Having removed almost all cars from their lineup in North America, there’s pressure on Ford to ensure the new Escape is a hit. With the C-Max PHEV going away, there’s even more incentive to offer fuel-saving alternatives for the small SUV to compete against the likes of the RAV4 Hybrid, Outlander PHEV, and upcoming hybrid CR-V.
Now in its fourth generation since the first Escape Hybrid debuted back in 2005, the 2020 Ford Escape will offer four engine choices including two hybrids – a standard and a plug-in. The all-new model also receives updated styling and features, driver-assist technology, and on-board connectivity.
Four trim levels will be available: S, SE, SEL, and Titanium, each offering a higher level of technology, comfort amenities, and added capability to its suite of Co-Pilot-360 safety features.
The range-topping Titanium trim offers the 2.5L inline-four-cylinder hybrid powertrain as standard equipment, or can be swapped for the 2.0L EcoBoost engine at a cost of $2,000. Rated at 200 hp (with combined gas and electric) and 152 lb-ft of torque (gas only), hybrid models have a tow rating of 680 kg (1,500 lb); the 2.0L mill boasts 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, allowing for a towing capacity of 1,591 kg (3,500 lb). The plug-in hybrid model expected to arrive in spring 2020 will offer slightly more power at 209 hp by swapping a 1.1-kWh (kilowatt hour) battery with a 14.4-kWh model but will also increase its weight.
Non-hybrid models get an eight-speed automatic while the hybrid and plug-in hybrid make use of a continuously variable transmission (eCVT) that incorporates the electric motor. Additional details on the 2.5L plug-in hybrid model will be made available in the months ahead, but it will only be offered in front-wheel-drive to accommodate the larger battery that resides in the floor, so it doesn’t infringe on more interior space than its non-plug-in sibling.
Driving Feel: 7.5/10
The new Escape’s wheelbase and track are 20 mm longer and wider respectively, offering more interior space, but also incremental improvements in ride quality and handling. Road manners and refinement are noticeably better than the outgoing Escape. Aside from some subtle differences, the driving experience of the hybrid was very similar to that of the 2.0L EcoBoost-equipped Escape. The eCVT, while more refined than some, was still noticeably louder than the eight-speed transmission. Thanks to the electric motor, however, it didn’t experience the same auto-stop/start system delay experienced in the strictly gas-powered versions.
Rated between the Escape’s base 181 hp three-cylinder and the 250 hp four-cylinder, the hybrid’s acceleration was smooth and its eCVT meant that there was no downshifting or searching for gears. However, our drive route didn’t include any highway driving or elevation changes that necessitated heavy acceleration.
Despite regenerative braking, pedal feel and distance required to bring the vehicle to a stop were virtually indistinguishable from the non-hybrid version under normal driving conditions. And the transition from electric power to gas is smooth.
Suspension strikes a nice balance between comfort and sportiness, soaking up normal-sized potholes and speed bumps with ease. Vibration-absorbing rear subframe mounts help prevent road sensations from entering the cabin. Steering is nicely weighted, offering predictable feedback and an impressive turning radius which always helps in urban environments and parking garages.
The Escape is comfortable for four adults thanks to the rear sliding seats. Despite the liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery being installed below the floor rather than in the cargo area, the briefcase-sized battery in the standard hybrid is said to be three times smaller than the old Escape Hybrid. Headroom, shoulder room, and hip room all increase as well in the front and rear.
The SEL model is nicely equipped but the Titanium trim but adds six-way power passenger seating and the option of a power sliding panoramic moonroof with sun shade. The driver gets a 10-way power leather contoured seat but a manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel. Both the design and quality of interior materials are improved over the outgoing model. The Titanium model gets acoustic laminated glass, so road noise isn’t as evident with the windows closed.
There are ten different colour options for 2020, including the Desert Gold of my tester, which was complemented nicely by a Sandstone interior. Rapid Red Metallic and Star White metallic are exclusive to Titanium trim, which also gets an exclusive 19-inch machined-face aluminum wheel with dark accents. Both handling and styling of the all-new-for-2020 Escape are more car-like than the previous generations which isn’t surprising as it shares a platform with the new Ford Focus and Lincoln Corsair. Lower, wider, and longer than its predecessor, it is also said to be the most aerodynamic Escape to date.
