Unveiled: 2020 Ford Escape

Ford's compact crossover gets a much-needed overhaul and a road-focused mission.

We traveled to Dearborn, Michigan, last week for what turned out to be a rather enthusiastic unveiling of the 2020 Ford Escape. The Blue Oval's compact crossover replacement has been carefully crafted to target the road-going public with a a mix of diverse powertrain options, a more upmarket cabin and a focus on ride comfort and handling. Let's dig in.

We'll start with powertrains. The 2020 Escape will be offered with four different engines (two EcoBoost and two hybrid) and two available drivetrain configurations (front- or all-wheel-drive). That's right; having abandoned the segment for the current generation, Ford's green cute 'ute is back.

Ford's turbocharged EcoBoost offerings will be 1.5- and two-liter units, which may make them sound like carry-overs, but the 2.0 has been fully updated for the new Escape and the 1.5 is Ford's three-cylinder unit, making it new to Escape for 2020. Ford has a target of 180 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque for the 1.5L EcoBoost unit and 250 horsepower/275 lb-ft for the 2.0. Both will be mated to Ford's new eight-speed automatic transmission.

It's refreshing to see Ford bring the larger-displacement EcoBoost back for another round as some OEMs seem to be content with only low-output offerings in their compacts (see: Subaru, Honda, Toyota, etc.).

The 2020 Escape Hybrid will be offered as both a conventional electrified ICE and as a plug-in. The former will offer roughly 198 horsepower and the latter bumps it up to 209, but limits you to front-wheel drive due to the transverse mounting configuration of the plug-in's larger battery pack. Ford's engineers packaged the battery so that it would not compromise the the passenger compartment in either new Escape Hybrid model, however that came at the price of all-wheel-drive for the plug-in.

Ford's packaging cleverness pays dividends inside, however, and gives the new Escape a nice party piece in the form of a sliding rear seat which, in its rearmost position, offers passengers more space than the Chevrolet Tahoe's second-row bench (Everybody's picking on Chevy's big SUV right now, huh?).

With the rear bench in this comfort configuration, the cargo area can still accommodate four reasonably large suitcases (or a big dog crate). In numbers, you're looking at a minimum of 33.5 cubic feet (seat back) and a maximum of 37.5 cubes (seat forward) Compare that to 33 to 35.4 cubic feet for the new Subaru Forester, for context. Plus, you can fold it down entirely and nearly double that space (65.4 cubic feet) if you really need it (and don't have friends).

The new Escape will feature a host of technology upgrades as well, including the latest version of Ford's CoPilot 360 driver assist suite featuring goodies like park assist (parallel and perpendicular), lane centering, collision assist and evasive maneuver assist (which boosts panic avoidance inputs when they are detected).

So, why the heavy focus on on-road manners? Well, there's the obvious: consumers want crossovers as car replacements, not truck replacements. But there's more to it than that, as Ford is preparing a two-pronged attack on the truck and SUV segment. Escape, along with EcoSport and Edge, will be the pavement side of the equation; the off-road crowd will get Bronco and another small SUV as 4x4 parallels to the softer offerings. Ford promised to give us more details on these rugged alternatives as they take shape.

The 2020 Escape will go on sale later this year. Expect pricing and trim details closer to its on-sale date.

Photos by the author.

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