If there’s a single vehicle among the 2016 Wards 10 Best UX winners symbolic of the auto industry’s winding-road journey into the realm of the user experience, it just might be the ’17 Ford Escape.
Ford has been at the forefront of the connectivity and infotainment movement since it first introduced its Sync system in 2007. It knew then it was taking a risk in pushing the envelope with cutting-edge electronics, and the automaker paid for it at times with low scores from consumers in quality surveys both with the original Sync and its 2010 follow-up, dubbed MyFord Touch.
That’s the same arc the industry is following overall as it tries to determine what works best in an ongoing cycle of trial, error and refinement around the user experience.
But the story ends well for Ford with the ’17 Escape and its third-generation Sync 3 system. The CUV’s central 8-in. (20-cm) touchscreen presents an uncluttered display with much-appreciated large icons and crisp, bold graphics.
The screen is supplemented by just the right amount of easy-to-reach hard buttons and dials for mission-critical controls, including a large radio volume knob front and center. Phone connectivity features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – quickly becoming must-haves – are onboard the Escape as well.
More importantly, the revised infotainment system is lightning fast.
“Huge leap from MyFord Touch,” one judge notes on the scoresheet.
Ford made the touchscreen a little more user-friendly, designing in an overhead hand-rest of sorts that makes it easier to accurately stab the intended icons while the Escape is in motion.
The Escape’s voice activation may be the best we’ve seen, giving us the right radio stations on the first try and easily finding and navigating to points of interest requested – it even passes the P.F. Chang’s test with flying colors.
“Crazy fast and accurate,” sums up another judge.
For a vehicle in this prices range ($35,370 as equipped), our Escape tester packed a long list of high-tech goodies into a well-appointed, crisp and classic black-on-black interior. On the list of features is adaptive cruise control, active parking assist, auto stop/start, blindspot alert, remote start and lane-keeping assist.
Interior accent lighting, puddle lamps and a kick-action liftgate add to the Escape’s surprise-and-delight quotient. The user experience takes yet another step with the FordPass smartphone app that enables you to track the vehicle’s location; start, lock and unlock the doors remotely; and find a parking spot.
In a nutshell, the Escape is the complete package – and it proves sometimes the third time’s the charm.
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