User Friendliness: 9/10
The power liftgate offers a hands-free, foot-activated function for when your hands are full which I’m sure many people with a family will appreciate. The Escape’s manageable size, intuitive interface, and user-friendly controls made driving around a strange city a civilized and relaxing experience rather than a stressful one. The new-for-2020 rotary-style gear selector located in the centre console will even shift into Park if you forget to do so yourself and exit the vehicle.
The Sync 3 infotainment system is vastly improved over previous generations, allowing you to use the system or seamlessly transition to your smartphone. Commands can either be made via touchscreen or through voice activation on the Titanium trim. Selecting between AM, FM, or SiriusXM satellite radio stations is now easier as the presets can be configured to display on the same menu. The radio volume and climate control fan even automatically lower when you initiate a phone call which I thought was a pretty neat trick.
The wireless charging pad in the front centre console was greatly appreciated. The Titanium trim level gets unique interior door panels and 12.3-inch digital instrument display, ambient lightning, and an upgraded Bang & Olufsen sound system. It also adds dual-zone climate control and leather-trimmed bucket seats, one 110V AC and two 12V power outlets.
The 8-inch LCD touchscreen in the centre stack now offers Sync3 with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability which allows the use of real-time navigation apps like Waze. FordPass Connect provides 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices which allows remote access to lock, unlock, locate, and start the vehicle, as well the ability to access and monitor vehicle diagnostics through your smartphone.
The Escape is an easy vehicle to drive and park. The hybrid powertrain makes it even easier on your pocketbook. The battery pack is located under the floor so interior cargo volume is not compromised as much as some models. The 60/40-split second-row rear seats can be moved forward or backwards up to six inches for more rear cargo space, to accommodate passengers with longer inseams or child seats.
The Titanium model is available with a head-up display which projects vehicle speed onto a 6.0-inch screen. Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 is standard equipment across trim levels, including the likes of automatic high-beams, blind spot detection and cross-traffic alerts, as well as lane-keeping alert and assist, forward collision warning, a back-up camera and automatic emergency braking which includes pedestrian detection.
Ticking the SE or SEL trim level box adds adaptive cruise control with start/stop capability and voice-activated navigation. Titanium trim offers a perimeter alarm, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, LED signature lighting, adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, evasive steering assist, and a voice-activated touchscreen navigation system.
Fuel Economy: 8.5/10
Every model in the lineup is estimated to achieve a range of at least 644 kilometres per tank. Official fuel consumption ratings have yet to be finalized for the standard hybrid model, but it has been stated that it will achieve a range of more than 885 km when equipped with front-wheel drive. When it arrives, the plug-in hybrid system will be available for SE, SEL, and Titanium trim. Featuring both a Level 1 and Level 2 AC charging port, it is projected to offer a range of at least 48 km in electric-only mode.
Starting at $36,549 for a front-wheel-drive Titanium Hybrid, all-wheel drive capability can be added for $1,500. Foregoing the hybrid powerplant for the 2.0L four-cylinder EcoBoost engine will cost you an extra $2,000. My tester also featured the $2,300 Titanium Premium Package, which includes the head-up display and panoramic power moonroof, for a pre-tax and destination MSRP of $40,349, which I think is quite palatable for a well-equipped all-wheel-drive hybrid SUV in 2019.
The Escape Titanium comes very well equipped at an attainable cost of entry, particularly for the hybrid version. It also offers the choice of front- or all-wheel drive, along with various packaging options, a much better infotainment system and a long list of safety features.
It may not be as fast off the line, or be able to tow as much as the 2.0L EcoBoost-equipped models, but performance is likely less of a priority or even an expectation for the green-minded buyer. If you’re interested in spending less at the pumps, and interestingly, less on the original sticker price, than the hybrid version of the Escape may just be for you.
|Peak Horsepower||200 hp|
|Peak Torque||152 lb-ft|
|Cargo Space||1,062 / 1,852 L seats down|
|Model Tested||2020 Ford Escape Titanium Hybrid AWD|
|Price as Tested||$40,349|
$3,800 – AWD $1,500; Titanium Premium Package $2,300