ELDEST YANKEE HYBRID SUV NAMEPLATE: There are several Johnny Come Lately’s to the electric supplemented gas powered sports utility vehicle craze. However, Ford has been in the hybrid SUV game on and off since 2004. Okay, so the first two generation Ford Escape Hybrids were an after-thought for a Mazda drafted compact crossover vehicle. Then the automaker passed on a hybrid version for the 3rd generation European Kuga based Ford Escape. (Those duties fell to the Ford C-Max dedicated plug-in battery electric hybrid SAV.)
MARK IV ESCAPE MARKS CORDLESS ENCORE: Plenty was at stake with with a fourth redesign of a compact crossover vehicle intended to “Break free from confinement or control.” Beginning in 2021, Dearborn’s big Blue Oval would cease to offer any sedans such as the Fusion hybrid in North America. Also the plug had literally been pulled on the Ford C-Max plug-in hybrid electric wagon. Enter a more car-like and more efficient 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid.
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WHAT: 2021 Ford Escape SE Hybrid 2 Row, compact hybrid crossover sport utility vehicle, code named CX482. The Mk. IV Escape follows up the first to be a renamed European Kuga. The assembled on the modular C2 platform which underpins the Lincoln Corsair, new Ford Bronco Sport, an upcoming Maverick compact pickup as well as the 4th generation Ford Focus car (C519), the latter excluded from North America.
Standard Power: 2487 cc Atkinson cycle, dual VVT-i DOHC 24V start-stop idle I-4 cylinder 198 hp (148 kW), 209 lb-ft net hybrid
- gasoline engine: 163 hp/ 175 lb-ft @ 5700 rpm; arranged parallel to
- 1 x 450V synchronous AC traction / regenerative charging motor, front wheels: 88 kW (118 hp), 149 lb-ft, coaxially mounted with
- 1 x 450V synchronous AC Hybrid Starter Generator, DC to DC inverter: 8 kW
- Battery electric supply: Lithium Ion 1.1 kWh, 296 V, 76 cells x 4300 mAh
Continuously Variable Transaxle, parallel shaft gearset coupled, optional viscous clutch all-wheel drive differential; 100:0 – 20:80 torque split
WHAT (A) STYLING DIFFERENCE: The fourth complete incarnation of Escape isn’t afraid to show it’s compact sedan roots now that cars are extinct in the North American Ford lineup. Any truck-like boxy-ness of the first two generations is an anachronism. However, the sharp creases and edges of the immediate European designed C520 Kuga Mk. 4 forebearer has been supplanted by a more amorphous bland look with gentler body panel flares, likely signaling a highly electrified future.
Filling in for the void of any Focus car in North American line, the most notable change is to the Escape’s face. The hood with less dramatic side creasing descends into a solid panel for a more monolithic appearance. The wrap around headlamp housing is more oval and thus extends further forward. The wide hexagonal grille, now dark latticed and chrome outlined, commences from the mid bumper to the lower air dam. At the sides the upper belt line crease and bold high Hochmeister kink at the D-pillar have been lost for more curvature. Instead the body cheat line is scooped more deeply.
In the hind quarters now more flared, the roof spoiler is enlarged with vertical pillar extensions. The lower liftgate is dramatically double beveled with a place for the license plate betwixt. As a result the backlight glass now more raked for a sporty punched-out effect. The red over white LED tail-lamps wrap around in a lateral hockey stick pattern. The bumper cover is a lower dark cladding affair with folded reflector corners while the lower valance goes simulated skid plate with dual corner exhaust outlets. Overall it tries to emulate elements of Porsche’s Macan.
WHY: No more cars means it this efficient compact family SUV has to look and act more carlike than ever.
WHEN: On-Sale (in the U.S.) since Winter 2019-2020
WHERE: Ford new vehicle dealers
WHERE MADE: Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A
WHERE TO: dual traction electric motor all-wheel drive, e-varies front/ rear traction from nominal 100/0% to maximum 20/80%, ABS torque vectoring;
- +1 5 Drive Modes: Slippery, Normal, Eco, Sport, Deep Snow+Sand w/ corresponding virtual gauge cluster
- 7.3″-inches clearance = Inclement weather beater & dirt road, light mud treader
HOW ROADWORTHY: The series parallel 2.5L DOHC inline-4 gas engine to hybrid electric motor is best said as inobtrusive, not unlike current Toyota Synergy hybrid offerings. The PowerShift continuously variable transaxle can’t be faulted for smooth moves. However, highway overtaking is a quarterback’s long bomb without the pass rush. Nonetheless, fuel economy is the game and among the FHEV competition the latest Ford Escape hybrid is a champion.
Where the 2020 Escape SE Hybrid impresses is in a truly compliant urban ride despite the 19″ wheels. Body composure is effectively a softened raised Euro sportback. It neither begs for or minds being thrown into a sudden maneuver. Steering resistance is nicely firmed up though the regenerative braking offends pedal modulation. The inside is effectively isolated from outside sounds, thus amplifying a smattering of hard cabin panel creaks.
