We used to own a 2003 Ford Escape, which I bought new and drove the shit out of for nearly a decade. At the risk of sounding obvious, the 2017 tester I drove last week is different. And better. We could stop here but there’s plenty worth exploring and comparing. First, the price is higher but — adjusted for inflation and the upgrades in safety, connectivity and comfort charges — the new Escape is definitely better value.
The seats are still very comfortable. Why does that matter? If you’re buying a compact to midsized SUV, you probably aren’t doing it for so much for the S as the U. You’ll be spending a lot of time in it, not having fun, so it’d better be comfortable. Anyway, the cloth on the seats won’t stand up long to the abuse a typical guy would inflict but their resilience and shape are still exceptionally good. I drove long family holidays in our 2003 Escape without exacerbating any lower back issues. The new version would stand up just as well but the 2017’s telescopic wheel makes that comfortable position even easier to customise.
The 2017 also feels far lighter than what I remember, though the numbers report otherwise. Ours had a ballsy V6 engine and this one contained just a 1.5L four-cylinder EcoBoost. Tturbocharged, it still lacked the immediacy of the 2003’s but was an easy enough adjustment to make. If you don’t tow much, the 1.5 should do you fine. Save the extra money for leather seats. Speaking of savings, that engine defaults to auto start-stop tech, which shuts the engine off when you brake for an extended period, then restarts when you remove your foot. (No, engines don’t require more fuel to restart than idle. That’s a myth.) If you find auto start-stop annoying, you can turn it off and drive in sport mode to win the race to the next light, but it’s a good feature to show your hippy friends.
And speaking of lighter, the electronic steering feels somewhat artificial. There’s less feedback from the road but a host of safety techs are in place to report and correct any problems. Again, you’ll adjust in minutes.
A gear shifter allows for paddling and milking the engine, a far different experience from the borderline retro column-shift lever.
The panoramic twin panel moonroof in the new Escape is $1,750 but twice the size of our 2003’s also expensive skylight. The effect is that of a roomier vehicle. It’s been proven that sunlight is good for your health and boosts your alertness. So consider eating that expense.
Another obvious advantage of the 2017 is the great leaps forward in connectivity and infotainment (people still smiled when they came across that word in 2002; now we don’t even notice because we’re busy counting likes) technology. Ford Sync is voice-activated commanding to help keep your eyes on the road. It comes with the aptly named $1,550 Convenience Package, which includes rear parking aid sensors, roof rails, that kick-ass 10-way driver’s seat and tonneau cover. The integrated voice-activated touchscreen is an extra $800 beyond that, which seems a tad steep, but being able to touch for info is a luxury few of us want to give up once enjoyed.
Base price: $29,399
As driven with upgrades, taxes and freight charges: $38,139.