Ford's mid-cycle refresh of the 2017 Escape, which debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show, has its work cut out for it. The Escape is the second best seller (after Honda's CR-V) in the booming and cutthroat-competitive compact crossover SUV segment that now leads the U.S. market with 17 percent of industry sales.

Selling more than 300K units annually, the Escape trails only F-Series trucks among all Ford products. As a result, the pressure was on Ford's designers and engineers to keep it fresh. Our initial impression is that they have. With bolder styling all around, it looks like a slightly shrunken version of Ford's latest Edge mid-size crossover SUV and its interior is totally "transformed," says Escape chief engineer Milton Wong.  "We've redesigned everything you see and touch."

Also: See the New and Redesigned Cars of 2016

Classy, quiet cabin

Hugely importantly these days, that much classier, quieter cabin will offer up a suite of standard and available "smart technology" features, many of them found in more expensive vehicles but not before in a compact SUV. And some are firsts in any Ford car or truck. "We're bringing our best technologies down into this more affordable vehicle," Wong asserts.

Among them are a heated steering wheel, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Aid, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring with Cross Traffic Alert, a Driver Alert System that warns when you might need a coffee break, Ford's excellent Active Park Assist system with Side Sensor and a handy option that opens the rear hatch with a kick of your foot under the bumper, then closes it with another.

It's also more connected than ever. With its much-improved, higher-capability, more user-friendly SYNC 3 system and available SYNC Connect, you can use your smart phone to locate your '17 Escape, lock or unlock its doors, start its engine and check its fuel level.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2016

Three trim levels offered

The 20217 Ford Escape lineup starts with a base S model with a 168-hp 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic. This model boasts standard remote keyless entry, a rear-view camera, reclining rear seats, an electronic parking brake, capless refueling, 6-speaker audio, four 12V power points and a "smart-charging" USB port.

Mid-range SE and line-topping Titanium trims will offer a choice of two new EcoBoost (direct injected and turbocharged) engines, both with stop/start technology that saves fuel by shutting down at stops. A 180-hp 1.5-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder is standard, a 245-hp twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-liter optional. Also optional: intelligent 4wd.

Ford has not released 2017 Escape pricing or EPA fuel economy, but we expect much-improved efficiency for both new EcoBoost engines. And prices will likely start just slightly north of the 2016 Escape's $23K base sticker despite all the added content.

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