Back at the beginning of the 21st century, Ford came out with a unique mini-Ute, the Ford Escape. A boxy little brother to the highly successful Ford Explorer, the four-door wagon that essentially created the SUV market. While the Escape has gone through several refreshes and design changes, it had not been genuinely updated until the 2020 model, which was announced in 2019 at a release event in Deerfield Village, a collection of historic buildings curated by Henry Ford near Dearborn Michigan. We were invited to see the revel of this all-new sleeker 2020 model Ford Escape a Disneyesque street parade demonstration, along with a display of all generations of the Escape.
The Hybrid – Ford designed the Escape to be powered by a Hybrid powerplant from the beginning, though it did not rush that into the vehicle for a few model years. This 2020 Escape has the option of four powerplants, two gasoline engines, including a Ford EcoBoost engine, a Hybrid, and a Plug-in hybrid. We got to test out the Hybrid with its 40 plus miles per gallon on premium fuel during our week with it. I find hybrid systems, this one included to sound like a woodchipper hard at work when it goes into electric generation mode. And to me, that is a little annoying. Sometimes it is a little startling as it is so noisy both inside and even more so outside. No quiet electric vehicle mode here. Not that any electric energy generation device would be silent.
The power coming out of this Hybrid was consistent with what you would expect from a small SUV. A smooth and effortless experience, though, don’t expect a G-Forces pushing you into the seat. You will hear the “wood chipper” as I call it when it goes into hybrid mode to charge the battery. Going from all-electric mode to gasoline mode on the road, that noise is reasonably quiet. The only time I realized the Escape was using pure electric was when I looked at the dashboard gauges.
The idea of hybrid powertrains is no longer novel; with each passing year, they continually are being improved for better fuel economy. This 2020 Escape proved that with the 40-plus mpg just driving around town.
The 2020 Escape is easy to get in and out of, not being too high or low, even for those with limited mobility. Doors swing open wide and are still reachable, with rear passenger seats accessible like most vehicles in the class, though they do have a forward and aft movement available for more legroom. These 2nd-row seats slide is unlike most vehicles in this class, something the 2020 Escape has that is different from the rest of the pack in this class. Cargo Space was sufficient enough that I was able to wedge a 6-foot step ladder in the rear cargo area with the rear seats folded down, and the right front passenger seat moved forward with the seatback leaned as far forward as possible.
Escape Engine Choices
While our Titanium tester was the fourth-generation Hybrid, an all-new 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle hybrid engine, and electronic continuously variable transmission and all-wheel drive. You can get it in front-wheel drive with a combined system horsepower of 198, and a top speed of 85 mph in electric-only mode. The hybrid models feature four EV modes to allow it to run on gas or electric power. In EV Now it can go all-electric. In EV Later mode, it can be switched to full gasoline power to conserve EV Miles. And an EV Charge mode will charge the battery while driving for EV only use later.
The Plug-in Hybrid is available on every trim level except for S and SE Sport. This is estimated to give an EPA Range of 30 miles in electric-only mode and has a Level 1 / Level 2 AC charging port. Using a 110-volt Level 1 charge, the estimated time to fully charge the battery is 10 to 11 hours. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charge, charge time drops to roughly 3.5 hours.
2.0-liter EcoBoost engine is also available on Titanium, with 250 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque, When properly configured, it is rated to tow 3,500 pounds.
1.5-liter EcoBoost, standard on S, SE, and SEL, produces 180 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque, cylinder deactivation senses when one cylinder isn’t needed and shuts it down automatically To help conserve fuel. Escapes equipped with this smaller engine are rated to tow 2,000 lbs if properly configured.
Electronic Automatic Transmission
This Escape has a rotary dial gear selector located on the center console, much like other Ford SUVs we tested. There are also ways to manage the different driving conditions that you may encounter with selectable drive modes tailored for normal, eco, sport, and slippery, plus snow and sand conditions.
Starting with the hybrid battery pack, Ford has designed a much smaller liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery and tucked it below the second-row seats that do not intrude on the passenger compartment, taking away valuable cargo or other space.
I found the Escape’s all-new heads-up display, a retractable plastic 6-inch screen that resides on the top of the driver’s side of the dashboard, engaging. At the same time, it gave a lot of information, I wondered why they did not just project it onto the windshield, as opposed to a mechanical pop-up screen that seemed in today’s works, so old school. I ended up retracting it and not using it.
This Escape came with Active Park Assist 2.0, allowing the vehicle to park itself with the touch of a button in either a parallel or perpendicular parking spot. While it still needs a driver at the wheel, it does take the guesswork out of parking and does it quite precisely using the onboard cameras and other guide technology.
The Hybrid has available SYNC® 3, ours came with an 8-inch screen and APPLINK® to work with Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™, Ford+Alexa, and Waze navigation, and yes ours had the 575-watt 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen Sound System.
The 2020 Escape is built at Ford’s Louisville KY Assembly plant, the Plug-in variant will be available later on in 2020.
Ford makes cars that are attractive to the masses, and this Escape will be a very popular model, especially as a hybrid. This under $40K market segment is very competitive, and I found the 2020 Escape not to be a stunner in its overall looks, but functionality will be vital for most buyers. Would I buy this vehicle? Probably not, because it is not what my lifestyle requires.
Words and Images by William West Hopper –
Mr. Hopper has been reviewing vehicles for this site and others for many years. A long-time automotive enthusiast who has had the opportunity to work on cars as well as autocross and road race as well as drive off-road with various models.
We thank the Ford Motor Company for providing us this 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid for a week-long review and NAVs, a leading automotive fleet management company for handling the vehicle. No compensation was provided for this review.