2017 Ford Escape vs 2017 Toyota RAV4 Boston MA

2017 Ford Escape vs 2017 Toyota RAV4 in Boston, MA

The compact crossover is currently one of the hottest automotive segments and for good reason! These versatile vehicles combine the superior fuel economy and smooth ride quality of a sedan with the utility of an SUV. If you are in the market for a compact SUV you have a lot of excellent vehicles to choose from so it is important to take your time and thoroughly research the myriad options.

In an effort to make that research process a little bit easier, we have provided a crossover comparison page that pits two of the most popular compact SUVs in the Boston market in a head to head battle.  So, without further ado, here is the comprehensive comparison of the 2017 Ford Escape vs 2017 Toyota RAV4.

Exterior Design

American author Naomi Wolf once wrote, "Women have face-lifts in a society in which women without them appear to vanish from sight." Well, it is appears the executives at Ford and Toyota have taken those words to heart.

Both the 2017 Escape and 2017 RAV4 have undergone successful refreshes that we think have bring them back to the forefront of the compact crossover class. The RAV4 updates occurred in the 2016 model year, while the Escape refresh is new for 2017. They are both stylish, sporty, popular compact crossovers in the class.

The Toyota RAV4 was refreshed in 2016 and now comes in a new SE Trim

The 2016 Toyota RAV4 updates included a slightly higher front and rear end which give the RAV4 a larger SUV appearance. Toyota also gave the front end a sleeker fascia and new LED headlights that help make it stand in the crowd.

The 2017 RAV4 also comes in a new SE trim that follows in the footprints of the Sienna and Camry SE trims with a slightly more aggressive appearance with gunmetal and black accents throughout as well as a unique sport-tuned suspension.

The beautiful New Ford Escape just redesigned for 2017

Like the RAV4, the brand new 2017 Escape comes with a new front and rear end that give the Escape a more capable, rugged appearance. The new hexagonal grille gives the Escape a wider stance, more road presence and brings it in-line with the popular new mid-size Ford Edge.

If you are looking for something that stands out from the crowd, Ford has also released a sharp new 2017 Escape Sport model which comes equipped with 19 inch blacked out aluminum wheels, black upper grille, fender moldings, roof racks, side mirror caps, and black tinted tail lamps. 

At the end of the day, both the Escape and the RAV4 are stylish compact crossovers with modern design elements. We think that the style edge goes to the Escape, but picking a style winner between the two really brings a substantial amount of subjectivity into play. It is ultimately a personal preference. So we rate this category a draw.

Powertrain & Drive Quality

Let's just be blunt: There are some areas where the 2017 Toyota RAV4 shines, but the powertrain is really not one of them. The compact crossover may be popular, it may be reliable, but with a 2.5L 4 cylinder engine that produces a meager 176 horsepower and 172 lb-feet of torque it really lacks a respectable level of get up and go.  To be fair, the RAV4 also comes in a hybrid model with 194 horsepower but that is not much improvement and, honestly, neither provide a very enjoyable ride. 

The New Escape With 2.0L EcoBoost & Class II Trailer Tow Package

Not only do these powertrains makes the RAV4 boring to drive, but they compromise the safety of the drivers and passengers in the vehicle. Our team actually found that it had some difficulty merging onto the highway and performing passing maneuvers. This was reminiscent of our experience with the Prius.  Moreover, we also found the steering to be a little inconsistent and as one Kelley Blue Book (KBB) reviewer succinctly noted:

"For all the talk about how great the RAV4 is I am not impressed. I find the steering to wander more than I think it should. Overall balance seems to be in question as the slightest hard acceleration from a stop squeals the tires."

By comparison, the 2017 Escape comes equipped with 3 different engine options and much more available power. The base S trim carries over the naturally aspirated 2.5L 4 Cylinder that produces 168 horsepower from the previous generation. It is not particularly exciting either and probably explains why only 1 in 10 buyers opt for this option. But, fortunately, the engineers at Ford had the foresight to provide customers multiple engine options....So let's move on to the other available configurations.   The stylish 2017 Ford Escape Sport Trim Level
The Escape SE and Titanium trims come equipped with your choice of a 1.5L Ecoboost or a 2.0L Ecoboost that produces an impressive 245 horsepower and 275lb-ft of torque. The 2.0L engine will run you an extra $1,295 but, in our eyes, the extra $1,295 is money well spent.  The more powerful engine provides a fun ride and responsiveness that instills confidence in any situation.  Both of the higher end engines also offer an auto start-stop feature that is barely noticeable at a stoplight and improves engine efficiency. 

