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2017 Ford Escape - On The Road To Stowe - Review By Steve Purdy

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A Shunpiker’s Road Trip Review

By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

When planning our upcoming road trip to Stowe, VT and the ski resort called Smuggler’s Notch, we thought about what vehicle might be ideal for the trip. Having been in the middle of reviewing a variety of small, midsize and large crossovers we thought we should add the crisply-styled, newly-freshened Ford Escape small crossover to this review group of efficient and stylish people haulers. Fortunately our friends at Ford agreed.

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Experiencing a modest styling refresh for 2017, the new Escape can now be loaded with scads of new technology like the new Sync Connect system (first applied in the new Escape) that allows you to communicate with the car via your smart phone along with more driver assistance functions like lane keeping, smart cruise control, and a variety of other great stuff. We’ll give it all a good workout on this demanding road trip to the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Our destination is one we’ve not visited in about 25 years, maybe more. The kids were teenagers when we were last here. On that trip we drove straight though, 12 hours or so, nearly to Montreal on the 401 then a couple hours south into Vermont. We were in my Merkur XR4Ti, a roomy and fun-to-drive small German sport sedan enthusiasts will remember. That trip was mid-summer and this lovely ski area in northern Vermont was quiet and scenic, verdant and rural. We all had a great time. This fall trip might enable us to catch at least the tail end of the famous New England fall color season and have a nice, long road trip in the bargain.

Our test car is the top-of-the-line Escape Titanium with optional 2.0-liter, 245-horsepower, twin-scroll turbo-enhanced, EcoBoost with 19-inch machined aluminum wheels, leather interior, LED lighting all around, dual-zone climate control and all that fresh driver assist and technology stuff. In other words, a loaded Escape showing a base price of just under $30,000. The Technology Package, Titanium trim, engine option, wheels, navigation, smart cruise and few other tidbits add another five grand or so, for a bottom line on the sticker of $35,370. The base entry level Escape with carry-over, tepid powertrain and much less content comes in at around $23,600 on the sticker.

The EPA estimates we should get around 22 mpg in the city, 29 on the highway and 25 combined on regular fuel. Let’s see if we can do that.

By comparison this loaded, Louisville, KY-built Escape is very close to the price of the comparably equipped Kia Sportage we recently reviewed. It is a bit higher in price than Mazda CX5 and Toyota RAV4, but those had less equipment. With so many small crossovers in the market one would have to do a lot of research to find just the right one.

You could begin by doing a side by side by side by side by side comparison here on TAC.

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We were on the road from our mid-Michigan base before the sun was up headed east on I-69 to Port Huron and Sarnia to take the shortcut across Canada to Niagra. When we travel by car we tend to take a lot of stuff with us, and the Escape’s cargo area and rear seat barely noticed all that stuff. With 34 cubic feet of space behind the second row seatbacks and 68 cubic feet with seatbacks folded we could have easily taken three-times as much stuff. In fact, this would be a fine vehicle for two couples on a good road trip. Maybe next time we should get a two-bedroom place. And, if you wanted to tow a small trailer, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost is rated at a decent 3,500 pound capacity.

Interior materials are upgraded for this refresh but fit and finish remain below average. Console, shifter some dash details and controls were moved around and more complexity crept in particularly on the nice heated leather steering wheel. You can manage many functions there and in spite of that complexity we found them reasonably intuitive. The voice activated navigation system worked well for us but the audio tuning was awkward. The windshield feels like it offers a wider view than most and visibility all around is good. The driver’s seat had me squirming to stay comfortable after about 8 hours on the road, but that may result from the size of my backside.

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Sunday morning, as you might surmise, is a remarkably low traffic time and I had plenty of time to get acclimated to the nuances of this loaded, high-function Escape. First annoyance was the lane departure warning and lane keeping systems. While many folks find these reassuring, I don’t. Some cars allow the driver to turn them off. I found a way to desensitize it but could not turn it off. I got used to it in reasonably short order and it works just fine. The adaptive cruise control is very precise. One blip of the switch adds or subtracts exactly one mph and the adjustable distance settings are reasonable, though will leave too much space in heavy traffic (at least for me), just like all the other adaptive systems out there. Automatic braking, forward collision warning, automatic headlight dimming, blind spot monitoring and active park assist all add to the already full slate of safety systems.

Fall colors at home seemed considerably late this season and the same in Vermont. Here we are at the end of October and the richly colored forests are still glowing with orange, rust, yellow and a few reds mixed with the bright green spruce and pine. While some of the higher mountains were balding quickly on top, plenty of color greeted us on the lesser slopes. A hiking trail winding along the Lamoille River from Jeffersonville to Johnson near Mount Mansfield provided a place for some exercise, contemplation and appreciation of that quiet, serene, and scenic environment. The smells of fall nearly overwhelmed us as we collected a few special leaves to take home.

A day trip to nearby Montpelier involved first a stop at the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory for a short tour and sample. Interesting but not much to it. We arrived at the beautiful Vermont state capitol building just as docent, Tina Muncy, began a tour she was leading with a gaggle of bloggers from Kazakhstan. She invited us to join them warning that the interpreter might make it more cumbersome. Quite the contrary, we found listening to the Russian translations fascinating, and the stories of the historic capitol building colorful. Tina’s enthusiasm for the history of Vermont and the capitol building infected us as well.

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We spent a good deal of our time cruising the wealth of two lane roads winding through the bucolic countryside, quaint villages, and rolling pasturelands with a variety of equine and bovine inhabitants grazing quietly. We even found one pasture with about 30 head of unusual belted Gallaway cattle in both black and brown. Light rain and wispy snow followed us around most of the week and the pass at Smuggler’s Notch was closed by snow, but it does not take much of the white stuff to close the notch. We found the Escape’s ride and handling to be top-notch – not as sporty feeling, perhaps, as the Mazda CX-5, but only the most sensitive reviewer would notice.

Packing for the road home we used the automatic liftgate system that requires just a pass of the foot under the rear bumper to open. Ford pioneered this system now used by some others. The mud in the parking lot had me carrying the suitcases rather than rolling them. An intermittent rain followed us to the ferry at Charlotte to cross the lower end of Lake Champlain. Then a liesurley drive south through the Adirondacks brought us back to Interstate 90 and the cruise back to Michigan. At a rest stop along the way we discovered the “Dirt Museum and Hall of Fame” in Weedsport, NY, but it was closed. It is a celebration of racing on the many dirt tracks of the area. I’m sure a great place to visit if we pass that way again.

So, we easily managed 27 mpg on the whole trip with no effort to ‘hyper-mile’ as some journalist like to do. My driving style is enthusiastic and I tend to flow with the faster traffic on busy freeways, which often means somewhat extra-legal speeds. The EcoBoost four-cylinder and smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic accommodate my style well. And, we found it quite pleasant spending time in that nice cockpit for long hours on the road.

Ford’s new vehicle warranty covers the Escape for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

We would not hesitate to recommend the Escape in any of its iterations thought we’ve not found any others in this crowded segment that don’t measure up.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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