Clearly in touch with American consumer preference for SUVs over sedans, Ford begins the fourth Escape generation for 2020 with a powerful engine, versatility, and sporty handling — and a drive that makes it feel like a smaller car. It also offers enough smart features and model configurations to satisfy a variety of buyers.
With five trim levels, four powertrains, and many smart features, Ford’s redesigned top-selling SUV is much improved. In fact, it has been thoroughly overhauled for 2020. Aside from a revamped exterior design that gives the Escape a sportier look, there is a new base engine, and an improved suspension.
The new Escape is slightly longer, wider, and lower than the outgoing model and has a lower beltline that allows for larger windows and excellent outward visibility. More important, the new model is notably lighter than before, largely thanks to the use of more high-strength steel in its structure, which helped lend a general easiness and sense of agility.
Multiple trim levels (S, SE, hybrid-only SE Sport, SEL, and Titanium) along with four powertrains — two gasoline engines, a hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid — make for a wide array from which to choose.
Both gas engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that shifts quickly and unobtrusively, adding to the Escape’s smooth character.
The Escape offers a decent set of standard features on each trim level and a host of available options. My test vehicle, the SEL trim came with all of the lower trim features (power-adjustable driver’s seat, Sync 3) and adds other desirable items such as a hands-free power liftgate, roof rails, rear parking sensors, and a heated steering wheel.
All trim levels feature five drive modes selectable via a console button (Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Snow/Sand) and mainly work to adjust the response of the engine and transmission.
Regardless of which model you choose, all Escapes drive with competence, refinement, and cushy ride quality. My vehicle came with 18-inch wheels, but there is an optional 19-inch wheels and 17s are on the lower trims — but it makes little difference to the Escape’s dynamic performance measurements.
The redesigned Escape offers more interior room than before, especially in the rear seat where a sliding second-row seat helps open up a massive 40.7 inches of legroom.
Other highlights of the new Escape include an eight-inch freestanding touchscreen, a head-up display, and a bundle of driver safety aids (rearview camera, automatic emergency braking and blind-spot warning among them) dubbed Ford Co-Pilot360.
A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (250 hp, 280 pound-feet) is optional on the SEL and Titanium trim levels. It is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Ford also is offering an Escape with a plug-in version of the hybrid engine, the Escape PHEV. It comes in SE, SEL and Titanium trim levels.
Ford Escape mpg for the SEL is 23 city and 31 highway.
My SEL is base priced at 30,755, but with the optional Equipment Group 301a, Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+, and Panoramic Vista Roof, it topped out at $32,545, including just over $1,000 in destination and delivery charges.
Grant Miller is the publisher of Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277 or via email at Grant@CommunityNewspapers.com.