Hands down, the edge for superior powertrain in the battle of the 2017 RAV4 vs the 2017 Ford Escape goes to the Ford Escape.

Taking A Look Inside

The RAV4 compact crossover is available in 4 trim levels including LE, XLE, SE, and Limited. The new RAV4 refresh provides both drivers and passengers with a comfortable cabin with higher quality plastics and soft-touch materials (at least on the higher level trims).

The storage cabin and cupholders have been updated, new LED interior lighting has been added and the materials throughout are more consistent in the 2017 model. There is also impressive passenger room and cargo space and comfortable and supportive seats.

Another nice feature of the new RAV4 is that the the load height of the RAV4 is a little lower than other compact SUVs making it easy to get items in and out of the back of the vehicle. 

The new RAV4 interior, while stylish, misses the mark on key components

Despite these positives there are some things missing from the RAV4. Notably, the RAV4 is only available in cloth and a material called Softex (imitation leather), leather is not available.  And, the build quality of the new RAV4 seems to be lacking in some respects which make the interior feel unfinished and unrefined.

The new Escape is available in the S, SE, Titanium and Sport trim levels. Ford has made some significant interior adjustments including removing the manual parking brake and replacing it with an electronic brake which leaves additional leg room and a more comfortable arm rest position.

The new 2017 Ford Escape Interior w/Apple CarPlay & Android Auto

The climate control console has been revamped with a row of buttons for the steering-wheel heater, park distance control, park assist, and traction control.  This is a huge improvement over the old, cumbersome steering wheel controls that were complicated and a little dangerous to scroll through. Try navigating a snowy Massachusetts side road on a winter evening and having to find traction control to power up a hill. Not a good time.

Adaptive cruise control with collision warning and lane keep assist are now available as Ford guns for that coveted IIHS Top Safety Pick+ ranking. Finally, the outboard vents are substantially reconfigured to improve the amount and direction of their airflow.

So looking at the two interiors head to head we give the edge to the Ford Escape because the materials are more consistent, refined and complete throughout the trim levels which give the Escape a higher quality feel.

Technological Features

The RAV4 comes with all of the amenities you would expect with a modern compact crossover including the rear camera, collision warning. It also comes with a fun new Bird's Eye View Camera. While there are some other SUVs that come equipped with the 360 degree camera, the birds eye camera offers a nice comprehensive 360 degree view that is not broken up into quadrants.


The bird's eye view is a great tool to get a great perspective on everything surrounding the vehicle. The Entune infotainment system in the new 2017 RAV4 is intuitive and easy to use but, notably missing, is compatibility with the popular Android Auto and Apple Car. In an age dominated by mobile devices these have been popular additions to many vehicles in the class and both are available in the 2017 Escape.  
The new 2017 Ford Escape comes equipped with the new Ford SYNC3 which is more user-friendly and responsive than the previous generation SYNC system which was roundly criticized.

In addition, the new Escape introduces Sync Connect.  This is optional on the SE but standard on Titanium models, this upgrade brings a new touchscreen and improved voice recognition while opening the door to a host of added convenience functions like remote locking/unlocking and starting as well as vehicle location.
Wrapping Up

So in the head to head contest of the 2017 Escape vs 2017 RAV4 we are going give the nod to the new Escape. But don't just take our opinion. Car & Driver ranked the 2017 Escape #2 out of 16 while the RAV4 came in at #10 out of 16 while the team at US News & World Report ranked the RAV4 #12 out of 19.

This article could probably continue for another two pages, but in the interests of time and attention span, we would like to close by saying that both the RAV4 and Escape are great compact SUV choices. The Escape is a more fun, powerful vehicle to drive with slightly more stately styling and the latest gadgetry including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The RAV4 is a more modern, spacious ride with some cool new features like bird's eye view.

We think that drivers would truly be happy with either choice. But before buying a new RAV4 we would strongly recommend taking 30 minutes to get behind the wheel of the new Escape. We think you will be pleasantly surprised!

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