The Ford Escape has a confident, rugged persona that has been earned over decades of reliable service to families and individual drivers. The 2018 Escape is the first Ford vehicle to make Auto Start/Stop technology standard with either of two EcoBoost engines: 1.5-liter EcoBoost and a 2.0-L twin-scroll turbocharged EcoBoost.

The Escape is one of Ford’s most popular vehicles, second only to the best-selling F-150 pickup truck, and a leader in one of today’s most competitive automotive segments where it contends with more than two dozen other compact crossover models.

Powerplant Options

Three four-cylinder engine choices are available: a 2.5-liter powering both the S and SE trims makes 168 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque; the 1.5-liter four-cylinder that boasts 179 hp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque is standard on the SEL; while a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder available for the Titanium trim pumps out 245 hp and 275 lb.-ft. of torque.

The turbocharged Escapes also feature active upper-grille shutters to streamline airflow at highway speeds. Standard on the other two four-cylinder engines is fuel-saving auto start-stop technology that shuts down the engine whenever the Escape stops and restarts it when the driver lifts off the brake.

Fuel economy ranges from 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway in the front-wheel-drive S model, 23/30 in the FWD SE and SEL, to 20/27 for the AWD Titanium. All are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

2018 Ford Escape interior instrument panel

Titanium Tester

I drove an all-wheel-drive Escape in the top-side Titanium trim for a week that included plenty of run-about-town errands and a couple highway jaunts into the city. I found the Escape Titanium tester to offer sporty road manners with a car-like ride and tight handling. I really appreciated the high seating position and good visibility, look for smart technologies and an impressive list of safety and driver-assistance features. The Escape has a towing capability of up to 3,500 pounds.

I found the cabin to offer an impressive offering of premium materials, great utility flexibility with roomy stowage capacity with split-folding rear seats that allow 34 cubic-feet of cargo with the rear seats up and 68 cu.-ft., with the seats folded flat.

2018 Ford Escape interior cargo area

Equipment Updates

Updates to the SE series bring front, heated cloth seats, roof side rails, and a perimeter alarm. The new SEL trim sports leather-trimmed seating, a power liftgate, heated exterior mirrors, signature LED lighting, and a reverse sensing system.

My top-of-the-line Escape Titanium featured a 2.0-L EcoBoost engine, intelligent access with remote start, navigation, enhanced active park assist, and high-intensity discharge headlamps. The standard rearview camera carries over for 2018, and all but the base S model feature heated front seats.

Standard on all trim levels, the Escape offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity; SEL and Titanium levels boast SYNC 3 with an 8-inch capacitive LCD display (an upgrade from the standard 4.2-inch SYNC system found in the S and SE).

One of the values for the Escape at any trim level is the list of standard safety features; available driver-assist technologies include adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, lane-keeping, and an enhanced active park assist system that will guide the crossover into parallel and perpendicular parking lanes (and out of tight parallel spots). Of note is a driver alert system that uses data from the lane-keeping system to detect signs of fatigued driving and provide a warning on the instrument cluster-it even vibrates the wheel if it thinks you’re dozing off.

Overall, the Escape is the king of the class for a reason and the Titanium level is certainly a great way to enhance your Escape experience in any setting. The front-wheel-drive Escape starts at $23,850 for the entry-level S model; $25,605 for the SE; $28,005 for the new SEL trim level; and $32,045 for the top-end Titanium model.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication