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I realize it's been asked in various ways, but I don't see any discussion of the two identical Titanium trims (one with factory tow package, one without). I pointed out the differences, which nobody had done before.

What makes the factory tow package able to tow 3500lbs that an aftermarket hitch can't do with the same trim? It's not the frame and it's not the addition of an auxiliary transmission cooler (prior to 2019 edition). As far as I can tell, it's only the Trailer Sway Control feature. I'm simply asking, does anyone have useful input that we don't already know?
doesnt matter if Titanium vs titanium, or Titanium vs SE (assuming 2.0L motor)
the difference is the same.
towing package has sway control. official rating is 3500#
aftermarket hitch does not have sway control. official rating is #2000 .

however many of us believe that an after market hitch could easily tow #3500 .

so the question is where YOU are comfortable towing above the official rating.
so in the end, it all boils down to the same debate in every single tow rating thread.
 

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As you mentioned, the 2017 model brochure listed the tow package as,

1: Trailer wiring harness
2: Hitch receiver
3: Trailer Sway Control

The older models also had sway control with the factory tow packages.

The 2018 model added,

4: Paddle Shifters
5: Auxiliary Transmission Oil Cooler

The late 2017 models may also have a trans oil cooler since the oil cooler ford part # EJ7Z7A095B is compatible with both the 2017 and 2018 models.

Why did they add a transmission oil cooler to the later models? Maybe to improve reliability, or meet the SAE standard for tow vehicles (see https://www.natda.org/news/know-your-pickups-weight-carrying-limits/ ). High temperatures caused by high tow loads under severe conditions will break down trans oil and cause major problems. Only a Ford engineer can tell you why they added the oil cooler. They certainly didn't do it to increase build cost.

As far as Trailer Sway Control, it's a software feature that activates individual brakes and controls the throttle when a sway condition is detected. This is probably included for safety reasons and marketing, or to meet the SAE standard.

You're driving from Illinois to California, so you'll be crossing mountains, how high depends on the route you take. According to the owners manual, you'll need to reduce the tow weight by 2% for every 1000 ft over 1000 ft altitude. So if you cross a 11,000 ft pass, you have to reduce the max tow weight by 20%, or 700 lbs. This brings the theoretical max tow to 2800 lbs.

So going across the Rockies will be an adventure. To ease your mind, you may want to get a trans oil temp readout app for your phone that hooks up to the OBD port. You can also make sure the trailer is properly loaded to prevent sway.
That's some great feedback, thank you! I bought a FIXD OBD-II scan tool to monitor everything. My first impression isn't very good. The iPhone app is poorly designed, and the device is too big to close the door to the port. But I don't have time to return it and buy a new one, so I'll use this for the cross-country drive.
 

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doesnt matter if Titanium vs titanium, or Titanium vs SE (assuming 2.0L motor)
the difference is the same.
towing package has sway control. official rating is 3500#
aftermarket hitch does not have sway control. official rating is #2000 .

however many of us believe that an after market hitch could easily tow #3500 .

so the question is where YOU are comfortable towing above the official rating.
so in the end, it all boils down to the same debate in every single tow rating thread.
That is a good summary of the debate. I would just add that I think it does matter if it's Titanium (assuming 2.0L) vs anything else. For the 2017 Escape line-up, the only model we know of that has a 2.0L engine is the Titanium (and vice versa... the Titanium only has a 2.0L). And the Titanium is the only model that offers a towing package. So if it was a 1.5L or 2.5L then I'd definitely question the car's ability to tow 3500lbs with or without an aftermarket tow package.
 

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Another interesting bit of info is from @drew , the last post on thread https://www.fordescape.org/forum/towing/69170-towing-question.html . He points out that starting in 2017, the radiator and cooling fan capacity for the tow package was increased. There are two different part numbers, with and without the tow package, for the radiator and fan assembly.

Radiator with tow package is FV4Z-8005-A ($387 list), without tow is EJ7Z-8005-C ($219 list).
Fan assembly with tow package is EJ7Z-8C607-B ($450 list), without tow is EJ7Z-8C607-E ($330 list).

Why they don't list this difference in the literature is beyond me, probably lack of communication between engineering and marketing.

So you'll also want to keep a close eye on your temperature gauge along with the trans fluid temperature.
 

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Final response to my initial post

I drove ~2k miles from Chicago to Southern California in my 2017 Ford Escape (Titanium, 4WD, 2.0L Ecoboost) with an aftermarket installed hitch in 3 straight days of January 2019. Prior to the trip I installed a FIXD OBD-II scan tool ($60 at BestBuy) to monitor all engine light warnings.

My Escape was an absolute BEAST the entire route (and I drove 2,000 miles in only 3 days). I never got a warning from the car or the OBD.

I had the car serviced at a Ford dealer in Chicago 1 week before the trip. I had it serviced again at a Ford dealer 1 week after arriving in California. Everything was as smooth as could be.

The only visible change during the trip was MPG. I averaged ~26-27MPG in flat Chicago, but the average cross-country rate was 15MPG. That was towing the "max" 3,500lbs, which was actually 3,700lbs. I confirmed the total trailer weight on an official CAT scale.

In conclusion, my 2017 Ford Escape (Titanium, 4WD, 2.0L Ecoboost) without factory tow package but with aftermarket hitch is almost just as capable as the 2017 Ford Escape WITH factory tow package. However, my car doesn't have the trailer sway control feature, which can only be factory installed. So be careful without the tow package with this 2.0L engine... don't drive above 70mph ever, and drive at lower speeds according to the overall weather conditions. Wind speed is the most important factor. If you experience any trailer sway whatsoever, turn on your hazard lights, SLOW DOWN GRADUALLY and DO NOT slam on the brakes.

If you have anything other than a 2.0 engine for the 2017 Escape model year, then disregard all of my posts.
 

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Hey, thanks for the update, glad to hear that everything went well. What were the conditions when you crossed the Rockies (max altitude and temperature)? Any braking fade on the downhills? Did you use Sport mode to downshift for extra braking?
 
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