Shopping for a small crossover presents a dizzying array of options, but the Ford Escape is a smart choice among a crop of great contenders. It offers a choice of three engines, an impressive voice-command interface, and cargo space that ranks near the top of the class. After a thorough update last year, the 2018 Escape offers a new trim level that bridges the gap between standard and luxury models.
The Escape offers optional all-wheel drive, respectable fuel economy, cargo space that ranks near the top of the class (only Toyota and Honda offer more) and an available hands-free power liftgate. You can outfit the Escape from comfortable casual (SE trim with no options) to rugged luxury (a loaded Titanium model that can breach $40,000). On the road, its agility instills a level of driver confidence that's rare in this class.
After a more comprehensive update last year that introduced a new four-cylinder engine and improved things such as smartphone integration (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were introduced) and small-item storage (old lever-mounted parking brake replaced with a button), the 2018 Escape now offers a SEL trim level that bridges the gap between the more mainstream SE model and the luxury fixings of the Titanium.
Overall, the Escape excels in some areas and falls short in others. With its turbo four-cylinder, quick (if twitchy) steering, and tight suspension, the Escape is one of the more engaging compact SUVs to drive, only outmatched by the Mazda CX-5. Large cargo space and an excellent tech interface are other advantages. On the other hand, the Escape isn't quite as refined as the Honda or Mazda, its "fun" engine is only available on its top trim level, and that "fun" engine doesn't return particularly impressive fuel economy. But generally we think the 2018 Escape's qualities outweigh its flaws and deserves a close look from anyone interested in a compact SUV.
The 2018 Escape is a compact crossover SUV that comes in S, SE, SEL and Titanium trim levels. The S is fairly bare-bones, so we expect most buyers will want to start their search with an SE, which offers an upgraded engine, nicer wheels, a power-adjustable driver seat and more available options. The new-for-2018 SEL trim level adds more convenience features while the top-trim Titanium adds luxury touches and an even more powerful engine.
The S starts with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (168 horsepower, 170 pound-feet of torque), a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. Standard features include 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, MyKey parental controls, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seat, a 4.2-inch central display, a rearview camera, the Sync tech interface with AppLink smartphone integration, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and a USB port. Note that this model is generally aimed at business fleet buyers and may not be easy to find on your local dealer's lot.
Upgrading to the SE adds 17-inch alloy wheels (optional on the S), added chrome exterior trim, sound-reducing window glass, a turbocharged 1.5-liter engine (179 hp, 177 lb-ft), roof rails, foglights, a keyless entry keypad, rear privacy glass, dual-zone automatic climate control, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, rear air vents, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), heated front seats, upgraded cloth upholstery, a rear center armrest and satellite radio.
Optional on the SE is all-wheel drive and a Sport Appearance package that adds black 19-inch wheels, black-painted exterior trim, LED daytime running lights, paddle shifters, partial leather upholstery, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The optional Sync 3 tech package includes an 8-inch touchscreen, enhanced voice controls, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Sync Connect (includes remote app services and onboard Wi-Fi) and a nine-speaker sound system with dual USB ports. A panoramic sunroof, roof rail crossbars, a navigation system, and a tow package rated up to 2,000 pounds are also optional.
The SEL bundles all SE equipment and adds a power liftgate, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather upholstery, power-adjustable side mirrors with heating, rear parking sensors and the Sync 3 tech interface. Eighteen-inch wheels are optional on the SEL, along with all of the options available for the SE trim.
At the top of the lineup is the Titanium. It bundles all SEL features but adds a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (245 hp, 275 lb-ft), a six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels, a hands-free power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, remote start, ambient interior lighting, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, xenon headlights, heated and 10-way power-adjustable front seats, driver-seat memory settings, a 110-volt, household-style power outlet, and additional 12-volt power outlets. Also standard are a navigation system, a 10-speaker Sony audio system with HD radio, front and rear parking sensors, and an automated parallel and perpendicular parking feature (which includes front and side parking sensors).
Titanium options are similar to SEL options, with the exception of optional 19-inch wheels and an uprated tow package capable of pulling up to 3,500 pounds.
A Safe and Smart package is available for the SE, SEL and Titanium trims, and it includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and intervention, and automatic wipers.