First Drive: 2017 Ford Escape

—Westlake Village, California

The new 2017 Ford Escape doesn’t look a whole lot different from the outgoing model. That’s okay, though. When an automaker releases a new vehicle that is more of an evolution than a revolution, that usually means the foundation they’re building on is strong. It’s a formula that works. Such is the case with the new Escape.

The big aesthetic change up front is the new grille (with active shutters). The Escape has a wider stance than before, and new wheel designs help give it a sporty look. There are also three new paint colors: a bright Lightning Blue, a brownish-orange Canyon Ridge, and White Gold, which is more gold than white. They look better than they sound.

Two EcoBoost engines grace the Escape lineup, in addition to the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter I4 (which I didn’t have the opportunity to sample). The twin-scroll 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is a potent powerplant. With 245 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque on offer, putting the pedal to the floor is enough to push you back in your seat. It makes getting up to highway speed a breeze, and overtaking other cars is similarly simple. Combined with the good view in all directions, the punchy motor makes the Escape great at dicing through highway traffic.

Even the 1.5-liter EcoBoost is plenty plucky in the new Ford. While it’s not quite as capable as the 2.0 in making mincemeat of other cars on the highway, it’s got more than enough eagerness to make your daily commute quite entertaining. I...