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2020 Ford Escape Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 7.9

The 2020 Ford Escape is completely redesigned, and it features an all-new powertrain lineup. You can choose from a turbocharged three-cylinder base engine and a turbocharged four-cylinder. (We review the Escape Hybrid separately.) With any of these, there is ample power for most driving situations, with the turbo-four providing the most energetic feel. The Escape has nimble handling and a comfortable ride. With the three-cylinder, it also gets good gas mileage.

  • "The suspension kept the Escape stable and flat, with very little body roll in quick maneuvers, and not much squat or dive when accelerating and braking hard. The steering was quick and direct in sport mode. There are also programmed modes for economy, snow and sand. The Escape's a taller, heavier vehicle than, say, a sporty Focus ST, so there are limits to what physics and good sense will allow you to do on public roads, but the SUV was considerably more fun to drive enthusiastically than I expected." -- The Detroit Free Press
  • "The [2.0-liter four-cylinder] engine is so smooth that you hardly feel any vibration during normal operation. It makes a fairly throaty rumble at full throttle, offering some gratification for those attempting to drive the crossover with a little enthusiasm. The engine's 250 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque proved to be ample to move the AWD-equipped car off the line. The Ford-developed eight-speed automatic transmission does good work to shuffle through the gears during moderate driving and to provide positive upshifts under harder acceleration, but when called upon to kick down, it occasionally hunts for gears." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost in the Titanium trim is quicker and more responsive than the turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder that comes standard in the base models. But even the smaller engine is more than adequate at moving the redesigned Ford Escape." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The Escape comes standard with a turbocharged EcoBoost three-cylinder engine that puts out 180 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Some reviewers say this engine feels a little underpowered, but most think it moves the Escape well, and it delivers surprisingly good acceleration. It also has a cylinder-deactivation feature, which shuts down one of the cylinders in order to improve fuel economy while cruising.

A turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque is available. The base engine is plenty capable, but this turbo-four is even more potent. It delivers noticeably quicker acceleration, and it makes the Escape more fun to drive.

An eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard with both engines. Unlike the more refined transmissions in some rivals, it occasionally has to hunt for the correct gear.

According to EPA estimates, the Escape gets 27 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with its base engine. Those are some of the best ratings in the class.

  • "Overall acceleration from the three-banger is strong, too, and it has a lively exhaust note once revved up. This engine includes a cylinder-deactivation feature – and we mean a feature that deactivates one cylinder – when cruising, but our time behind the wheel with the three was so short we didn't have a chance to notice if it had activated." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The 250-hp turbo four makes this ute quicker than it needs to be. … Throttle tip in is quick, turbo lag is minimal unless you really smash the pedal and shifts from the eight-speed are usually fine. It did choose the wrong gear a few times, and maybe hiccuped when shifting a few other times. … With the eight-speed, the engine stays quiet too…" -- Autoweek
  • "We spent only a few miles at around-town speeds with the Escape's base powerplant, a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-three-cylinder, but it… came on quickly and relatively smoothly, seeming fully adequate for getting this compact ute up to a moderate pace. Which is a good thing, considering it is the only mill to be had on S and SE trim levels. … Far more compelling is the upgrade turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, which … allows the Escape to mingle easily with traffic and overtake on the highway. While not exactly exhilarating in outright performance, throttle response is quite good, and its overall refinement should make Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 drivers envious." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

This Ford may not rival the Mazda CX-5 – generally regarded as the king of driving enjoyment in this class – but it handles as well as almost every other compact SUV, or better. It's not just fun to drive, but it also provides a composed yet comfortable ride, even over rough roads. There are five modes to choose from that alter driving dynamics to your liking. Front-wheel drive comes standard; all-wheel drive is available.

  • "Speaking of driving, the Escape generally offers excellent driving dynamics for a mainstream vehicle. Even on some rougher pavement, the solid structure works … to provide a quiet and comfortable ride. Body control is excellent even with the passive dampers. Pushed hard into corners, the tires stay fairly quiet except at the very limit of adhesion. The Escape is responsive and goes exactly where you point it with the steering wheel." -- Forbes
  • "The brake pedal in both gas and hybrid models is reassuringly firm and easy to modulate; the electrically assisted steering is dull in feedback yet welcomingly precise; and body control from the strut front and multilink rear suspension is well-managed around corners for something this compliantly sprung. The Mazda CX-5 has no chance of being dethroned as the driver's choice in this segment, but the Ford strikes a commendable balance of comfort and capability, and it is calmingly quiet inside." -- Car and Driver
  • "… the Escape feels confident and surefooted. It's not as fun to toss around as the enthusiast-favorite Mazda CX-5, but the chassis is stiff and the suspension is just on the firm side of comfortable (much as the outgoing Escape's was), making it one of the more engaging options in its segment." -- Autoblog
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2020 Ford Escape

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