Ford Escape refresh is a handsome, comfortable ride

New Ford Escape includes driver-assist technologies, remote connectivity, and two new EcoBoost engines.

2017 Ford Escape SE (FWD)

  • Base price: $25,100.
  • As tested: $31,470.
  • Standard equipment: 1.5-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, front-drive and a list of amenities that include some surprising entries for a car that starts in the mid-$20s, including stop-start technology, a 10-way power dr
  • Options: Include blind-spot detection, power liftgate, panoramic sunroof, voice-activated touchscreen and navigation system, and special alloy wheels.
  • Fuel economy: 23 city and 30 highway.
  • Engine performance: Reasonably lively.
  • Handling: Exceptional.
  • Styling: Top shelf.
  • Ride comfort: Firm, but civil.
  • Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper.
  • Three bens: good.

Happily, Ford is a lot better at building its cars and trucks than it is at building its stock price.

A case in point is the revised 2017 Ford Escape I spent a week with recently. The one I drove demonstrated why this compact crossover attracts so many partners at the showroom dances. It proved handsome, comfortable, useful, and fun to drive — thanks to an exceptional serving of athleticism.

The 2017 Escape is not a dramatic escape from its predecessor. It is what the industry calls a “refresh,” which is much less ambitious than a full-fledged redesign. While most components and dimensions remain the same, there are two new engines on hand, and a series of interior modifications aimed at improving ergonomics and utility.

The base S model (front drive only) is powered by a carryover 2.5-liter, normally aspirated engine that develops 168 horsepower and delivers EPA mileage ratings of 21 city and 29 highway. The more upmarket SE model I drove, as well as the top-of-the-line Titanium, is available with either front- or all-wheel drive and comes standard with a new 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbo that obtains 179 horses and EPAs of 23 and 30 with FWD and 22 and 28 with AWD.

That new engine has enough stuff to satisfy most drivers. But if a real need for speed is metastasizing within your soul, you might want to opt for the $1,345 option: a tweaked version of the Escape’s previous 2-liter EcoBoost that utilizes a twin-scroll turbocharger to deliver 245 horses, a whopping 275 pound-feet of torque, and lively 0-to-60 times of a little over six seconds. That extra oomph doesn’t trigger much of a mileage tradeoff (22 and 29 with FWD, 20 and 27 with AWD).

The Escape is pleasant business on several counts, including its driving dynamics and exterior styling. The taut suspension tuning, while engendering an admittedly firm ride, affords more body control than you might expect from a crossover. Body roll is minimal for the most part. You really have to throw it into a corner hard to be reminded you are in a vehicle with almost eight inches of ground clearance. The wide, 19-inch tires on the tester afforded a good bite in the turns.

Other athletic gifts include quick steering unaccompanied by that high-strung skittishness you often encounter with responsive steering systems, and a good sense of the surface beneath you.

I would put the Escape’s dynamics in a class with the top compact crossovers, notably the Mazda CX-5, built by a company for whom sportiness is a calling card.

This car’s exterior design is certainly another plus. It is handsome business, nicely sculpted but not over carved, as is often the case in recent times. The test car’s nice body fits and optional black alloy wheels aided the aesthetic cause.

The Escape’s reworked interior was not so successful. I found the door and dash design a bit busy, bulgy, and underwhelming. The seats, with their quilted cloth inserts and leatherette surrounds, were equally uninteresting. I did like the redesigned console’s additional utility, as well as the design and placement of the instruments and controls.

The tester delivered a firm but not uncomfortable ride, was reasonably quiet, afforded good visibility, and offered comfortable, supportive seating. The Escape’s interior is not among the largest in class, but it furnishes adult legroom in the backseat and decent storage space.

The Escape has a top, five-star government safety rating.

It is built in Louisville, Ky., which means that if you drive it on a muddy road, you can call it your Louisville Slogger. (Forgive me.)

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