HOW FAR: 38 combined miles per gallon rated, 520 miles highway range
2021 Ford Escape SE Hybrid AWD = +9% combined fuel economy vs Toyota Venza Hybrid AWD
- -1 No dedicated EV mode
HOW BIG/ LITTLE: √ 5 Occupant seating, 2nd Row provides 2 average size grown-ups enough space; -1 Sharp raked roofline bites into 2nd Row headroom.
2021 Ford Escape SE Hybrid Cargo Volume (nominal / maximum)
= +4% / -11% vs. Honda CR-V Hybrid; -9% / -13% vs. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
HOW USEFUL: √ 60:40 split flat folding 2nd Row tilting seatbacks; √ Sub-cargo floor storage; √ Cargo bay bag hooks x 2; √ Power liftgate;
- +1 Deep center armrest; Large lower center stack wireless device tray
- -1 Distant reach to glove box; -1 No remote cargo bay 2nd row seatback fold releases;
- +/- Tow Rating: 1500 pounds = 57% < Escape 2.0T AWD; -250 lbs vs. Toyota RAV4 Hybrid
HOW SAFE: STANDARD: IIHS Top Safety Pick; √ 8 airbags; √ Rear camera w/ predictive grid; √ Audible rear park assist; √ Roll mitigation; √ MyKey restrictive access; Ford Co-Pilot360: √ Blind Spot, rear cross traffic Warning; √ Post collision S.O.S. alert; Lane Departure Warning & Steer Prevention; √ Forward collision, pedestrian detection warning w/ avoidance braking; -1 Dim headlights
- View Outwards: +1/- FORE: Low cowl, sail panel wing mirrors; + SIDE: Thin head rests, B-pillars; -1 REAR: short backlight
AVAILABLE (included in tester)
- Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist Plus: Full adaptive cruise control; Emergency evasive steering
- Automatic high beam headlamps
HOW PEOPLE FRIENDLY: The 2021 Ford Escape trades its predecessor’s stylish European compact cabin for a more conventional truck-like setting. Some lower center stack controls are buried a bit low for convenience. Otherwise the switch and instrument layouts are usefully traditional, though the full color TFT gauge cluster impresses. The dash top touch LCD infotainment without looks less stellar and lacks a remote dial. Synthetic leather feel and the contrast stitching depict luxury, but some dimpling of soft door panels and a few piano gloss black dash bezels along with coarser lower and cabin wall hard plastics depict industrial grade.
√ Heated, ActiveX synthetic hide trimmed sport front bucket seats, 10-way power driver’s; √ Tilt & telescoping, cross-stitched leather wrapped steering wheel; √ Automatic climate control; √ Easy access left lower dashboard dimmer & rotary light switch; √ Keyless entry, ignition; √ Power windows x 4, driver’s full express; √ 2nd Row privacy glass; Cupholders x 4, Door bottle holders x 4
- +1 Wind & road noise isolation; Row 2 60/40% split seatback recline
- -1 Dis-used safety belt buckle B-pillar rattle
Cool Gizmo(s): √ 12.3″ Drive mode variable color TFT virtual gauge cluster, with mountain range welcome, corresponding to drive modes; √ Panorama moonroof
Details Done Right: √ Soft dashtop, door arm & hand area inserts; √ Convincing ActiveX synthetic leather seating surface w/ rich contrasting stitching; √ Blue-green night switch illumination; √ Variable color cabin door, foot-well and console ambient illumination; √ Sun-wash resistant gauge binnacle;
Nearly Non-Descript: -1 Hardly any interior contrast; Uneven cabin panel gaps; Scuff prone cargo area dark hard plastics; Driver’s door window switches located too far forward
HOW “APP” -LICABLE: √ Dash-top 8.0″-inch Sync3 3-pane capacitive touch LCD infotainment screen; +1 Large icons; +1 Extensive voice commands; √ Voice learning hands-free communications; √ 7-speaker, 240 W w/ streaming audio & HD radio; √ Mobile powered Android Auto/ Apple Car Play application & navigation overlays; √ MyFord Apps Pandora streaming music mirror application; √ USB-A x 2, 12V x 2.
- √ Sirius XM (90 day trial); √ Sirius TravelLink traffic, weather, sports scores, movie listings, fuel prices, ski conditions apps (5 years); AT&T 4G LTE Wi-Fi (2GB trial)
- +1 Illuminated smart USB ports; Versatile voice commands
- -1 Could benefit from the improved menus and touch screen response of MyFord Sync4
HOW MUCH: $34,245 = 2021 Ford Escape SE Hybrid All-Wheel Drive
WHAT’S MISSING: Material contrast in the cabin & better panel fit
ANY COMPETITION: Honda Civic CR-V Hybrid: the capacious one; Toyota Venza Hybrid AWD: the luxurious one.