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2017 Ford Escape
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2017 Ford Escape

Sales-wise, the compact crossover segment is white-hot. So competitors have to work extra hard not only to stand out from competitors but to take the lead as well.

Ford does so in several ways with the 2017 Escape. Available in base S, mid-level SE, and top-of-the-line Titanium trim levels, the five-passenger vehicle gets some major upgrades for the model year. Up front, new headlamps and a new front grille give the vehicle a more aggressive look. Out back, there's a new tailgate design and new taillights. New exterior colors Canyon Ridge, Lightning Blue and White Gold join the already extensive paint choices.

The 2017 Escape sports several new features on the electronics front. It's the first Ford to come with Sync Connect. This allows owners to remotely access car systems like ignition or check the fuel level via their smartphones. Owners can use the new feature to lock / unlock the doors or locate the crossover in a crowded parking lot.

Available adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support are also new.

The Escape is also the automaker's first major rollout of its Auto Start-Stop technology. Aimed to reduce gas emissions and improve fuel economy, this feature shuts off the engine when the crossover is at a stop like a stoplight. It then restarts the motor when the vehicle's ready to move.

Two of the three engines powering the Escape are new. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo can be found underneath the hood of the SE and Titanium. A more powerful 2.0-liter turbo four is optional at both trim levels. The base S continues to be powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine carrying over from last year's model.

All three engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2017 Ford Escape comes standard with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is available.

"With its quick, precise steering and relatively sharp reflexes, the 2016 Ford Escape is one of the segment's top athletes," writes Edmunds. "Some compact crossovers feel tall and bulky from the driver seat, but the Escape feels more like a sporty hatchback with a higher center of gravity. The driving position is also elevated, of course, so you get that SUV-style commanding view of the road, yet the Escape remains firmly planted to the pavement during quick transitions. Fortunately, this dynamic character doesn't come at the expense of ride comfort, which is quite good by class standards."