheel drive to this Escape and its fuel economy drops to 24 mpg. This lags the class leaders. For example, the 170 hp 2017 Subaru Forester with all-wheel drive earns a 28 mpg rating. However, that is a trade we would gladly make given the 1.5-liter engine’s torque and manners. It isn’t Ford’s engine holding back its fuel economy, it is the transmission.

2016-08-12 12.36.40Like Toyota’s RAV4, the Ford Escape still uses a geared transmission. Its six-speed automatic worked well with the small EcoBoost engine, and it has a Sport Mode and paddle shifters. Those who are averse to a smooth-running constantly variable transmission (CVT) like that found in the Subaru Outback, Nissan Rogue, and Honda CR-V will be happy with Ford’s choice. However, having now become accustomed to CVTs, this writer prefers one when it is done right.

Ride and handling

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The 2017 Ford Escape SE handles very well.  Steering is tight and the ride smooth over bumps. The Escape SE FWD feels solid and buttoned-down on the highway and back roads. The Ford Escape can even be compared to the best compact crossover in the market for highway handling, the BMW X3. The feeling of quality is delicious. Ford nailed this part of the Escape SE FWD.


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The front seats in our 2017 Escape SE FWD were covered in optional leather. Hands-down, these are the best seats in any compact crossover this writer has tested. They are supremely comfortable and still manage to provide just enough support in cornering. The power adjustment for both front seats and also lumbar for both is unusual at this price point.

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The Escape SE FWD has less rear leg room than its peers. A tall passenger in the second row will not have enough legroom unless the front seat passenger pulls forward. The Escape felt tighter in back compared to a 2016 Subaru Forester we had on hand as a comparison model. Those with teen children may want to consider this. The midsize Ford Edge may be a better pick.


The cargo area of the Escape is typical for the class and more than ample. We removed the rear cargo floor so we could photograph the added storage areas underneath around the spare tire.

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Infotainment and controls

Our 2017 Escape SE FWD had Ford’s newest infotainment system, Sync 3, and it worked very well. Our phone synced in record time, the touch-screen is easy to use and very fast.

One feature we loved was the ability to type in the full address one is trying to input as a destination. One does not need to hit “OK” after each line, but rather, just put in what is known, and the system finds it. Brilliant.

The screen also is hooded, so there is no glare. Ford is integrating Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into its Sync 3 for every 2017 model.

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Although the 2017 Ford Escape SE FWD does not top its class in safety and fuel economy, it does lead the compact crossover segment in three important ways. It has the most comfortable seats, best engine, and best infotainment system on the market in the compact crossover segment –  and we include in that statement the premium models as well.

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The 2017 Escape SE should be a serious consideration for any shopper who puts driving feel and comfort first.

2017 Ford Escape SE FWD

Base price: $24,495

Price as tested, $ 30,870, including $895 destination charge 


Equipment Group 201A: $1,395
Sync 3, Reverse Sensing System, Roof-Rack Side Rails, BLIS

Nav: $795

Power Liftgate: $495

18″ Ultra BRT Mach Alum Wheels: $595

SE Leather Comfort Package $1,595 (Includes heated seats and mirrors)


  • Comfortable Front Seats
  • Simple Infotainment System
  • Good performance with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine


  • Limited Rear Legroom
  • Fuel Economy Trails Rivals
  • No Forward Collision Prevention System Included At Price Point

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