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2020 Ford Escape Chicagoland Review By Larry Nutson

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Urban Sensual

By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

It was around one year ago when, on the invite of Ford, we got an advance look at the all-new Escape. It was outdoors, under a clear sky at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.

I walked around the Escape a few times studying its exterior at different angles and distances. I got a good look at the interior cabin and sat in the driver’s seat. My take away was: It’s a car.

Very much similar to what happened to personal transportation over 100 years ago when we transitioned from the horse and wagon to the motor car…the automobile, that is, we are again transitioning.

The first “cars” were tall and a bit ungainly. Over the decades cars became longer, lower and wider. Then in the later part of the twentieth century compacts became the trend with concerns over both gasoline price and availability.

Now today, in a time when SUVs and crossovers are very popular (for their practicality) and replacing many cars, we are again seeing a change. The change for this new decade is for crossovers to become even more refined and comfortable, more car-like, with good performance and fun-to-drive characteristics.

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The entirely new Ford Escape has made this change with the all-new 2020 model. Compared to the current Escape it’s longer, lower and wider. The rear roof line is sloped and the belt line has been lowered. The front grille is Mustang-like, the front lower section borrows looks from the Ford GT. The new Escape has a less-utilitarian look and now a more refined, classy look.

The Escape’s new architecture allowed for improved chassis stiffness bringing improved and more car-like NVH characteristics as well as ride and handling. It’s 200 lbs. lighter. Front-wheel or all-wheel drive is offered. There’s a choice of four engine, two of them hybrids.

Five trims are offered: S, SE, SE Sport, SEL and Titanium.

A 180-hp turbo 1.5-L 3-cylinder engine is standard on the S, SE and SEL. A 250-hp turbo 2.0-L 4-cylinder is available on the SEL and standard on the Titanium.

Both engines are mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The 180-hp engine is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. With the 250-hp engine it’s only all-wheel drive.

On the SE Sport and Titanium a hybrid combines a 2.5-L 4-cylinder with two electric motors for a total of 198 system horsepower. For the SE, SEL and Titanium a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), using the same powertrain, is rated at 209 hp. Both hybrids use an eCVT transmission. The PHEV is FWD only. The hybrid is offered in FWD and AWD.

More advanced driver-assistance safety (ADAS) features have been made standard. The new Escape offers active park assist, a head-up display, voice and steering-wheel controlled touch screen, an embedded modem, and a sliding second row seat for more rear leg room.

The lowest priced S trim has a base price of $24,885 with the top-line Titanium at $33,400. Destination charge is $1,095.

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Now, a year later after first setting eyes on the new Escape, I had my first test drive in an SE Sport AWD powered by the 198-hp hybrid with a base price of $29,755. Options on this evaluation car included the SE Sport Premium Package featuring a power liftgate, vista roof, navigation, remote start, 19-inch wheels, and smart cruise control. Also equipped were 225/55R19 all-season tires. All totaled the price as equipped hit $34,245 which includes the $1,095 destination charge.

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As the compact crossover categorization would suggest, the Escape is quite suitable for big-city living and driving. With seats for five it’s suitable for a variety of folks from different generations. The cabin provides good passenger space and comfortable seating. The large opening rear hatch and the fold-down rear seat handle a variety of cargo. A new sliding rear seat with six inches of travel allows for adjusting for legroom or cargo room.

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The 198-horsepower hybrid delivers comfortable and confident power and performance. In my Chicagoland drive I never felt anything was lacking in terms of acceleration, merging or passing. The lower fuel consumption is balanced with the good performance from the hybrid in lower speed driving. EPA ratings are 40 mpg combined with 43 city mpg and 37 highway mpg. The projected highway driving range of over 525 miles is a full day road trip.

The power train switches seamlessly between the gasoline engine and battery power. Active noise cancellation keeps things quiet in the cabin. The eCVT has driver-selectable modes for Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Snow/Sand. Overall, there’s a decent level of fun-to-drive in the new Escape.

On an 11.4 mile, 31 minute short trip the Escape averaged 45.4 mpg with 6.1 miles of the trip, more than half, driven on electric power.

Go to for more information and details on the 2020 Ford Escape.

As we reurbanize, the Ford Escape for 2020 is clearly intended for the urban consumer…both the younger family just starting out and the empty-nester who has downsized but is still active and wants versatility in a vehicle.

Of note, Ford’s got a new Bronco as well as a Bronco Sport SUV coming to market. I see this small Bronco Sport to be designed and tailored to appeal to the traditional off-road SUV customer. There’s urban or suburban choice for all.

P.S. - Stay safe. Be well! (For those of you reading this review in 2046, the year that The Auto Channel celebrates its 50th Year online, the P.S. refers to the 2020 COVID 19 Pandemic, which hopefully became just a footnote in history and not an ongoing tragedy)

© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy