2023 Ford Escape First Look Review: Toughening Up a Softy
Few vehicles sharing the same basic platform are better differentiated than the Ford C2-based boxy, go-anywhere Bronco Sport and the urban-outfitted, lozenge-like Escape. Had they looked more similar, the former might have cannibalized the latter's sales. Both are selling at or near capacity three years into the fourth-generation Escape's model run, so Ford is toughening up the visage and demeanor of 2020's somewhat soft-looking Escape.
Fresh Front End
Most of the manning up comes courtesy of a bolder new hood, which sits atop a more deeply sculpted grille flanked by a pair of LED-outlined "four-eyed" headlamps that look much more expressive (also a skosh BMW-ish). On upper trim levels, a so-called "coast-to-coast" LED light strip connects these headlamp DRLs, illuminating the gap between the hood and grille. A new fascia incorporating a faux skidplate completes the beefier makeover. Other exterior changes are minimal: new 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheel designs, new LED taillamps, a false skidplate on the rear fascia, and the relocation of the hatch release from below to above the license plate.
New ST-Line Trim
Further solidifying the Escape as the pavement-burner of the Ford C2 platform compact crossover lineup is a new ST Line package that blacks out all the main trim-grille, window-surround moldings, a large single-wing rear spoiler, etc. Even the 19-inch wheels go black on top models. Further downplaying the ST Line's off-road ambitions are body-color wheel-arch moldings instead of dark gray. Inside, there's red stitching and a flat-bottom steering wheel, though the seating material changes with different trim grades. That's the cool thing about Escape ST Line-the look is generally available for about $995 more than an equivalent Escape built in any of the other trim series. That means the least expensive 1.5-liter Escape ST Line starts at $31,335. ST Line Select and Elite models feature content that aligns with the other trim levels. Ford expects half of all buyers to opt for the ST Line.
Functionally Carryover Powertrains
The 2023 Ford Escape continues to offer two gas and two hybrid models with outputs that, on paper, seem to be virtually carryover. But both the 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged three-cylinder and the 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbo four-cylinder are essentially new engines, redesigned to comply with tightening emissions regulations. The hybrid and plug-in hybrid models use the same 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder, with some minor tweaks to the output ratings attributable to a new method of measurement for this complex gas-engine/two motor-generator setup. The eight-speed automatic transmissions (EcoBoost) and planetary CVTs (hybrids) are unchanged, as is the optional all-wheel-drive system. The PHEV offers four EV modes: Auto, EV Now, EV Later, and EV Charge, with a maximum possible fully electric speed of 85 mph.