By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 8.0
Although there are dozens of compact SUVs from which to choose, few have the styling, performance and features offered by the 5-passenger 2015 Ford Escape. Beyond its cutting-edge engine options and handsome styling, the Escape offers nimble handling via its sport-tuned suspension and a plethora of electronics aimed at keeping tech-savvy consumers safely in touch with the world, even when in motion. You won’t find features like the foot-activated power rear liftgate or panoramic moonroof on the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, and you certainly won’t find a choice of two turbocharged engines. There are less expensive compact SUVs on the market, some even offer more interior space and better fuel economy, but the Ford Escape seems to have all the bases covered.
If you’re seeking a compact SUV with great looks, great handling, great fuel economy and great features, the Ford Escape checks off all the boxes.
KBB Expert Ratings
Other than a new paint color, there are no major changes for the Ford Escape SUV.
With the exception of the Mazda CX-5, there is no sportier compact crossover SUV than the Ford Escape. Ford wisely jettisoned its boxy and boring SUV formula...
... in favor of a light, nimble and very European-looking compact. Its handling is precise and the available 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine puts out an impressive 240 horsepower. But even if you settle for the smaller 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine, the performance is still a cut above most compact SUVs. The Escape’s ride straddles the fence between comfortable and firm, and there is more noise in the cabin than in the Subaru Forester or Honda CR-V. But the experience from behind the wheel just can’t be matched by the aforementioned competitors, nor do they come close to matching the long list of electronic and audio upgrades offered by Ford.
Anyone who has ever approached a locked hatchback with arms full will appreciate this feature. Simply pass your foot beneath the rear bumper and the hatch automatically unlocks and powers itself open.
Kids love cars almost as much as their parents do. They also love to test the limits of common sense. That’s why Ford allows owners to program limits on the vehicle’s top speed, audio volume and, if seatbelts aren’t buckled, cut off the audio system altogether.
The inside of the Ford Escape boasts an impressive display of materials, design and available features. The dash can feel a bit busy, especially when loaded up with options like MyFord Touch. If you’re not into lots of high tech, you might just want to avoid the top-end models. The seats are comfortable, but a bit on the narrow side, and the cargo space and rear-seat room are not as generous as in some of the Escape’s competition. However, we love the available panoramic moonroof as well as the excellent Sony audio system.
Like some others in the compact-SUV segment now, the Ford Escape shows a strong sense of style. Exterior highlights that distinguish upper-tier Escape models include HID headlamps, fog lights, body-color mirrors and trim, dual chrome exhaust tips and big 19-inch wheels. Sadly, the Escape doesn’t offer any kind of forward-collision alert or adaptive cruise control feature, as found on the Subaru Forester. It can, however, warn of rear crossing traffic and parallel park itself.
The base Ford Escape S features a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission, 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/Aux sound system, air conditioning, audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, the parent-friendly MyKey system, and a full complement of airbags and electronic safety features. Base-model compromises include covered steel wheels and black plastic exterior trim elements.
A fully loaded Ford Escape Titanium comes with enough cool features to embarrass many luxury cars. In addition to a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 4-wheel drive, leather seats and a panoramic moonroof, a top-tier Escape offers blind-spot warning, automatic parallel parking, an 8-inch touchscreen, navigation, Sync with MyFord Touch, and a liftgate that opens with a wave of your foot. You could get an Acura RDX for the same money, but you wouldn’t have as many fun features to play with.
The Ford Escape offers a choice of three engines (unique in the compact-SUV class). The 240-horsepower rating of the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine looks irresistible, but truthfully, the 178-horsepower 1.6-liter version is still plenty powerful, just as smooth, and more affordable and more efficient in the bargain. The base 2.5-liter engine would probably be fine for many owners but it comes only in the base Escape S, which doesn’t look so grand compared to some competitors. All three engines work with a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, driving either the front wheels (FWD) or all four (AWD). If you want AWD you’ll have to choose one of the EcoBoost engines. And if you want the Escape’s full towing capacity of 3,500 pounds, that requires the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine (and note that the towing package eliminates the clever hands-free liftgate option).
168 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
170 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway mpg: 22/31 mpg
Escape SE, Titanium
1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
178 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway mpg: 23/32 mpg (FWD), 22/30 mpg (AWD)
Escape SE, Titanium
2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
240 @ 5,500 rpm
270 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway mpg: 22/30 mpg (FWD), 21/28 mpg (AWD)
The 2015 Ford Escape S starts just under $24,000 but that’s with the least desirable of its three engine choices, black plastic exterior trim and covered steel wheels. Stepping up to the Escape SE remedies those shortcomings and adds Sync infotainment and other upgrades for around $26,500. That’s two to three thousand higher than the Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 base models. At the upper end of the price spectrum, a fully loaded Escape Titanium will exceed $37,000. While that’s almost $7,000 more than a loaded CR-V, it also includes a lot more power and technology. Unfortunately, the Escape’s resale values are only average, better than the Chevrolet Equinox and just behind the Jeep Cherokee, but far below the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester compact SUVs. To get a better idea of what Escape buyers in your area are paying, check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price.