ESCAPE from L.A.
New SUV features significant upgrades, even if it looks hauntingly familiar
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.