by Frank A. Aukofer

There are a whopping number of popular priced compact crossover sport utility vehicles to entice buyers, but few like the 2017 Ford Escape that also offer scintillating performance.

To get that, however, you must order an Escape with the optional 245-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, which delivers 275 lb-ft of torque (or twisting force) through a six-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually. “EcoBoost” is Ford-speak for turbocharging.

The $1,295 engine option is available on the SE and Titanium Escape trims, which have as standard a 179-hp 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine four-cylinder engine on front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions. The base Escape S, in front-drive only, comes with a non-turbo 168-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_14_HRDriven for this review was a front-drive SE model with the 245-hp engine. It proved to be a willing conveyance, especially darting about and shooting through holes in urban traffic. With turbo lag nearly absent, throttle responses were mostly instant, allowing for quick maneuvers that could be decisive in emergency situations.

Straight-line acceleration was rapid, with a 0-60 mph sprint of about seven seconds, according to an instrumented test by Car and Driver Magazine.

Yet the Escape also proved to be a decent road car. The suspension keeps the wheels planted while delivering a reasonably comfortable ride when the highway is not overly pockmarked. A tall vehicle, it hustles around curves capably and tracks steadily in a straight line.

The Escape feels tightly bolted together with little wind noise and enough insulation to muffle road and mechanical noises. Front seats are comfortable and supportive, and the back seats — except for the center position — offer comfort with ample head and knee room.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_16_HRThere’s 99 cubic feet of room for passengers with 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. Passenger space is about what you find in a midsize car, while the cargo space is about double that of a large sedan. Fold the rear seats and the cargo space jumps to 68 cubic feet.

The Escape parks in the sweet spot of the current market, where buyers are flocking to small, compact and midsize crossovers across the board from economy to luxury. They are rapidly displacing midsize and compact cars.

When you check the charts, it’s astounding to find that there are at least 52 small, compact and midsize crossover SUVs available in the United States, including popular priced and luxury models. Almost all have two rows of seats; the number doesn’t include larger models, some with three rows of seats.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_25_HRIn 2016, the Escape ended up in third place in its class with 307,079 sales, bested only by the Honda CR-V (357,335) and Toyota RAV4 (352,154). It outsold its sedan garage mates, the midsize Fusion with a total of 265,840 sales and the compact Focus with 168,789.

With a base price of $25,995, the tested front-drive SE arrived with a decent level of equipment. But even with $6,170 worth of options, for a bottom line sticker of $32,165, it had a few puzzling shortcomings.

Full safety equipment comes standard, including a backup camera, traction control and antilock brakes. Also: dual-zone electronic climate control, 10-way power driver’s seat, audio system with SXM satellite radio, power windows and mirrors, cruise control and an electric parking brake.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_32_HRAdded on the tested Escape was the $1,295 engine, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, voice-activated navigation system with a touch screen, 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels and a power rear lift gate.

It all made for a nice, borderline luxurious package except for missing a couple of expected items on a vehicle in this category. Though it had stop-start technology that shut down the engine at stoplights to enhance fuel economy, it did not have pushbutton starting. There was a standard ignition key with a remote control for locking and unlocking, along with a keypad on the outside door frame for performing the same functions with a numeric code.

Curiously, the AM-FM-SXM radio did not include station presets, meaning a number had to be punched in every time a different channel or station was chosen. The owner’s manual made no mention of presets for that particular radio. Other radios, however, are available.

With many fine competitors vying for attention, a prospective buyer can simply choose whatever suits him or her. The 2017 Escape is a good place to start.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_09_HRSpecifications

  • Model: 2017 Ford Escape SE FWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four cylinder, turbocharged, 245 hp, 275 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and front-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 14 feet 10 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 99/34 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,613 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/29/25 mpg. Premium fuel recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $25,995.
  • Price as tested: $32,165.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

17Ford-Escape-Titanium_15_HRPhotos (c) Ford