By on April 9, 2019

Image: Ford

Ford is anything but a conversation killer these days. Love their ideas or hate them, the boys and girls at the Blue Oval seem pretty confident that they know what works in the near automotive future.

One ploy is the bold step of splitting a model in two. No longer will one mainstream crossover attempt to be most things to most people. Instead, you’ll get the Escape, newly urbanized for the 2020 model year, and a similar-sized (but not shaped) platform mate gunning for a more rugged set of buyers. Two vehicles, one brand, one segment.

If this becomes a trend, where should it strike next?

We’ve told you about the 2020 Escape already, but Ford’s keeping details of its so-called “Baby Bronco” under wraps for now. Designed to capitalize on the upcoming body-on-frame Bronco, the smaller, Euro Focus-based compact crossover will apparently do its best to mimic its larger, more capable brother.

One hopes there’s more to it than just squared-off Bronco-esque proportions and prodigious body cladding. We saw what happened when Toyota took its RAV4 and gave it the TRD treatment. Leg day at the gym, essentially. Toyota’s RAV4 TRD boasts the same ground clearance and overhangs as the RAV4 Adventure, with sturdier shocks and meatier tires to make the markup worthwhile.

Image: Ford

Even after being contacted, Ford wouldn’t fill us in on the 2020 Escape’s ground clearance, which wasn’t listed in a spec sheet that touted the revamped model’s car-like prowess and cargo-carrying, gas station-dodging versatility and efficiency. In terms of traversing rocks, it’s hard to say where the starting point in this Jekyll and Hyde two-fer really is. Suffice it to say, the Baby Bronco can’t hack it on looks alone; real off-road capability had best be in the offing.

If Ford pulls in more buyers with two versions of what’s essentially the same vehicle, industry rivals make take note. Looking around the auto landscape, where else do you see this strategy paying off? More specifically, where do you want to see it pulled off?

Which model deserves an alter ego?

[Images: Ford Motor Company]

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45 Comments on “QOTD: Where to Bump Up the Brawn?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    This is not uncharted territory, this is exactly what Jeep did with the Renegade/Compass/FIAT 500 platform. Each is geared toward a different customer, but basically the same vehicle and price point. It seems to be working for FCA I don’t see why it won’t work for Ford. Just don’t make the “rugged” Baby Bronco a trim package, it must have real off-road capabilities or people will avoid it

  • avatar
    redapple

    The new Escape looks like somebody pumped up and inflated a focus.
    PS- The new RAV 4 – tiny 1″ by 1″ brake light. Bad. And were they trying for a floating roof and gave up 1/2 thru????

    NO BUY.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      That’s what it suppose to look like, it’s Ford’s new idea of a sedan, a raised hatchback

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        LIE
        OK. But I still dont get it.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        I actually like the new Escape quite a bit. Then again, given that Ford appears to be going with “raised sedans,” and I’m a car guy, that probably makes sense. The entire rabble of fake-butch CUVs has zero appeal to me. Do a ST version with 250+ hp, and an uprated suspension, and I’d be interested.

        • 0 avatar
          Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

          I like the new Escape as well, though when scrolling past this article earlier I assumed that nose belonged to a new Kia.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            RE: New Escape…

            THE WAGON IS BACK BABY!

            (I’d be shocked if the new Escape has much more than 6 in ground clearance. For reference a new Camry is a bit over 5.)

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            No ground clearance? No problem. At least the new Escape’s not pretending to be something it’s not. If you want a SUV that will actually work off-road, buy a 4Runner, or a Wrangler. But I have to laugh when I see these “my CR-V is rough ‘n ready” ads – the thing’s a freakin’ Civic that’s just harder to see around.

            There’s something to be said for authenticity.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @FreedMike

            I didn’t say it was a BAD thing.

            I swear my wife’s 2016 Terrain has LESS ground clearance than her 2005 Vibe.

            But it’s Mom’s Taxi, so who cares.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “(I’d be shocked if the new Escape has much more than 6 in ground clearance. For reference a new Camry is a bit over 5.)”

            I read that the new Escape has slightly more clearance then the outgoing Escape which has 7.9″ of clearance, so, we’ll see

        • 0 avatar
          formula m

          Actually the CRV is one of a few vehicles in this segment that is built on a dedicated chassis designed as a utility vehicle. Not a civic/car platform that’s been altered like the Rav4.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            @Dan – you probably took what I was saying the wrong way. There’s nothing wrong with a family hauler not pretending to be a Hummer. I’d actually prefer it that way, matter of fact – a lower center of gravity helps handling.

            @formula m
            Everything I’ve read indicates the CR-V and Civic are based on the same platform.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Freed

            I concur.

            https://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/road-tests/a27072687/2019-buick-regal-tourx-road-test-review/

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            And what I can’t figure out (and maybe it’s because I’m an enthusiast, and know all the ins and outs of this stuff, especially as a self-confessed Honda fanboi) is why someone who would buy an Accord would make that step down to a Civic “wagon” on stilts! (Or why a Civic intender would step down to an HR-V, which is a slightly raised Fit with different packaging!)

