Few vehicles confirm Ford's supremacy in the sport utility segment than the Escape. While the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 beat it to showrooms by several years in the late 1990s, Ford quickly jumped to the front of the sales pack and has never looked back.
For 2018, Ford is working to expand the Escape's appeal with a new SEL trim to slot in between the volume leader SE and top-end Titanium models with features like LED exterior signature lighting, leather seating, SYNC infotainment with an eight-inch touchscreen and a backup sensing system.
The Escape otherwise carries over unchanged, starting out in an entry-level S that uses a low-tech 2.5L four-cylinder engine (168 hp/170 lb-ft) that gets upgraded to 1.5L and 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinders (179 hp/177 lb-ft and 245 hp/275 lb-ft, respectively) in SE, SEL and Titanium models.
There are two schools of thought in the compact crossover class: Honda and Toyota subscribe to the one that suggests that a sub-200 hp engine is all you need here, while Ford's 245-hp 2.0L EcoBoost engine gives the Escape the beans to keep up with vehicles like the Subaru Forester XT and Chevrolet Equinox 2.0T.
It's easy to like the Escape with that kind of performance, but it's also easy to enjoy it too much and wind up with real-world fuel consumption well beyond Natural Resources Canada estimates of 11.5/8.8 L/100 km (city/highway). The 1.5L's ratings are not a lot lower but it's a thriftier powerplant in everyday driving.
The 2.5L is offered with front-wheel drive only, so if you want all-wheel traction, Ford forces you to upgrade to turbocharged power. All three engines are matched with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Regardless of engine choice, the Escape offers one of the more engaging drives in its class thanks to European underpinnings shared with the Kuga sold on that continent. Where it falls down is in an interior that, despite being nicely appointed, hasn't been significantly updated since 2012 and feels snug compared to the RAV4 and recently redesigned CR-V.
The Escape also gets expensive when heavily optioned, making its upper-tier trims expensive when compared to the Honda CR-V, which is now one of the class's better values in terms of luxury trimmings and advanced safety features.