Ford’s 2017 Escape gains a new "face" and many technologies under the skin, as part of a significant mid-cycle refresh as the compact utility enters its 15th year of production. This vehicle upgrade includes key investments in engineering and integration—in NVH reduction; two new EcoBoost engines; active grill shutters; adaptive cruise control; more connectivity/convenience features, a completely new front clip; new liftgate; HID headlamps and LED taillamps, and an electronic parking brake that frees up center console space. All are essential for Escape as it battles for the lead in a steadily growing and increasingly crowded market segment.
Escape sales exceeded 306,000 in 2014, putting it about 30,000 units behind segment leader Honda CR-V. In third place in sales is Toyota’s RAV4, at about 268,000 units. Toyota’s North American General Manager Bill Fay recently told Automotive Engineering he’s confident that RAV4 sales will top 300,000 units in 2016 and projects them to crest 400,000 when the Cambridge, Ont., plant adds the vehicle by 2019.
The first Escape sold about 180,000 units when it launched in 2001. SUVs overall currently generate 33% of industry sales in North America—5 million total vehicles in 2015—and Ford expects them to grow to 40% of overall sales by 2020.
“Beating Honda would be great,” said Milton Wong, the Escape Chief Program Engineer, “but for the engineering team our most important task is listening to the customer.” One major voice-of-the-customer upgrade is an extensive NVH attenuation package. It includes the addition of acoustic front side glass; improved windshield sealing; insulated A-pillars; insulated front doors; more aerodynamic exterior mirrors; a new 360° hood seal; front wheelhouse liner insulation; and increased underbody shielding.
According to Wong, the new Escape’s active safety package was engineered and integrated “using our portable electrical system hardware and software modules” that the company is leveraging across vehicle platforms to increase scale and reduce cost. The CAN-bus-based electrical architecture, modified for 2016, now supports a suite of camera, radar, and ultrasonic (12 on the vehicle) sensors for the addition of adaptive cruise with forward collision warning; lane keeping and lane-departure warning, and active park assist with side sensing.
Ford’s new Sync Connect, which debuts on the Escape, enables remote door-unlocking, engine start, and fuel-level checking via smart phone. The remote engine-start feature on any vehicle is controversial in Canada and Germany, where it is seen by some as wasting fuel and creating emissions in the name of comfort. Its presence on the new Escape may seem to conflict with the model’s new stop-start system, Ford’s first such application as standard equipment.
Wong promises the stop-start system will operate in a best-in-class, seamless, quiet, and rapid manner. The system includes a unique battery; auxiliary HVAC pump; enhanced starter motor; a battery-management sensor, and brake-pressure sensor. It restarts the engine in less than 0.5 s, he noted.
The stop-start system is fitted to 1.5-L and 2.0-L EcoBoost engines equipped with twin-scroll turbochargers and coupled to the 6F35 6-speed automatic transaxle. These engines will represent 90% of Escape powertrain mix, Wong said. The stop-start offers a 4-6% reduction in fuel consumption in urban traffic.
SAE power and torque ratings for the 1.5-L EcoBoost were not yet finalized when this article was published but are expected to deliver 180 hp (134 kW) and 185 lb·ft (251 N·m). The 2.0-L EcoBoost is SAE-rated at 245 hp (183 kW) and 275 lb·ft (373 N·m). It uses an integrated exhaust manifold that is optimized for the twin-scroll turbo. Ford also offers a naturally aspirated 2.5-L i-VCT as the standard engine. Wong argues that this is “for greater customer choice;” however, it is puzzling why Ford tolerates the greater plant complexity of the old 2.5 when it has the pair of more efficient EcoBoost units.
Other customer-pleasing features include hill-start assist (holds the vehicle stationary on a hill long enough for the driver to transition from brake to gas pedal); hands-free, foot-activated liftgate; and new linear-rate coil springs that replace the previous progressive-wound springs “for improved suspension control,” Wong said.