Redesigned for the 2020 model year, the Ford Escape compact crossover SUV adds two new Hybrid versions to the lineup – a standard gas-electric hybrid version and a plug-in hybrid version.
This isn’t the first time Ford has offered an Escape Hybrid. The company was the first domestic automaker to sell a hybrid when it debuted the Escape Hybrid for the 2005 model year, and it sold quite well. Ford put nearly 115,000 of them on the road before replacing the fairly popular Escape Hybrid with the fairly unpopular C-Max Hybrid.
Consider that a lesson learned.
With Each Redesign, the Escape Looks Less Like an SUV
Based on Ford’s global compact vehicle architecture, the new Escape loses about 200 pounds thanks to extensive use of high-strength steel. This, in turn, helps in the fuel efficiency department.
From a design standpoint, and in spite of the company’s claims that the front end is inspired by both the Mustang and Ford GT, the new Escape is bland compared to the outgoing version. Especially up front, it looks more like an economy car than an SUV. But, the 2020 Escape is more aerodynamic, which helps to maximize fuel economy and electric driving range for the plug-in hybrid.
Though it’s not as tall as the previous Escape, Ford says interior space has grown. At a media event in Irvine, California, I was able to give every seat in the house a try, and the new Escape is comfortable for four adults.
The early production example shown in Irvine was a 2020 Escape Hybrid with Titanium trim. Up front, the leather seats were heated, but seat ventilation is not available. A heated steering wheel was also present, as was a power-operated, height adjustable front passenger’s seat.
Rear passengers sit up high, in part because the Escape Hybrid’s battery is located underneath the seat. The back seat slides on tracks to mix-and-match legroom and cargo space, which tops out at 37.5 cubic-feet with the seat moved all the way forward. Ford did not provide a maximum cargo volume for the new Escape.
Air vents and USB ports keep rear-seat occupants cool and powered up. The materials in this part of the cabin are not as nice as those up front, where, in Titanium trim, soft-touch dashboard and door panel surfaces make the environment look and feel more upscale.
Storage space is generous, including a narrow center storage console with a decent amount of space and a good-sized glove box. Ford also supplies cup holders, a tray that accommodates the available wireless device charging pad, door panel bins, and other nooks and crannies to contain the detritus of the daily commute.
The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid Offers Two Ways To Help Save the Planet
Multiple trim levels and powertrains are available for the new 2020 Ford Escape. When it comes to the Escape Hybrid, however, you can pick from SEL, SE Sport, and Titanium trim.
Both the standard hybrid and available plug-in hybrid drivetrains are based on updated components from the current Ford Fusion Energi. They use a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder engine, an electronic continuously variable transmission, an electric drive motor, and a liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery.
The standard Escape Hybrid makes 198 horsepower and 153 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is an option for the hybrid, the rear axle disconnected from the drivetrain until it is needed for extra traction. Ford says the Escape Hybrid with front-wheel drive can travel up to 550 miles between visits to the gas station and can reach a speed of 85 mph operating in electric-only mode.
Obviously, if you want to drive in electric-only mode for a longer period of time, you want the plug-in version of the new Escape. Equipped with a larger 14.4 kWh battery, the plug-in hybrid makes 209 hp and 153 lb-ft of torque. Electric driving range is estimated at 30 miles before the Escape PHEV reverts to gas-electric hybrid operation.
Four different driving modes govern the PHEV drivetrain:
- Auto EV mode lets the Escape decide how to best use the electric driving range
- EV Now mode tells the SUV that you want electric power right away, not later
- EV Later mode tells the SUV that you want electric power later, not right away
- EV Charge mode uses the gasoline engine to charge the battery as you drive the SUV
Since it would take EV Charge a long time to top off the battery, you’ll want to plug the Escape PHEV in. Using a standard household electrical outlet, the battery should charge in less than 11 hours, according to Ford. Use a Level 2 charging station, and the battery recharges in 3.5 hours.
There’s No Escaping Technology With This SUV
Every 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid and PHEV is equipped with the company’s Sync 3 infotainment system. It includes an 8-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Ford + Alexa voice assistant integration, and Waze integration. Ford Pass Connect technology provides a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 different devices, as well as a vehicle locator service and smartphone access to vehicle functions such as the door locks and remote engine starting.
Upgrades include wireless charging, a 10-speaker B&O Play premium sound system, a 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display, and a head-up display. The head-up display is a six-inch plastic panel that rises from the top of the dashboard in a similar fashion to a Mazda, and it cannot be adjusted for height or viewing angle.
In terms of advanced driver assistance systems, Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite is standard equipment. That means every 2020 Escape has forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist.
Options include lane-centering assist, Evasive Steering Assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability. Note that if traffic ahead doesn’t clear within seven seconds, you’ll need to use the resume button on the steering wheel or the accelerator pedal to get the adaptive cruise to resume your journey.
Next-generation Active Park Assist 2.0 is also available for the new Escape. It works for both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces, and all the driver needs to do is push a button to activate the system. It performs the rest of the task autonomously, from finding an adequate space to controlling the steering, transmission, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal.
Escape to Greener Pastures in Fall of 2019
Built in Kentucky, the 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid goes on sale in the fall of 2019 while the Escape PHEV is delayed until spring of 2020.
Ford hasn’t announced prices for the new Escape Hybrid, but you can bet it will be competitive with the Nissan Rogue Hybrid (starting at $28,645) and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid ($28,895).
The PHEV version will compete with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ($36,890) and Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid ($35,790), but should undercut those models in terms of price because the Escape doesn’t include all-wheel drive.
Will compact crossover SUV buyers choose either version over a traditional gas-only Escape? Given that the two top trim levels, the SE Sport and Titanium, include the hybrid powertrain as standard equipment, people seeking the most technologically advanced and upscale versions won’t have a choice.