Back To the Electrified Future
Ford announced in April 2018 it would be ending sedan production, filling in with new SUV, crossover and truck models in the next few years. Sixteen of the new models were to be battery electric vehicles (BEV), and 24 gasoline/electric hybrids. Ford’s lofty goals are on the record, and people are paying attention.
A year or so later Ford is keeping its promise, having released two hybrid versions of the all-new 2020 Explorer—police and consumer—and the all-new 2020 Escape Hybrid. Both the Explorer and Escape also come with non-hybrid powertrains and are available in front- (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD).
Clean Fleet Report had the opportunity to experience the 2020 Escape when Ford invited members of the automotive press to Louisville, Kentucky. This area is known for its horse racing and thriving bourbon industry, but more importantly, it is also where the Escape factory is located. Getting a first-hand look at the all-new 2020 Escape, Ford’s best-selling passenger vehicle, and mingling with engineers, designers and the marketing teams, helps us understand what they have in mind for the Escape.
First and foremost, the plan is to keep Ford sedan customers by moving them into the Escape. They also hope to bring current Escape owners back for the new, improved version. Ford is so confident in this that, when designing the 2020 Escape, they made it a family, urban, on-road vehicle, leaving the serious off-road driving for the launch of the more rugged, all-new Bronco, which will be released later in 2020. There is a lot going on at Ford, so stay tuned to Clean Fleet Report for the latest news and reviews.
After our brief time in the new 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid we can give it a solid report card. It delivered excellent fuel economy, a super-quiet ride, flat cornering, a good road feel and an expansive interior. Here are some details.
Four Engines, Two Transmissions
The all-new 2020 Ford Escape has four powertrain choices. The EcoBoost gasoline engines include the base 1.5-liter, three-cylinder and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The 2.5-liter non-turbocharged, four-cylinder engine is part of the hybrid and plug-in hybrid systems. The first three engines are currently available in the 2020 Escape, with the Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV, going on-sale in the Spring of 2020.
We had the opportunity to drive the 1.5L, 2.0L and 2.5L hybrid; each engine is designed to be smooth and efficient. EPA fuel economy numbers for the 1.5L FWD are 27 mpg city/33 highway/30 combined. In AWD trim, the 1.5L numbers are one mpg less. For the 2.0L AWD, the EPA numbers are 23 mpg city/31 highway/26 combined.
Looking at the Escape Hybrid, its engine was quiet at idle and took little effort getting up to speed, especially when selecting the Sport drive mode that holds the revs longer in the automatic, electronically Continuously Variable Transmission (eCVT). Acceleration was smooth and linear, with an even increase in speed.
The hybrid drivetrain comprises the 2.5L engine, an electric motor and a liquid-cooled 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery, located beneath the rear seats. The total system of 198 horsepower moved the Escape Hybrid along nicely and allows towing up-to 1,500 pounds. The EPA has not released fuel economy numbers for the Escape Hybrid, but in a 45-mile drive at 50 mph, I averaged 43.7 mpg (on a similar run on a different day, one of my Clean Fleet Report colleagues averaged 46.9 mpg). On a short 30-mile all-freeway run at 70 mph, we got 41.2 mpg. Expect the EPA numbers to be somewhere in this area, but know you will be able to exceed them with a smooth driving technique.
Hitting the Road
In the short time we were behind the wheel of the Escape Hybrid AWD, we came to like the very quiet ride and the ease of driving. The Sport drive mode is joined by Eco, Normal, Slippery and Deep Snow/Sand settings. We only used Eco and Sport, leaving the others for another day, and more inclement weather. The 2020 Escape Hybrid AWD corners flat, with bite felt as the wheels, shod with 19-inch tires, were planted around sweeping arc turns. When pushed unrealistically hard some body lean could be felt.
The steering was on the heavy side, which we liked for the solid feel it gave the Escape’s 3,706 pounds. Many crossover SUVs have numb steering, eliminating any road feel. This was not the case with the Escape Hybrid AWD, as there never was time or situation where we felt disconnected from the tires and the road. We did not get the chance to drive the front wheel drive Escape, but our history with FWD cars is that they track well, take corners with confidence and provide good traction in wet conditions.
Using the new Flexible Unibody Architecture utilizing unique modules, different vehicles can be built on the same manufacturing line with different wheelbases, ride heights and track widths. For the 2020 Escape, it is longer, wider and lower than the outgoing model, with the longer measurement noticeable when accommodating passengers.
Ford proudly says the Escape has more rear leg room than in a Chevrolet Suburban. If you placed these two SUVs side-by-side, this doesn’t seem possible. But when we slid into the rear seat, and slid that seat to the full back position, we soon realized what Ford was talking about.
Our Escape Hybrid had a power panoramic moonroof, which sometimes can reduce headroom. However, headroom for all occupants was excellent, including taller drivers sitting up front. Controls were all within easy reach, and clearly marked. The available 575-watt, 10-speaker B&O premium audio system includes a woofer for deep, clear sounds. The steering wheel, wrapped in an interesting leather, has 16 buttons and toggles, each of which have multiple functions; it can get a bit busy.
Ford touts the dash layout on the 2020 Escape as being far more user-friendly than the 2019 model. The 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen (standard on SE and higher trim levels) has swipe and pinch-to-zoom capability and includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Ford+Alexa and Waze. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 with driver-assist features is standard, as is a head-up display. The FordPass Connect and 4G LTE Wi-Fi can accommodate up-to 10 devices, reaching as far as 50-feet away.
The 2020 Ford Escape comes in five models—S, SE, SE Sport, SEL, and Titanium—with an MSRP range of $24,885 to $33,400. Options and packages will be additional, as will the $1,195 destination charge. Your local Ford dealer will see the 2020 Escape and Escape Hybrid in the Fall of 2019. The Escape PHEV will be in dealers in Spring 2020.
Observations: 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid
The importance to Ford that the Escape plays in their vehicle mix and sales cannot be understated. With 22 vehicles in the compact crossover/SUV segment, Ford has its work cut out getting the attention of car shoppers. But for shoppers seeking a hybrid compact crossover SUV, there is one existing option in the Toyota RAV4. Honda just announced that its competitor in this field, the CR-V, will add a hybrid model for 2020. Nissan dropped its Rogue Hybrid model. The other top-tier seller, the Chevrolet Equinox, also is dropping its highly efficient diesel model.
When the Escape plug-in hybrid compact crossover/SUV comes out in Spring 2020, there will only be the options of the smaller Subaru Crosstrek PHEV or the aging Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. So, the 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid and PHEV are well-positioned to get shopper’s attention.
Ford offered an Escape Hybrid from 2005-2012, at which point they began the design and engineering process to develop the all-new 2020 Escape Hybrid. In its fourth generation of hybrid technology, Ford’s developments have resulted in smaller and lighter controls and batteries, but with improved power, fuel economy and driving range.
In upcoming Road Test reviews of the 2020 Escape, Clean Fleet Report will dive deeper into the interior design and function, and driver safety technology, as well as more details on the performance and drivability. We will also do testing that provides real-world fuel economy expectations in production vehicles as opposed to the pre-production models we experienced last week.
Until then, go into your local Ford dealership and take a lengthy test-drive in the all-new 2020 Escape or Escape Hybrid when they arrive. You just may come home with the most modern compact crossover SUV on the market.
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Whatever you end up buying, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.