            Had a 2018 HR-V as a service loaner for the last couple days. Good fuel mileage and HUGE speedometer (except that it doesn’t have marks between the fives, which trips me up at highway speeds and I’ll drive 70 when I THINK it says 75) are pluses, as is the reduced height, which isn’t as high as a typical C/SUV, but a slightly raised car, and the CVT is even tolerable, though when you back off the throttle when getting to cruising speed, the CVT seems to “surge ahead” a couple extra mph. Unfortunately, everything else about the vehicle is just awful! The N/A 1.5, while probably adequate in the Fit, is overmatched In the slightly bigger and taller platform sibling; an N/A 2.0 or 1.5T (like they can get in Europe and Japan) would be a welcome change!

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Yeah. And lower it to the height of a Focus. Now we’re talking.

  • avatar
    salmonmigration

    I would say people aren’t shallow enough to care about so-called brawny offroad styling, but then again I remember what comes up if you go on a Silverado forum and search for “Ridgeline”.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Criticizing someone for preferring brawny off-road styling is just as bad as those people who criticize “girly”/soft styling.

      Preferring the latter isn’t being any less shallow than preferring the former.

  • avatar
    salmonmigration

    I would say people aren’t shallow enough to care about so-called brawny offroad styling, but then again I remember what comes up if you go on a Silverado forum and search for “Ridgeline”.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I’d like to see the Lexus RC, but stripped down a bit feature wise, with a foced induction 6 cylinder, be it a V or inline 6, available manual transmission, and Supra badges. Either that or an 86 with a nicer interior, above engine, and said Supra badges. Should be easy…not like they’d be rebodying a BMW or something.

    Additionally, if like to see the Mustang given the original Cougar treatment. Give me that 3 inch wheelbase stretch and a usable back seat. Call it a Thunderbird for all I care.

    Keep the Versa Note, make it handle, give me a motor that likes to rev and is in the 200 hp range and affix SE-R badges. I’ll also need a fit with this treatment and SI badges but it will need an NA high revving motor.

    And while I’m at Nissan, give me the 370z, but affix twin turbos and give me a poor man’s GT-R. Bonus points if it looks like a Z32 model. I’ll pay “market adjustment” if the advertising features Van Halen.

    They are building a Jetta with the GTI treatment so mark that off the list.

    Lastly, I’ll need a Camaro with IROC badges and T Tops.

  • avatar
    arach

    So… kind of like the Subaru Crosstrek?

  • avatar
    NG5

    Crazy idea but bear with me: take the platform that the Ecosport is on, update it, lower it, make it into a sporty vehicle, tune it for handl- ahhh just kidding. Bring the next generation Ford Fiesta ST to America! I don’t want a fat car and a truck car. Give me a car or a truck.

    As long as the Bronco isn’t a rebadged Focus I am fine with dual duty in that segment. But I think this dual duty thing already applies to crossovers and cars, as I joked in the beginning. I like the Bronco. I wish the Escape was just a Focus.

  • avatar
    jack4x

    This is really the opposite of the question, but I can’t figure out why Mercedes hasn’t made a cheaper (but not too cheap) version of the G-class without all the offroad hardware. At least in the US, it has to be less than 5% of G wagons that ever touch more than a muddy road, so why bother with 3 locking differentials, solid axles, etc? Put the boxy styling on a crossover platform and watch the money roll in. If the concern is whether people will buy an inauthentic Mercedes, I would say the fact that the CLA/GLA is sold with a straight face tells you all you need to know about that.

    As for me personally, I’d love to see an authentically off-road capable version of the Tahoe/Suburban. Maybe not full Raptor, but a small lift, aggressive tires, better suspension, and removal of all the ugly plastic air dams.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      Sounds like you’re talking about the upcoming GLB. You won’t have to wait long.

      https://www.carscoops.com/2019/02/2020-mercedes-benz-glb-everything-know-boxy-looks-tech-engines/

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Anecdotally, but I swear 90% of the G-classes I see are AMG’s – I don’t think they have any trouble achieving the volumes they want (plus, keeping a few authentic models around keeps just enough credibility).

      That said, I’d love to see the G350 Professional that the rest of the world gets (the more utilitarian G-wagen), but it’d still be too rich for me, so I know I’m irrelevant.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Brawn” doesn’t necessarily mean off-road chops – something like an Escape ST would pique my interest. As it is, the uplevel versions are going to come with the 2.0T, which is good for about 220 hp, so this might be a fairly legit sleeper.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Toyota’s RAV4 TRD boasts the same ground clearance and overhangs as the RAV4 Adventure”

    “Designed to capitalize on the upcoming body-on-frame Bronco”

    But the TRD RAV4 is essentially just a trim, this “baby bronco” is a completely different platform than Escape. How do you reconcile this comparison?

