Amid all of the anarchy at the LA Auto Show, Ford has announced that it will be bringing the Escape to the center stage going into the new year, and the Detroit automaker plans on doing so by focusing on offering more choices under the hood and within the cabin. Stating that its popular SUV is being re-engineered to make customers “feel unstoppable,” Ford plans to offer Escape buyers even more driver-assist technologies in order to help promote what it calls “safer and easier driving.” Fresh mobile connectivity will soon allow drivers to interact with their vehicles from anywhere via a smartphone app (something we feel is long overdue), and to complement this fat serving of winning innovation, Ford has announced that it will also be rolling out two new EcoBoost engines.
If Ford can pull this off, the Escape will become the first vehicle in the world with what it is calling “SYNC Connect,” an app that allows users to unlock doors, check fuel levels and tire pressure, monitor battery life, and even locate where a vehicle is parked with the swipe of a smartphone screen. But the tech doesn’t stop there, and in an effort to help drivers “feel more confident behind the wheel,” all manner of driver-assistance will be made available for Escape shoppers, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warnings with brake support, lane-keep assist, and enhanced active park assistance. All of these fresh features are being packed into a small SUV that has been completely redesigned from the ground up, something many feel has been long overdue.
SYNC Connect will be available with SYNC 3 in the new Escape, a feature buyers may enjoy free of charge for the first five years, and can be enabled by way of a two-step authentication process for additional personal information protection. Featuring faster performance speeds, conversational voice recognition, an intuitive, smartphone-like touch screen, and an easy-to-understand graphical interface, Ford is really banking on testing the waters with this one, as more tech-minded Millennials ask for increased car connectivity, luxury, and safety.
Ford says that Escape customers will be still be able to select from S, SE, and Titanium trim levels, and the addition of a new “Sport Appearance Package” for SE and Titanium models is guaranteed to make enthusiasts even more excited about the big redesign. With its “Charcoal Black” and opaque “Deep Space” interior trim options, the Titanium edition will undoubtedly remain the most sophisticated of the bunch, with its Salerno leather seats sporting a special horizontal lay-out. Titanium buyers also have the option of securing “Medium Stone” seats, which have been designed to contrast flawlessly with the black interior, and fortunately are not as unforgiving as their name might suggest. Back outside, the Escape is set to be offered in three new colors – Canyon Ridge, White Gold, and Lightning Blue, all of which will surely complement any of the six new wheel designs Ford will be proffering.
But let’s talk about turbocharged engines for a minute — according to Ford, the two new EcoBoost engines in the redesigned Escape will come equipped with a standard Auto Start-Stop feature, another first for the Detroit-based automaker. Sporting either a 1.5-liter or a 2.0-liter twin-scroll design, these forced induction four-bangers utilize technologies that sense when the vehicle is idling and shuts off the engine in order to conserve fuel, resulting in a 4-6% improvement in economy ratings during stop-and-go traffic. Milton Wong, Escape chief engineer, probably explains it best: “Auto Start-Stop is the equivalent of turning off the lights when you leave a room, or turning off a water faucet when you’re done washing dishes.”
Both the SE and Titanium trim levels will come standard with the new 1.5-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, with a far more powerful, twin-scroll 2.0-liter option remaining an option at any point. All models are set to be paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, with new paddle-shifters available on SE and Titanium models, and even though we love a car with a clutch, sadly a manual gearbox remains nowhere to be seen. On the bright side, opting for the twin-scroll, turbocharged 2.0-liter will reward you with 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, as well as greater efficiency gains along with improved noise, vibration, and harshness cancellation. On top of that, Ford has outfitted the 2.0-liter model with pistons that glean more efficient compression ratios, and an integrated exhaust manifold for the twin-scroll turbo system because that’s kind of the only way to do it these days.
With its aluminum-block, twin-cams, 1.5-liter displacement, integrated exhaust manifold, and targeted 180 horsepower peak numbers, the “base” turbo drivetrain is no slouch either though. Churning out 185 pound-feet of torque, and featuring projected fuel efficiency numbers that are out of this world, buyers have a damn good reason to downsize for once, as this Ford powerplant appears to be anything but anemic. Naturally, for those of you who don’t want turbo headaches down the line, the standard 2.5-liter i-VCT four-cylinder will still be available for anyone wanting a basic Escape S series.
All of these exciting developments outline a trend in automotive sales, where SUV demand continues to grow, accounting for about one third of the U.S. auto industry, a number Ford projects will grow to 40% by 2020. Hell, in the United States alone, SUV sales are expected to exceed 5 million units this year for the first time in history, as small SUVs continue to grow in popularity, with the Escape leading the charge. Ever since the Escape first launched in 2000, more than 3 million units have hit America’s highways, with 306,212 of them rolling out in 2014 alone. Feeling optimistic, Ford projects sales of the little SUV to topple that figure this year, something Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of America, emphasized during his speech the other day, saying, “The compact SUV segment is the largest and most competitive in the United States, and the new Escape delivers even more of what our customers want – more technology they can really use to make their daily drive safer and easier.”