Road Test: 2017 Ford Escape SE FWD & 2016 Focus Titanium

In the life of an enthusiast who roams the internet on occasion, you’re bound to find someone who praises the engine gods for the gift known as the LS. GM’s compact V8 powerhouse is actually quite a good thing. In LS3 form it sets your soul ablaze with 6.2 liters of the most wonderful American soundtrack you can ask for. In LS9 form you get power as-yet unheard of this side of Modena. And in the current LT form, you can buy a Stingray, and return 30mpg. Impressive no doubt, but the LS swaps are painful to me.

2016 Ford Focus Titanium
2016 Ford Focus Titanium

They are rarely straight forward and something always gets compromised. Trust me, if a manufacturer thought that putting in the cheap small block would solve a car’s performance problems, they would.

2017 Ford Escape SE
2017 Ford Escape SE

However, manufacturers get it wrong sometimes. It’s very possible for the wrong engine to be in the wrong car. Take the Jaguar C-X75 concept, for example. Instead of taking the easy (correct) route of putting Jaguar’s amazing supercharged V8 in the middle of the prettiest supercar ever made, they decided to scrimp by with a 1.6 litre turbocharged 4 cylinder.

Ford Escape SE interior
Ford Escape SE interior

A 1.6 liter motor, in “the worlds most technologically advanced car.” Sorry Jaguar, ohms and resistors don’t get my blood flowing faster. Contained explosions do. And that 1.6 liter turbo motor? It is only 100cc larger than the engine you get in the Escape. Does that make the Escape a super crossover? Not really. But it is darned good.

Ford Focus Titanium HD radio
Ford Focus Titanium HD radio

What Jaguar have done with the C-X75, Ford has done with the Escape and the Focus. While the Escape gets 1.5 liters and a turbo, the Focus is left to breath two liters, unassisted. The Escape’s 17 horsepower and nearly 30 lb/ft of torque advantage is clearly felt, and it almost makes you think why they haven’t offered the smaller 1.5 in the smaller Focus.

Ford Escape key
Ford Escape key

I know that you can get the ST and the RS in the Focus if you’re in search of some grunt, but this little 4-banger would be a great addition to the lineup. After driving the Ford Focus Titanium, and hopping into the spritely Escape, I was astonished at the difference that half a liter can make. Trust me, you’ll notice it.

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Both cars are rather similar in other regards, which is why I have grouped them together here. Both are blue, with the Focus in Kona Blue and the Escape in Lightning Blue Metallic. The main differences come from the trim levels with the Escape being the scaled back SE model, and the Focus being the fully equipped Titanium version. Despite this, there’s only a $725 difference between the two.

Equipment in the Focus that you don’t get in the Escape comes down to small bits and bobs. In the Escape, you have to use a thing called a “key” to start the car, where as in the Focus you get keyless technology. In the Focus you also get an upgraded Sync3 Sony HD radio with a decent sized subwoofer stuffed into the right side of the trunk. On top of that you get some additional collision prevention systems. Otherwise, you’d be hard pressed to find too many differences.

Ford Focus driver assist options
Ford Focus driver assist options

Which one is for you? It comes down to how you plan to use the car. If you’re younger and eager to carve up corners, the Focus’s optional 18″ rims are wrapped in high performance all-season tires. If you’re a bit timid in the snow, the Escape has optional AWD. Different grip for different reasons.

In all, with both having an MSRP under $29,000, you’re getting a lot of car for the money. Which one would I choose? The Focus with an engine swap.

Stats:
2017 Ford Escape SE FWD 
Engine: 1.5 EcoBoost 4-cyl
Horsepower: 179
Torque: 177 lb/ft
Transmission: 6-speed auto
MPG cty/hwy/avg: 23/30/26
Base MSRP: $25,100
As tested: $28,375

2016 Ford Focus Titanium
Engine: 2.0 GDI 4-cyl
Horsepower: 160
Torque: 146 lb/ft
Transmission: 6-speed auto
MPG cty/hwy/avg: 26/38/30
Base MSRP: $23,725
As tested: $27,650

 

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