The touchscreen interface in the 2017 Ford Escape allows owners to connect their car to smartphones and other devices. | Photo courtesy of Ford.
The available touchscreen interface in the 2017 Ford Escape easily allows owners to connect their car to smartphones and other devices. | Photo courtesy of Ford.

Ford will launch a smartphone app at the end of the month that will allow drivers to remotely start their vehicles, find and pay for parking spots, and locate their vehicles if they’ve forgotten where they parked.

FordPass also will allow owners to schedule oil changes, check their fuel level, and chat or talk to FordPass guides. Drivers will even be able to schedule remote starts, for their morning and evening commute, for example.

Media were briefed on the app last week in southern California during the launch of the new Escape, which is made exclusively at the Louisville Assembly Plant.

Ford is creating new apps and adding tech to the Escape primarily to satisfy demands of millennials, one of the two major SUV-buying generations. Last year the industry sold 5 million SUVs, said Kevin Schad, Escape brand manager. A third of vehicles sold last year were SUVs, and Ford expects that share to climb to 40 percent by 2020.

Ford said it sold 28,521 Escapes in March, up 8.4 percent from a year earlier — though Toyota said sales of its recently updated RAV4, an Escape rival, rose 15.1 percent.

Integration of Apple, Android

The new Escape’s voice-activated SYNC 3 tech allows owners to connect their smartphones via bluetooth and to integrate both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In the top-of-the-line Escape, drivers also get an 8-inch touchscreen.

The system is updated via Wi-Fi, which, according to Ford, means consumers will be able to retain the system’s functionality even if they upgrade to a new phone.

Safety features in the new Escape include adaptive cruise control, a driver alert system, help with parking, blind spot monitoring and a driver’s knee airbag. The Escape also comes with Lane Keep Assist, which detects when vehicles veer out of their lanes and alerts drivers by vibrating the steering wheel or even nudging them back into their lane.

Ford also touted interior changes, including a new heated steering wheel, a relocated gear shift, a longer center armrest and new center console with storage for smartphones.

The company also said the new Escape comes with new alloy wheel designs, a windshield wiper defroster and a wider stance.

Engines

The Escape S, the base model, costs about $24,000 and comes with a 2.5-liter engine that has an output of about 168 horsepower.

The Escape SE, which sells for about $26,000, and the Titanium model, which starts at $30,000, come standard with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine that produces 179 horsepower. Reactions from drivers during testing were mixed, with some saying it provided enough power, though others said they noticed a turbo lag and engine noise during a climb.

A 2017 Ford Escape, with a 2-liter EcoBoost engine, rests near The Snake, a hairpin turn on Mulholland Highway near Malibu, Calif. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.
A 2017 Ford Escape, with a 2-liter EcoBoost engine, rests near The Snake, a hairpin turn on Mulholland Highway near Malibu, Calif. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

The 2-liter 4-cylinder EcoBoost engine, which costs $1,300 extra, uses premium fuel and produces 245 ponies, plenty of power to allow for quick acceleration of the Escape’s roughly 3,700 pounds. The brakes were responsive and handling proved comfortable even on downhill stretches of Mulholland Drive, such as The Snake, a hairpin turn popular with car enthusiasts and motorcyclists.

Ford said 90 percent of Escape customers will buy an EcoBoost engine, which include start-stop technology, which means the engines shut down when the vehicle comes to a stop. The feature helps reduce gasoline use. Ford said Americans use 3.8 million gallons of gasoline each day idling, and the average driver spends about 16 minutes idling every day.

Each of the engines will deliver combined city/highway fuel economy of about 25 mpg, with the 1.5-liter EcoBoost projected to achieve 23 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Ford officials said the new Escapes have been shipped to showrooms around the country, and the Louisville plant is making as many as it can.

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Boris Ladwig
Boris Ladwig is a reporter with more than 20 years of experience and has won awards from multiple journalism organizations in Indiana and Kentucky for feature series, news, First Amendment/community affairs, nondeadline news, criminal justice, business and investigative reporting. As part of The (Columbus, Indiana) Republic’s staff, he also won the Kent Cooper award, the top honor given by the Associated Press Managing Editors for the best overall news writing in the state. A graduate of Indiana State University, he is a soccer aficionado (Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Köln), singer and travel enthusiast who has visited countries on five continents. He speaks fluent German, rudimentary French and bits of Spanish, Italian, Khmer and Mandarin.