2020 Ford Escape Test Drive

Christian Wardlaw | Sep 20, 2019

Introduction

A redesigned 2020 Ford Escape arrives before the snow flies, and this new compact crossover SUV will continue to help define a segment in which it has been a bestseller for almost 20 years. Highlights include sporty design, a roomy interior, high-tech driver assistance systems, and a plethora of powertrains.

Built in Louisville, Kentucky, the 2020 Ford Escape comes in S, SE, SE Sport, SEL, and Titanium trim. Two turbocharged engines are available, along with a gas-electric hybrid system. A plug-in hybrid is coming in 2020. All Escapes are front-wheel drive, unless you opt for the all-wheel-drive system.

2020 Ford Escape Tan Front QuarterNew 2020 Ford Escape prices vary from $25,980 to $34,495, including the $1,095 destination charge but not including options. The Escape Plug-in Hybrid will be priced closer to when it goes on sale.

Styling and Design

Looking softer and sleeker than ever, the new Escape is clearly designed for people who would otherwise buy a car. Ford did this on purpose because the company is planning another compact crossover using the same platform but with a more traditional and rugged look combined with extra off-roading capability.

We sampled the Escape SE and the Escape Titanium. Naturally, the SUV is more appealing in the more expensive Titanium trim level, which includes shiny 19-inch aluminum wheels and chrome exterior accents for an upscale exterior look. Perforated leather upholstery and simulated wood dress up the Titanium’s interior, but the SE’s patterned fabric and simpler trim also satisfy at a more affordable price point.

Wisely, Ford separates primary stereo and climate controls from the standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Furthermore, the automaker uses familiar buttons and knobs for these controls. The most unusual thing about the Escape’s interior is the rotary dial for changing transmission gears, but you quickly acclimate to it.

Comfort and Cargo

Seating is generously proportioned and feels soft without being squishy. After hours of driving, the Escape remained comfortable. Cold weather dwellers will also appreciate the available heated front seats and heated steering wheel.

Ford does, however, need to resolve the thin padding on the top of the center console armrest. Also, the hot and muggy Kentucky weather brought the Escape Titanium’s lack of seat ventilation into sharper focus.

To maximize passenger or cargo space as is necessary, the rear seat slides forward and back. In its rearmost position, the back seat provides generous legroom for adults. The cushion sits high off the floor, too, supporting your legs. Air conditioning vents help passengers to keep their cool on hot days, and rear USB charging ports are planned as a running change to the new Escape, arriving in early 2020.

Behind the rear seat, the new Escape carries as much as 33.5 cu.-ft. of cargo. Fold it down, and you’ll have as much as 65.4 cu.-ft. of cargo space. Note that Ford says the hybrid powertrain forces no compromises in terms of passenger and cargo space.

Safety and Technology

A showcase of Ford’s latest driving assistance, collision avoidance, and infotainment systems, the new 2020 Escape impresses in terms of technology.

Highlights include three different levels of Ford Co-Pilot360 advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), including features such as lane-centering assist, evasive steering assist, and an active parking assist system that can take full control of the Escape’s engine, transmission, steering, and braking while putting the SUV into a parking space.

Using as many of the Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist+ functions as we could, we found them to operate with accuracy and refinement. Previous demonstrations of Ford’s latest active parking assist technology suggest that it works well, too. The Escape’s lane centering assist, however, behaved in a more natural manner on the wider lanes of Kentucky’s freeways. On narrow country roads, the system’s constant correction as the technology strove to remain within the skinny lanes grew tiresome.

Ford also engineers the Escape using ultra-high-strength martensitic steel running up through the windshield pillars to improve crash protection and forward visibility. The SUV’s standard Sync 3 infotainment system provides access to automatic 911 Assist calling, while MyKey technology helps to encourage safer teen driving habits.

Every new Escape includes FordPass Connect services with a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto join the party with an upgrade to SE trim or higher, while Amazon Alexa, Waze, a voice-activated navigation system, a premium B&O Play sound system, a head-up display, and digital instrumentation are also available. Ford will add wireless smartphone charging to the Escape in early 2020.

Driving Impressions

Ford installs a turbocharged 1.5-liter 3-cylinder engine in the Escape S, SE, and SEL. It makes an estimated 180 horsepower. Optional for SEL and Titanium trim, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine delivers an estimated 250 hp.

Both engines use an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 3-cylinder powers the front wheels, while the 4-cylinder is paired exclusively with all-wheel drive. The AWD system is optional with the 3-cylinder engine.

Hybrid power is standard with SE Sport and Titanium trim. This powertrain includes a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with dual electric motors, a small lithium-ion battery, and regenerative brakes. Total output is an estimated 198 horsepower, and AWD is optional.

In early 2020, a plug-in hybrid version of the Escape arrives, offering electric-only driving for a typical commute combined with long-distance road-tripping capability without worry about plugging in. This version will come only with front-wheel drive.

We drove the 3-cylinder, 4-cylinder, and hybrid versions of the new Escape. All three boast a stiffer structure, improved ride isolation, a lower center of gravity, and noise reduction enhancements for a quieter interior and a more refined ride.

The standard turbocharged 3-cylinder provides enough oomph for most people, but in its Normal driving mode the transmission likes to upshift as soon as possible to improve gas mileage. Sometimes, this leads to an unexpected drop-off in responsiveness. Choosing Sport mode helps in this regard.

Expectedly, the turbocharged 4-cylinder delivers more robust performance. In combination with the Titanium’s 19-inch wheels, this version of the Escape is the fun one. Sport mode widens the driver’s smile, and in spite of its larger wheels and tires, the Titanium supplied a quiet and supple ride in addition to engaging driving dynamics.

Ford’s move to make the hybrid powertrain standard with SE Sport and Titanium trim is a bold one. But given the satisfying acceleration and effortless efficiency, it’s also a smart one.

Yes, the CVT emits a characteristic drone under hard acceleration, but otherwise there is no downside to the hybrid drivetrain. Plus, the 2020 Escape Hybrid returned 40.3 mpg without trying. Hyper-milers running the SUV in Eco mode will no doubt improve on that number.

Conclusion 

With sporty looks, a roomy and comfortable interior, the latest technology, and a variety of ways to move the metal, the 2020 Ford Escape has what it takes to remain a major player in the compact crossover SUV segment. And while the Escape faces more competition than ever, Ford has definitely brought it's A-game with this redesign.

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