Redesigned 2020 Ford Escape Adds Tech, Loses Weight

Redesigned 2020 Ford Escape Adds Tech, Loses Weight

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The 2020 Ford Escape was revealed ahead of the New York International Auto Show. We have since seen it in person at the major new-car event in the Big Apple. The totally redesigned compact SUV gets a curvier body and a choice of four drivetrains, including two turbocharged engines, a hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid.

Compact SUVs are a huge segment in the U.S., and the Escape has long been a strong seller. But it has grown long in the tooth, falling behind competitors in fuel economy and advanced safety features. It sits just shy of CR’s Recommended list.

Ford is looking to keep the Escape competitive in this ultra-tough market, giving shoppers multiple drivetrain choices and plenty of high-tech interior features.

The 2020 Escape will be available in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL, and Titanium trims.

Built in Louisville, Ky., the Escape takes the term “world vehicle” to heart, with drivetrains coming from factories in Ohio, Mexico, Spain, and the U.K. The turbo versions go on sale in the U.S. in the fall. The hybrids follow shortly afterward.

Here's what we know so far.

Outside

The 2020 Escape has an all-new body with a large, trapezoidal grille and dramatically sculpted wheel arches that flow into the doors. Overall, it looks classier and more upscale than the current model.

The front end reminds us of some Kia SUVs, but the way the roof and back pillars flow into the more angled rear window gives it a bit of a coupelike silhouette. It also uses more chrome trim around the windows than the old version did, especially surrounding the third side window.

Ford says the new Escape is slightly longer, lower, and wider than the outgoing model. The company also says the new version is 200 pounds lighter than the current SUV, in part thanks to extensive use of lightweight, high-strength steel.

Inside

All Escapes except the base S model get an 8-inch touch-screen display mounted high on the dashboard. The Sync 3 infotainment system is available, and it is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. We've found the Sync 3 system intuitive and quick-responding in other Ford vehicles.

The audio system uses knobs for volume and tuning—always big pluses with us—as well as two large knobs for temperature control. A rotary gear selector resides on the center console. We’ve used this setup in other Ford models and found that it works pretty well. The obvious clicks between the gears make it possible to use without looking down.

Ford says that front and rear headroom, shoulder room, and hip space are all larger. Hopefully this will make the new Escape’s driving position feel a little less confining. Non-hybrid Escapes have sliding second-row seats, a rarity in the compact SUV class. Ford says pushing the rear seat all the way back gives the Escape best-in-class second-row legroom.

A 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster is available as an option. Titanium models are available with a head-up display—the company says this is the first time this feature has appeared on a Ford model in North America. The system can project vehicle speed, phone calls, navigation guidance, and adaptive cruise control information onto a 6-inch screen on the windshield in front of the driver.

FordPass Connect Telematics comes standard on all Escapes, which provides WiFi hot-spot capability. This system also allows drivers to use their smartphone to lock, unlock, locate, and start the Escape.

What Drives It

Escape buyers will have four powertrains to choose from. The 1.5- and 2.0-liter turbocharged engines are rated at an estimated 180 hp and 250 hp, respectively, on premium fuel—although both can run on regular gasoline. An eight-speed automatic transmission replaces the previous six-speed. The 1.5-liter is available in both front- and all-wheel drive, and the 2.0-liter comes only with AWD.

The 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder has cylinder deactivation technology (another first for Ford in North America) to help it save fuel; if the system senses a cylinder isn’t needed, it can deactivate (and then reactivate) a cylinder to help fuel economy in 14 milliseconds. When done well, these systems are usually almost imperceptible to the driver.

Hopefully this technology, along with the Escape’s promised lighter weight and two extra gears, will improve its fuel economy over the 23 mpg overall we achieved with the last 1.5-liter turbo Escape we tested, which is several mpg below some of its top competitors.

Drivers can choose from a variety of modes to help tailor how the Escape performs. Everyday driving modes include Normal, Eco, and Sport; the Slippery, Snow, and Sand modes change how the SUV operates in those conditions. Ford says the Escape has an all-new suspension that improves the ride comfort.

The Escape with a 1.5-liter engine can tow up to 2,000 pounds when properly equipped; those with the 2.0-liter model can tow up to 3,500 pounds. The hybrids are limited to 1,500 pounds.

We expect the two hybrid models to be significantly more fuel efficient than the gas options, although EPA ratings have not yet been released. The regular hybrid has a combined gasoline/electric system output of 198 hp, and the plug-in version has a claimed 209 hp.

Both hybrids come mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The regular hybrid is available in front- or all-wheel drive, but the plug-in is front-wheel drive only. Both hybrids have a lithium-ion battery pack situated underneath the rear seat. Ford says the plug-in hybrid has an EPA-estimated electric-only driving range of 30 miles, which could prove handy for folks with shorter commutes.

The hybrid models give the driver four modes to choose from: Auto EV mode lets the Escape decide whether to run on gas or electric power as it sees fit. EV Now lets the Escape operate on electric power only. EV Later mode switches the Escape to full gas power, conserving electric energy for later use. And EV Charge mode charges the battery while driving to store up electric-only miles to be used later. We found that feature quite useful in the C-Max plug-in hybrid we tested; the C-Max has since been discontinued.

Ford says the plug-in hybrid can be fully charged in 10 to 11 hours using a 110-volt charger or about 3½ hours with a 240-volt charger.

Safety and Driver Assist Systems

All Escapes will come standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of advanced safety systems, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic warning, and lane keeping assist.

Automatic on/off high beams also come standard. Adaptive cruise control with the ability to come to a full stop and restart the car again—for example, in stop-and-go traffic—is available as an option.

The optional Active Park Assist 2.0 allows the driver to park in a parallel or perpendicular spot at the touch of a button—the system handles all steering, gear selector, accelerator, and brake pedal chores. Evasive Steering Assist, which detects a slower-moving or stationary vehicle ahead and provides “steering support” to help the driver avoid an imminent crash, will also be available.

CR’s Take

The last-generation Escape was one of the sportiest-driving compact SUVs on the market. But the fuel economy from its turbocharged powerplants lagged behind the thriftiest class leaders, and many advanced safety features weren’t available. We know Ford has rectified the latter, with its standard Co-Pilot360 safety suite, but we’ll have to wait on fuel economy until we buy an Escape of our own for testing. Of course, we’re also hoping that the redesign hasn’t diminished any of the Escape’s fun-to-drive character.  



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