2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD

No, Ford won’t sell you a sedan; but they’d like you to check out the completely redesigned Escape

Words by: Adam Allen

No more sedans…is this for real, Ford?

This isn’t news but it still hasn’t completely sunk in for us- Ford will no longer offer sedans as part of its product portfolio. That’s right folks- the company that put the world in motion on four wheels with the Model T is no longer selling cars as we know it except for the Mustang. So the best selling Escape- the most lucrative Ford offering behind the F150 trucks- has a tall order to fill, and that is to keep the cash register filled with greenbacks despite the wholesale changes. Clean sheet rethinks can be a tricky proposition because while you don’t want to alienate your loyal customers, you do want to coax a new legion of buyers into showrooms; it’s a bit of a balancing act to say the least. The outgoing Escape generation had no trouble finding a home in many driveways across the country, even though it was never going to threat any of its competitors for best in class honors. That said, we hesitate to use the term underwhelming, but the outgoing Escape didn’t exactly set hearts afire. Enter the wholly redesigned 2020 vintage you see before you, tasked with keeping the sales numbers strong and becoming a better vehicle in the process. So, no pressure.

Let’s cut to the chase- has Ford succeeded?

If you are familiar as we are with the outgoing model, a short drive in our tester will convince you that Ford has gotten serious about the Escape. Every so often we encounter a huge leap forward from one  generations of models to the next and this is without a doubt one of those cases. It starts off with the styling, and we can report that the Escape is vastly easier on the eyes than its predecessor. Sure, some of the design cues are derivative and the front end is cribbed from Ford’s European sedan offerings, but overall it’s a pleasing aesthetic. Some people noted that the ‘ESCAPE’ script across the rear hatch is an undisguised nod to Porsche’s Macan, and don’t think the strangeness of that observation is lost on us that the Ford Escape has something in common with an offering from Stuggart. Elsewhere with imitation continuing to be the sincerest form of flattery, Toyota’s stylists should be beaming with pride (or anger?) that Ford has apparently copied the RAV4’s taillight design. OK, we don’t know what actually happen but this is one of the strangest coincidences we have encountered in recent memory- but be reminded that  the Escape’s development has been in the works for years and stuff like this was likely signed off on along time ago. Still- despite all that, the resemblance is uncanny.

Let’s take a look at the Escape from the inside out.

In the past, even top rung Titanium trim had a hard time convincing people that the Escape’s interior was a comfortable, refined and thoughtfully designed place to be. Thankfully, our 2020 tester leaves all that behind and despite the SEL trim level which lacks all the bells and whistles that can be had, it is at last a worthy challenge for those usual suspects it’ll be jockeying for your hard earned dollars. You immediately notice that great efforts have been taken to eliminate road and wind noise, and anything happening aft of the firewall has been appropriately hushed as well. The feeling of tranquility never wanes all the way up to (and beyond) highway speeds. Ford has paid attention to various surfaces and touchpoints and the Escape offers a much friendlier environment to interact with. Additionally, Ford’s SYNC infotainment system has been given a slicker interface and is noticeably quicker to respond as well. Anyone who found the old model a little small in the cargo area will be delighted to know that the Escape offers a more commodious hold for your stuff, and passenger room all around has been increased enough to help make longer hauls a more comfortable experience.

The assumption would be that it’s better to drive.

With the bar set relatively low by its predecessor, the new Escape delivers an unmistakably more satisfying drive. We’ll start under the hood, where our SEL taster lacked the hot-rod 2.0 four-cylinder turbo (0-100km/h in less than 6 seconds!) but did have the most interesting engine on offer- a 1.5 litre three pot that borders on the unbelievably smooth and powerful side of descriptors for its size and makes a great noise when you give it the spurs. That’s an achievement because three bangers usually give off vibrations more suited to a paint mixer coupled with limp-wristed power figures but the opposite is true in this case. Ford’s little Ecoboost engine makes pretty much similar horsepower and torque than the turbo four in the Honda CR-V, for one example. So the 1.5 is smooth and refined but also stout, and unsurprisingly it’s very efficient; we coaxed 9.9L/100km during our week of mostly city driving. Not only does it feature the now familiar stop/start technology, but it can shut down one of its cylinders under cruising and light loads thus making it the only two cylinder engine in a production car (at least until other automakers catch on.) But put your foot down and the Escape moves off with more verve than you might expect, and the little 1.5 sounds cute when it’s angry. We also appreciated the ride quality which was very disciplined and well damped and the all-wheel drive served up all the traction we needed during an early November dumping of snow that caught most motorists off guard. We made our way around town without any difficulty whatsoever-the streets were plowed poste haste for a change- and while we always recommend installing winter tires, our tester’s lack of that rubber never proved arduous and we always arrived at our destination on time.

What might go wrong?

The Escape has made significant gains in interior quality as we’ve noted, but there’s still room for improvement. Take the interior door panels as an example- they look as if someone ordered a bigger length of pipe than they needed at a home improvement store and the extra length left its mark on the door panels. What the rotary shifter allows in space in the console to put a purse or what have you, it feels a bit shaky and imprecise- we longed for a traditional shifter. Lastly, the button to start the Escape feels like a bit of an afterthought at first, but you do get used to its location after a while.

Should I buy a Ford Escape?

Chances are, a good many of our readers have decided that these changes represent a good enough case to buy another Ford Escape. For those looking within the segment and who have owned some of the Escape’s competitors, we should tell you that Ford’s efforts with the Escape have paid dividends making it a compelling choice in a hotly contested segment. Gone are the questionable interior finishes, busy styling and unapologetically rough around the edges driving experience. Instead, we’re left with a CUV that should have the chops to disrupt the cushy lead the usual suspects have enjoyed over the last several months. Whether or not you agree that Ford has a home run on its hands, the 2020 Escape is worth a drive.

2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $42,350
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5-passenger SUV
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged inline-3, DOHC, 12 valves
  • Horsepower: 179 @ 5,700 rpm
  • Torque (lbs.-ft.): 177 @ 2,000 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 1,576 kg (3,474 lbs.)
  • Observed fuel economy: 10.2L/100 km (23 mpg)