Derek Shiekhi | Sep 17, 2020

Exterior view of the 2020 Ford Ford Escape SEL AWD

It's hard to believe, but the Ford Escape is 20 years old. It started as a boxy peg that filled in the square hole in Ford's product lineup. Over the past two decades, it's only gotten sleeker, smarter and more powerful. All those years of learning and development have led up to the fourth-generation 2020 Ford Escape.

It may be Ford's second-smallest SUV, but the new Escape features styling cues from two of the biggest names in the performance car market. Engineers made the 2020 model the most aerodynamic yet. They also incorporated more lightweight, high-strength steel, which means the Escape is more than 200 pounds lighter than its 2019 predecessor.

Four powertrain options are available: a 1.5-liter EcoBoost I4, a larger 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, a conventional hybrid setup and a plug-in hybrid power plant with a maximum EPA-projected range of more than 550 miles.

Trim levels include the base S, SE, SE Sport Hybrid, SEL and top-of-the-line Titanium. All Escapes come standard with the Ford Co-Pilot360 safety system and FordPass Connect, which provides access to 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity. Ford equips SE and above models with an 8-inch touchscreen, which provides access to the available SYNC 3 infotainment system.

Ford gave me the opportunity to learn about the new Escape behind the wheel of an all-wheel-drive SEL model. At the time, it was so new that its window sticker didn't even have official pricing. Prices start at $24,885. If you configure an Escape just like the one I wrote this review about, it'll have an MSRP of $34,445, according to the Ford website. This is what you can expect for that kind of money.


2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD Exterior

Exterior view of the 2020 Ford Ford Escape SEL AWD

Full disclosure: When I first saw Ford's official media photos of the new Escape, I was less than impressed. The last-gen model was rounded and smooth, but the 2020 seemed to be all softness and curves. Seeing my test vehicle in person taught me just how wrong my initial impressions had been. If I were to buy a 2020 Escape, I'd configure it just like my press loaner. Its Magnetic paint coordinated perfectly with its two-tone 19-inch wheels, which looked like massive snowflakes.

The entire front end of the Escape is genetically predisposed to being an eye magnet because it shares DNA with two of Ford's most famous performance cars. The shape of the distinctive trapezoidal grille is a nod to the Mustang's grille and the lower front fascia was inspired by the same area on the GT supercar. Contoured doors and an upward slope to the bottom of the daylight opening give the Escape a leaned-forward, athletic profile. In the back, a standard hands-free power liftgate made loading groceries easier. Dual round chrome exhaust finishers flanked the hitch receiver for the standard Class II Trailer Tow Package, which enabled my tester to tow up to 3,500 pounds.

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2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD Interior

Interior view of the 2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD

Normally, the press vehicles I receive have the top trim level and a variety of options on them. The Escape SEL was an exception, but I had no complaints. Up front, my press loaner had a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats (10-way power adjustable for the driver and four-way manual for the passenger) and automatic climate control. Adjusting that and the sound system was easy thanks to well-placed knobs for the fan speed, temperature, volume and tuning. The eight-inch touchscreen was similarly user-friendly and gave me access to the SYNC 3 infotainment system's various functions.

For such an outwardly small SUV, the Escape was surprisingly roomy and luxurious in the back seat. I'm 5'10" and I had plenty of legroom in the sliding second row, even when it wasn't fully pushed back. Ford made every seat in the Escape a good one by topping it with an optional panoramic moonroof.

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2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD Powertrain

Engine view of the 2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD

The Blue Oval also upgraded my media vehicle in another major way. The Escape SEL comes standard with the entry-level 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque. Ford fitted me with the optional 2.0-liter EcoBoost. That extra displacement brings output up to 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, which my Escape tester routed through an eight-speed automatic and Intelligent AWD.

Going by the EPA's estimates, an Escape equipped like the one I tested is capable of getting 23 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.* My real-world combined figure wasn't far off; over the course of 250.8 miles, I averaged 24.8 mpg. With the push of a button, I could tell the Escape how I wanted it to apply its ample power to the road or whatever surface happened to be under its 225/60/R18 Michelins. I used the Normal drive mode most of the time. If I was running low on the premium fuel the 2.0 needs to generate its peak power, I could switch to the Eco setting. Sport made the already peppy Escape even snappier. The slippery drive mode came in handy on the rainy days I spent in it running errands and visiting friends with my girlfriend. There was also a Deep Snow/Sand profile for more extreme conditions.

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2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD Safety

View of safety equipment of the 2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD

The Ford Co-Pilot360 system is the baseline for the Escape's more advanced safety features. It includes automatic high beams, Pre-Collison Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking, Lane-Keeping System, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert and a rearview camera.

The next level up - which my media vehicle was on - is Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist. That adds the protection and convenience of Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and the guidance and enlightenment of voice-activated navigation and SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link.

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2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD Overall

View of the exterior of the 2020 Ford Escape SEL AWD

Ford spent 20 years making the Escape the attractive, spacious and zippy SUV it is today. You can experience the results of all of the Blue Oval's efforts in a much shorter amount of time. Just make the short drive to your closest AutoNation Ford dealer.

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2020 BMW M340i Specs

Layout

4-door, 5-passenger, AWD

Engine/Transmission

Turbocharged 2.0L I6, 250 hp, 280 lb-ft
eight-speed automatic

Mileage

23/31 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

★ ★ ★ ★


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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.