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      RAV4 Adventure…when a regular RAV4 isn’t ballsy enough to handle the drive-through at Starbucks.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      The “baby Bronco” is not BOF, it’s on the Focus/Escape platform.

      The “regular” Bronco is the BOF one, and I guess the baby is going to take styling cues from it. Hopefully more of a performance upgrade than the RAV4 TRD but I wouldn’t count on it…

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Automakers have been re-bodying for decades, although more commonly between sister divisions rather than within the same brand. It was bound to come to utilities eventually.

  • avatar
    Steve203

    Someone already mentioned the Jeep Compass/Patriot twins, so I’ll point out that, when the second gen Compass was born, FCA didn’t blow money on another Patriot twin.

    Mercury, Plymouth, DeSoto, Olds and Pontiac were all killed because they were nothing but a few different styling bits stuck on a platform already used by another division.

    Having two or more CUVs on the exact same platform seems to be a great way to dramatically increase development and tooling costs, with little to no gain as the models each will take sales from will probably be the models they share the showroom with. Notice that, post-bankruptcy, most FCA dealers carry both Dodge and Jeep in the same showroom, and there have not been any Dodge versions of Jeep SUVs introduced since the Durango. No Caliber replacement. No Nitro replacement. No Dodge version of the Renegade.

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      I think you have it backwards. Having two distinct models that are mechanically similar but that appeal to very different audiences is a great way to increase sales with minimal investment. I think Ford has it right for a change.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve203

        “I think you have it backwards. Having two distinct models that are mechanically similar but that appeal to very different audiences is a great way to increase sales with minimal investment. ”

        Ford had that with the current Escape and the Focus. They dropped the Focus in the US.

        The new Escape looks like a raised Focus. As the Kuga in Europe, it will be in the same showroom as the raised “Focus Active”. So, will the “baby Bronco” also be offered in Europe, so they have 3 different iterations of the same CUV in the same showroom?

        As the Escape looks like a raised Focus, I suspect that it will bomb in the US as most people will opt for the “baby Bronco”, assuming it has that big, bulky, look, that people seen to want.

        • 0 avatar
          Rocket

          The new Escape has far more interior space than a Focus, and it sits higher. In other words, it has the two things people are giving up conventional cars for. That the Escape appeals less to “truck folks” is a good thing with the Baby Bronco on the way. You predict failure. I predict success, with combined sales growing considerably over Escape-only numbers.

          • 0 avatar
            Steve203

            “You predict failure. I predict success, with combined sales growing considerably over Escape-only numbers.”

            We shall see. I will leave you with a parting thought. The Fiat 500X and Jeep Renegade are the same car, built in the same plant. The 500X looks like a raised hatchback, the Renegade looks like a boxy truck. Last year, FCA sold 97,062 Renegades vs only 5,223 500Xs. Of the 5 Fiat dealers in my area, the one where 500Xs are most firmly anchored on the lot is the one where Fiats are in the same showroom as Jeeps, with (5) 2017 500Xs in stock, vs (0) 2017 Renegades.

            As to your sales comparison proposition; with the assertion that the raised hatchback Escape will attract passenger car buyers, while the “baby Bronco” will attract CUV buyers, you will need to combine previous Focus and Escape numbers to compare to new Escape plus “baby Bronco” numbers. The total that Escape plus “baby Bronco” numbers would have to beat, for 2017, last full year of Focus production, is 158,385 plus 308,296 or 466,681. For 2018, with Focus production ending in May and inventory being run off, Focus sales were 113,345, down 28%. Did people who didn’t buy a Focus move to an Escape? Nope. Escape sales were down 11.7%, to 272,228. For Q1 2019, Focus sales were down 70% to 10,349. Did people then get an Escape instead? Nope. Escape sales were down 9.9%, to 60,702.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Since the new Escape is replacement for both the Fusion and the existing Escape, I’d say they nailed it.

    For those who prefer a more rugged look, there will be a baby Bronco CUV.

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Do not know what is taking so long to release the new Bronco? It suppose to be in dealer showrooms now in 2022 while the baby Bronco will be released in 2020 for 2021 dealer showrooms. The new Bronco was announced by Ford back in 2014 and was suppose to be in showrooms right now!

    • 0 avatar
      Rocket

      It was the UAW that outed the Bronco early. As for what’s taking so long, it’s going to be built on the next generation Ranger platform, which wasn’t even under development at the time.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    Here’s one I’d like to see. A new Fiero. Mid-engine, 2500 lbs and powered by the 330 hp V6 from the Camaro. Make the platform versatile enough so that it can also handle a mid-engine sedan, a la the Corvair.


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