2016 Ford Escape SE 4WD

Dirty week of snow and slop added some grit and grim to the pretty red Escape, but it handled like a dream all week.

Ford’s Escape a looker and a handler …

Ford’s Escape is popular because it looks good, comes in a range of prices that meet a wide array of consumers’ needs, and is an extremely sporty handling crossover.

None of that changes for 2016.

Escape is handsome with enough of a swept-back look to appear quick and trendy just sitting in the driveway. Plus the base front-drive S model starts at $24,345, including delivery, so its price tag is at the low-end of 5-person crossovers. Mine was an SE with 4-wheel-drive, a trim level up from the S.

Like its entry-level sibling, the SE starts well under the $34,000 average transaction price of today’s cars. This one’s lists at $27,400 with a 1.6-liter turbocharged I4 that creates a healthy 178 horsepower with 184 ft.-lbs. of torque. The base Escape’s engine is a 2.5-liter I4 making 168 horses with a 170 torque rating.

Happy news for my drive, the sharp metallic red test crossover opted for Ford’s horsiest Escape engine choice, the 2.0-liter I4 EcoBoost with direct injection. This turbo packs 240 horsepower and 270 ft.-lbs. of torque and adds $1,195 to the price tag. If power is more vital to you than fuel economy, the bigger turbo is the way to go. It’s mated to a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic.

escape3If you consider Escape a sport-utility, this puts some sport in it. The smooth turbo jets this up to highway speeds in a short haul. But equally important, the Escape’s handling is sporty and precise. This is on the level of a Mazda CX-5 or even a couple of higher-priced European imports for agility. The Escape is a fun drive.

Another plus in for our Midwestern moonscape, the ride is pleasant, better than many small to mid-size crossovers. Escape has MacPherson struts and twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressure shocks up front and a multi-link rear suspension with similar shocks. Combined with riding on a 105.9-inch wheelbase these suspensions give Escape a good ride that seems firm and sporty while being compliant enough to remove the pain of traversing Midwestern roads. The 19-inch tires also play a role in the nice ride.

Of course this one has 4-wheel drive to help handle sloppy roads, or conceivably mild off-road excursions. Braking is good from four discs.

Inside, the Escape has a pleasant interior with an attractive dash and instrument layout. This one had a charcoal gray/black dash with gray cloth and leather-trimmed seats with white stitching. Trim was a gray pewter-like tone on the lower dash and satin look door pulls and handles. The headliner was gray. The seats, chrome accents and fancy 19-inch chrome wheels are part of a $1,445 chrome package, by the way.escape4

Gauges are easy to read with bright blue needles that really stand out, plus all the buttons and knobs are well located and easy to understand.

The navigation/radio screen is a good size and splits to include both functions at once, if so desired. It’s a touchscreen and does not work well if you’re wearing gloves. Nav adds $795 to the price. Yet there’s a standard backup camera, fog lights and automatic lights, but key-start. Auto dual climate controls are part of the 201A option package that runs $1,395. The test crossover also added a power hatch for $495.

Seats are well-contoured and comfortable, with maybe a bit snug butt pocket, but this will work fine for most folks. The driver’s seat is powered here and has a power lumbar support. Rear seat room is ample, although a Subaru Forester’s rear seat feels roomier.

Escape’s tilt/telescope wheel is manual and includes the usual assortment of cruise control, radio and trip computer buttons on the hub. Overhead the visors slide too, but there was no sunroof in this model.

escape5Under the rear hatch is 67.8 cubic feet of storage room, when the split rear seats are lowered. That adds to the Escape’s usefulness.

On the downside are big A-pillars that somewhat limit side visibility and I wish heated seats and a heated steering wheel had been part of the 201A option package. With that and the other options this test Escape hit $33,095. That’s still below the average cost of a car, but in our climate the heated seat and wheel are more vital than the perimeter alarm or black side roof rails in the package, to be sure.

There is a new SYNC3 telematics system that regular users tell me is much better than the old system. That was part of the 201A option package, along with nine speakers.

Escape’s interior is relatively quiet, but a bit noisier than some other crossovers, such as the Forester. Road noise seems to come from below the car, so wet days made it more noticeable.

Gas mileage is so-so with this bigger EcoBoost engine, while generally turbos are easier on gas consumption. I got 22.6 mpg in a week’s drive, about evenly split between highway and city. The EPA rates this at 21 mpg city and 28 highway.escape2

You can increase your gas mileage, if that’s more vital to you long-term, by going with either the base engine, rated 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, or with the smaller turbo, rated 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. The low gas prices we’ve seen of late are quickly creeping back up, so mpg may again become an important financial consideration for families going the 4-wheel-drive crossover route.

But from a looks, performance and handling standpoint you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more competent and fun drive than the Escape at such a modest price point.

STATS: 2016 Ford Escape SE 4WD

Hits: Handsome crossover with excellent handling and power and good ride. Comfortable seats, power hatch and attractive dash layout.

Misses: Big A-pillar blocks side visibility, bit noisy interior, no heated seats or steering wheel at $33 grand.

Made in: Louisville, Ky.

Engine: 1.6-liter, I4 GTDI, EcoBoost, 178 hp

Transmission: 6-speed SelectShift automatic

Weight: 3,678 lbs.

Length: 178.1 in.

Wheelbase: 105.9 in.

Cargo: 67.8 cu.ft. (rear seats down)

Tow: 3,500 lbs.

MPG: 21/28 (EPA)

MPG: 22.6 (tested)

Base Price: $27,400

Invoice: $28,295 (includes delivery)

Major Options:

2.0-liter I4 GTDI EcoBoost, 240 hp, $1,195

Option 201A (SYNC3, 9 speakers, dual-zone climate control, media hub, reverse sensing system, perimeter alarm, black side roof rails, 110v power converter outlet), $1,395

Chrome package (chrome accents, chrome 19-inch wheels, partial leather trim seats), $1,445

Power lift gate, $495

Navigation, $795

All-weather floor mats, $75

Delivery: $895

Discounts: $600

Test vehicle: $33,095

Sources: Ford, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage




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