Ford’s compact AWD Escape is in its fourth generation, and for 2020, it underwent a complete makeover with added safety technology and a new, longer, wider, athletic look.
Escapes’ front end boasts a sexy fascia adorned with eight, jeweled, shark-eye type lights and oval grille that gives it a Porsche look. Even its back end takes on a Porsche Cayenne resemblance as it meets a sloping roofline. Not a bad comparison I’d say.
Escape is offered in FWD and AWD in certain models, and in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Titanium trim levels, the latter of which was tested. It’s also offered with four powertrains of which we tested the 2.5-liter, inline-4, Hybrid that comes standard with AWD.
After a mere 18-inch step-in, you’re treated to a posh and pleasing interior that includes perforated leather seats that were cushy and supportive. The test car had heated front seats and steering wheel.
Three cabin features immediately grab the eyes. The first, an 8-inch iPad type touchscreen perched atop the dash, then a rotary transmission shifter for the CVT transmission, and a vivid 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. For those who own an iPad, the touchscreen is easy to use, even for those who don’t have one. It serves the audio, rearview camera, apps, climate control selections, Travel Link with weather forecasts, local traffic reports and more. The transmission shifter may take some getting used to if coming from a console or column mounted shifter. But once acclimating to it, you’ll never go back to a conventional shifter. Residing next to it is a mode switch for Sport, Eco and Snow modes.
HVAC controls are easy to view and use and there’s even a Max AC switch that in 90-degree weather, quickly cools a hot interior. It’s a great feature that disappointingly, is no longer offered on most competitive vehicles.
Escape Titanium came standard with Ford’s Co-Pilot360 and Assist that offers adaptive cruise with stop/go, lane centering, evasive steering assist, pedestrian alert, voice activated navigation with SiriusXM Traffic/Traffic Link plus Active Park Assist. The latter automatically parallel parks the vehicle. There’s also FordPass Connect that offers 4G LTE Wi-Fi connect for up to 10 mobile devices. Add Ford’s Sync 3 and you get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Ford Alexa and Waze navigation. Add to this a panoramic sunroof.
Escape’s back seat is richly padded and comfy for two adults with 40.7 inches of leg room. The seats slide fore and aft so if more cargo space is needed, merely slide them forward which increases cargo area space.
As a hybrid, Ford smartly placed the liquid cooled lithium hybrid battery under the rear seats so as to not take space away from the cargo area.
Speaking of the cargo area, that has a hands-free liftgate, a mere 25 inch liftover enables easier loading of bulky, heavy items. With the rear seats upright, there’s 30.7 cubic feet with the seats fully rearward, or 34.4 with them slid full forward. Flip them and cargo capacity expands to 60.8 cubic feet that measures 65 inches deep, 42.5 wide and 29.5 high. Beneath the cargo floor is the spare tire wherein some small items can be hid in a section on one side of the tire.
Now for the powertrain. As said, there are four offered but we had the privilege of testing the 2.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle inline 4-cylinder that generated a total of 200-hp and 155 lb/ft of torque. Coupled to one of the better CVT automatic transmissions on the market, it gives the operational performance of a traditional transmission. So mated Escape AWD Hybrid had EPA mileage estimates of 43 city, 37-highway mpg.
Performance wise, power/torque came on in linear fashion and in electric battery mode it offered quick and quiet normal acceleration. Under hard acceleration, the engine was a bit noisy but dissipated when letting off the accelerator. And the transition from hybrid to engine power and reverse, goes unnoticed.
For those who prefer a plug-in hybrid version (PHEV), the same engine is rated for 100 MPG3 combined, or about 37 miles on electric only. Good for local commutes.
With electric power steering, the effort is light that makes parking in tight spots easy, even without the park assist feature. On highway driving, steering feel is a tad numb but overall handling remains planted during sharp turns with no tippy feeling.
Ride wise on Bridgestone 19-inch tires is smooth and quiet with only extremely harsh tar strips or road imperfections reverberating into the cabin. Otherwise, Escape is a pleasurable ride. Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing more and more of them on local roadways.
Since the test car was not for production, it contained a long list of standard safety and amenity items with the only option being the Equipment Group 400A Titanium Premium Package. That added $1,995 to the base price of $34,900 for a bottom line of $37,990 with delivery. And the National Highway Transportation Association awarded Escape an overall 5-star rating.
If looking for an economical crossover that you’re not looking to take off-road but want all weather capability, Escape Hybrid has deserves compelling consideration.