In the most competitive segment of the autos in Canada and in most parts of the world, Ford introduced the new Escape. FoMoCo is relying more and more on SUV’s, CUV’s and trucks while moving away from passenger cars excluding the Mustang. The new Escape is a courageous step.
With 279K vehicles (rounded) sold in Canada in 2019, Ford is the best-selling brand here for 11 years in a row. Out of this number, nearly 40K was an Escape. So the stakes are high.
Exterior and Interior
Ford Escape has completely new design inside and outside this year. Though it is a subjective matter, I am not a fan of the newer design. It looks much like a raised Focus. If we have to rephrase this, it looks much more civilized and previous generation Escape looks much more rugged and more like a proper SUV. Like it or not, it represents overall Ford design elements really well. If you take off the Ford badge, people would still recognize this is a Ford product. Also, 19″ Aluminum rims looks excellent in my opinion, but it only comes with the top trim.
Interior design is another story. Like exterior, it is completely new, nothing looks similar to the previous generation. It looks much more civilized like the exterior, however this one fits better for the Escape, as the potential buyers are looking for more luxury in this kind of competitive segment. The dashboard has lots of soft touch plastics and leather, maybe not on par with premium German rivals, but pretty good for what it is.
Rear legroom is one of the most important factors for an SUV, as this is a utility vehicle, there has to be plenty of space for families and hauling. Latest generation Escape has significantly more rear legroom compared to it’s previous generation. 2020 Escape is approximately 2 inches longer compared to the 2019, as well as longer wheelbase. The only thing that 2020 Escape falls behind compared to 2019 is the cargo capacity, which is a slight decrease from 68 cubic-feet to 65.4. However, with the sliding second-row seats, Ford offers a smart solution. According to the volume of cargo and the number of passengers you can significantly increase the cargo space when you need or provide more legroom for the rear-seat passengers. And advantage that neither the RAV-4, nor the CR-V can offer.
The steering wheel is probably the only item that looks similar to the one in the previous generation Escape. The buttons are easy to use, and doesn’t take much time to get used to it. The only thing that I wasn’t a fan is the type of leather chosen to use in the steering wheel. It is extremely stiff and doesn’t feel like a leather. It feels more like a polyurethane cheap plastic, so this is where Ford needs to look into it.
The top trim comes with digital gauge cluster, and it is easy to see when it is sunny, and it is not going to hurt your eyes when it is dark. It is not 100% customizable, but it changes its colors depending on driving mode and there are lots of information available. Though we must say, there is a little bit lag when you switch driving modes, and considering this is a brand new car, this shouldn’t be the case.
Probably the most significant change after the overall interior design is the infotainment system and 8 inch touchscreen. Compared to the previous generation, this is also a completely different software, and it works perfectly. This is where Ford really paid attention and unlike the previous gen, it looks much more up-to-date. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and they both work smoothly. The touch screen works accurately and it is very responsive.
There are multiple different categories placed in the bottom which you see Audio, Phone, Nav, Apps and Settings. In the main screen, it is divided to three different sections. You can see your media, nav and other information gathered in one screen. You can also adjust driving assistance settings through the infotainment system. Overall, we enjoyed using the infotainment system, it is a significant update, and can keep up many years without looking outdated.
Engine and Drivetrain
New Escape comes with 4 different engines, 2 hybrid and 2 gas powered options. Base trim comes with 1.5L Ecoboost, which is turbocharged 4 cylinder direct injected engine. Base engine pumps out 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. Top trim gas version comes with 2.0L Ecoboost engine, which is also turbocharged, produces 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque with premium fuel. Gas versions come with 8-speed automatic transmission.
Electrified versions of Escape come with naturally aspirated engines. There is no AWD option for Plug-in Hybrid. Both come with Electronic-Continuous Variable Transmission. Both engines have high compression ratio for higher torque curve, and surprisingly they have multi-port injection which means no maintenance like direct injection.
Escape’s AWD system is pretty sophisticated, it sends power whenever front wheels lose traction and the operation is smooth. However, at the end of the day, it is a front-biased all wheel drive system which is focused on fuel economy, rather than the driving pleasure.
Our tester (2.0 Ecoboost) comsumed around 10.0L / 100 km, which is slightly lower than average. However, there are not many options that offer 250 hp in this market, so it is justifiable. Just don’t expect to get the best fuel economy if you are not easy on throttle pedal.
Driving Impressions & Features
Our first impression was that Ford really took its time to develop and improve the interior design compared to the last generation. Infotainment, air conditioning and all the other buttons are placed well. They are easy to reach and they used actual buttons instead of using for most essential features, which is great for longevity.
The new Escape feels and drives more like a car rather than a truck, compared to the previous generation. The steering feels above average, but nothing spectacular. Getting in and out is easier with 2020 Escape as it is slightly lower to the ground, wider and longer. Suspension tune also feels more like a car, it is very solid and there is not much body roll. Based on our test drives with several Ford vehicles, the blue-oval brand is really good at suspension tuning, slightly on the stiffer side but not sacrificing comfort at the same time. Overall, 2020 Escape has a great equilibrium of stiffness and comfort like the other models.
Compared to 2019, 2.0L Ecoboost engine used in 2020 Escape is not really different, as it has same torque characteristics and high torque in the mid range, the transmission is tuned for road comfort rather than performance. It is not responding well if you use paddle shifters, it shifts late and it feels it doesn’t like manual input. At the end of the day, it is a utility vehicle and it is meant to be driven easy, so we are not blaming Ford for tuning the engine and transmission for comfort.
However, we have to criticize Ford for not letting its drivers to fully disable the traction and stability control. We are aware this is a safety feature, but it is not helping if you are trying to take the Escape off-road. Though it comes with multiple different driving modes, that includes snow, mud and sand mode, it is not letting the driver to fully control as it tries to cut the power in loose surface, no matter what you do or which mode you are in.
In our 2019 Escape test, which you can find here, http://www.autoandroad.com/2019/08/2019-ford-escape-titanium/, we seriously criticized Ford for trying to implement half baked technologies on older platforms, which included the previous generation Escape. Adaptive cruise was one of them, as it was unable to fully stop and start and overall operation was not the smoothest. Finally, Ford offers full-range adaptive cruise control system in 2020 Escape and it works really well.
Pricing & Conclusion
2020 Ford Escape starts at $28,549 CAD and it can go all the way up to $45,000 CAD range, it depends what you need to be honest. Interestingly, Hybrid version top trim is significantly cheaper than gas version, so that would actually be a great buy considering it will be much cheaper to operate the hybrid version in the long term.
Our tester unit was the “Titanium” top trim with gas engine, which costs $40,049 CAD and it comes with all the features available in Escape. The only option for Titanium Package is the Titanium Premium Package, which offers Head-Up Display as well as Panoramic Sunroof that adds up $2,300 CAD.
To sum it up, Ford spent significant time and engineering effort for the 2020 Escape. Though this is our subjective opinion, it looks like a raised Ford Focus, which is not necessarily a bad thing. All manufacturers are trying to market SUVs for more mainstream users, and making SUVs look more civilized inside and outside, they are trying to get more market share. 2020 Escape is just one of them.
Adding Hybrid and PHEV versions also show that Ford is serious about being leader in this class, as it is getting more competitive, which only time will tell. Compared to the previous generation, I think Ford did a great job, but it is too early to say this if the new Escape is the best in its class.
For more detailed and most up-to-date information, please visit http://www.ford.ca
Article & Photos by Dan Gunay and Varol McKars.