ES­CAPE from L.A.

New SUV fea­tures sig­nif­i­cant up­grades, even if it looks haunt­ingly fa­mil­iar

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - FRONT PAGE -

LOS AN­GE­LES — Is the SUV go­ing to be the nor­mal of a new gen­er­a­tion? Just look at Ford, for ex­am­ple. It says it’s on tar­get to sell 500,000 SUVs in Canada in 2015, or nearly a third of the en­tire mar­ket. Even more in­ter­est­ing, Ford says in a few short years, car­mak­ers of all kinds will sell more compact SUVs than compact cars.

Lead­ing the way, Ford predicts, will be the boomers, the mil­len­ni­als and the lost gen­er­a­tions in be­tween. Boomers are drawn by the slide-in seat­ing and ex­tra space while mil­len­ni­als will be look­ing at their first new-car pur­chase and pos­si­bly look­ing for­ward to grow­ing their fam­i­lies.

For de­sign­ers of the compact SUVs of tomorrow, the mes­sage is clear: don’t screw it up.

It’s against this back­drop Mil­ton Wong had a daunt­ing task. De­sign the next gen­er­a­tion of the best-sell­ing compact SUV on the mar­ket. Wong, chief en­gi­neer of the 2017 Ford Es­cape, un­veiled this week at the Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Auto Show, said the chal­lenge is an­swer­ing cus­tomers’ needs now and an­tic­i­pat­ing fu­ture needs.

In­ter­est­ingly, the first thing he pointed to might be the last thing you’ll no­tice. It’s a push-pull switch for the elec­tric park­ing brake. “Not hav­ing a bulky hand-brake lever opens up all sorts of space in the cen­tre con­sole for stor­age,” he said. So there are cuphold­ers, open bins and closed bins, power points and a smart USB charg­ing port. Lots of space for toys and power to keep them run­ning.

While a chief en­gi­neer lead­ing off with some­thing so seem­ingly in­signif­i­cant might lead peo­ple to be­lieve the changes to Es­cape are mi­nor, they are not. Much of the over­all body shape is very fa­mil­iar, save for a new hexag­o­nal grille, new head­lights and new LED tail lights. Wong said the roofline, green­house and doors are car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion.

But un­der the hood come two new en­gine op­tions, a 2.0-litre EcoBoost four and a 1.5-litre EcoBoost four that re­places the 1.6-litre EcoBoost of the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion. The base en­gine is a car­ry­over, the 2.5-litre nor­mally as­pi­rated four cylin­der in S model trim.

Both EcoBoost en­gines, avail­able in SE and Ti­ta­nium mod­els, will now fea­ture au­to­matic stop/start, to shut down while idling. Wong said the goal of the en­gine de­sign­ers was to make auto stop/start as seam­less as pos­si­ble. He claims you won’t be able to tell, as the shud­der com­mon to many such sys­tems is elim­i­nated.

“In the United States, driv­ers waste 3.8 mil­lion gal­lons of fuel idling ev­ery day,” he said. In met­ric terms, that’s more than 14 mil­lion litres. If the 10 per cent rule (that Canada’s car mar­ket is 1/10th the size of the U.S.) holds, then Cana­dian driv­ers waste 1.4 mil­lion litres a day. That num­ber may be dif­fer­ent given two fac­tors: fewer Cana­dian cities have the traf­fic prob­lems of ma­jor U.S. cen­tres and the av­er­age age of cars in Canada is older, and pos­si­bly less fuel ef­fi­cient when idling. Ford says the auto stop/ start im­proves fuel econ­omy by four to six per cent in stop-and-go traf­fic.

The EcoBoost en­gines have been re­designed with new pis­tons and new ex­haust man­i­folds that in­te­grate the tur­bocharg­ers for im­proved ef­fi­ciency and re­duced noise and vi­bra­tion. The 2.0 will de­liver 245 horse­power and 275 pound-feet of torque (up from 240 hp and 270 pound-feet on the 2015 model), while the 1.5 is ex­pected to de­liver 180 horse­power and 185 pound-feet of torque, very sim­i­lar to the out­go­ing 1.6-litre EcoBoost. Fi­nal per­for­mance fig­ures will be re­leased closer to launch date.

Also avail­able are four new (to Es­cape) driver aids, in­clud­ing lane-keep­ing as­sist, which ac­tively steers to keep you in the lane, an en­hanced version of park­ing as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol and a sys­tem to de­tect driver fatigue and rec­om­mend cor­rec­tive ac­tion (stop for cof­fee?, etc.). The park­ing as­sist now will also back the ve­hi­cle into a per­pen­dic­u­lar park­ing spot, in ad­di­tion to per­form­ing par­al­lel park­ing.

Blind-spot in­for­ma­tion sys­tem, hands-free lift­gate (sim­ply kick you foot un­der the rear bumper with the key fob in your pos­ses­sion to open or close), hill-start as­sist and au­to­mat­i­cally dim­ming head­lamps all re­main as op­tions on the new model.

The new Es­cape will also be Ford’s first ve­hi­cle with avail­able SYNC Con­nect, which lets own­ers use their smart­phone to check fuel lev­els, un­lock doors, start the en­gine or lo­cate the ve­hi­cle.

Other changes in­clude wind­shield wiper de­frosters, ac­tive grille shut­ters to close off air­flow and im­prove aero­dy­nam­ics, new al­loy wheels and acous­tic side glass to re­duce cabin noise.


Jour­nal­ists, in town for the Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Auto Show, check out the new 2017 Ford Es­cape in Hol­ly­wood Tues­day.



Ex­te­rior hanges found on the 2017 Ford Es­cape in­clude a new hexag­o­nal grille, new head­lights and new LED tail­lights.

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