By on September 19, 2019

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid faces the same problem as its gas-engined sibling: Styling.

That’s the bad news for Ford. The good news is that this particular hybrid doesn’t sacrifice too much of the gas Escape’s fun-to-drive factor in the search for better fuel economy.

(Full disclosure: Ford flew me to Louisville, Kentucky and fed and housed me so that I could drive the new Escape. The company also offered a bourbon tasting and allowed journalists to participate in a fake horse-race betting game. I did not partake in the latter, as I have already lost enough real money on horse racing).

As I wrote earlier this week, the new 2020 Escape, while styled controversially, is among the more engaging compact crossovers when it comes to how it drives. That mostly carries over to the hybrid model.

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

Not only is Ford offering a “regular” hybrid (SE Sport and Titanium trim), there’s also a plug-in model on hand for SE, SEL, and Titanium trims.

The hybrid system involves a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an electronic continuously variable automatic transmission. With front-wheel drive, the “regular” hybrid has an estimated combined 200 system horsepower and 152 lb-ft of torque (when using gas), and Ford is claiming an electric-only top speed of 85 mph. Ford also says the plug-in will boast up to 30 miles of electric-only range before needing to switch back to burning dead dinos. In front-wheel drive form, the standard hybrid will offer a range of over 550 miles.

[Get new and used Ford Escape prices here!]

In a bid to avoid eating into the vehicle’s rear cargo volume (a la Fusion Energi), Ford shifted the system’s lithium-ion battery beneath the floor.

Different drive modes allow the driver to let the car decide whether to run on electric or gas, or to dispense with gas altogether. The driver can also choose to power the Escape with gas only, saving electric power for later. Finally, a plug-in specific mode allows the driver to charge the battery while driving, generating electric power that can be used at a later time.

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

I didn’t see 85 mph in electric mode in the SE Sport with front-wheel drive I drove, in part because I was driving in traffic on suburban roads, and in part because I had the vehicle in Sport mode. Do that, and the Escape won’t do EV-only.

That’s fine – like with the gas version, Sport mode made the already sprightly Escape a bit livelier. From a ride and handling perspective, I prefer this little ‘ute to one of its main rivals, the Toyota RAV4 hybrid.

For the most part, the Escape hybrid doesn’t drive drastically different from the gas-engined model. It’s a little slower to accelerate, but you can still pass and merge easily enough.

The SE Sport hybrid starts at $28,255, and the one I drove came equipped with 19-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, remote start, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, navigation, and satellite radio. Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 suite of driver-aid and safety tech is standard.

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

Final price? $32,345, including the $1,195 destination fee. The EPA hasn’t worked its fuel-economy magic on the hybrid yet.

Personally, I think I’d buy the 2.0-liter gas-engined Escape, since it was the most fun to wheel. But were I need of a hybrid and I was shopping in this class, I’d give the Escape a long look. It’s just more engaging to drive than the its Toyota rival.

The problem is “look.” I’m a bit put off by the anonymous styling; meanwhile, the RAV4 has newfound rugged looks that make it a head-turner for the first time in a while, if ever.

If you’re not bothered by the styling, or if the look appeals to you, then Ford has a hybrid that’s fun to drive on offer.

You can even order it with a plug.

Anonymity aside, there’s always room in the world for hybrid crossovers that don’t stink to drive. Toyota, take note.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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43 Comments on “2020 Ford Escape Hybrid First Drive – To Plug or Not to Plug...”


  • avatar
    dal20402

    Not sure why they’re bothering with the conventional hybrid when even a reduced tax incentive on the plug-in should cover the extra cost. That was the lesson of the C-Max Hybrid/C-Max Energi combo, where the Energi was the better deal pretty much the whole time C-Maxes were on the U.S. market.

    The plug-in ought to be a great ride for folks who do most of their driving in the city. If you mostly drive within electric range, you can go 1500 miles or more before refueling. I think we filled up our C-Max Energi 10 times over the entire three-year lease term.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The conventional hybrid is a better option for people that don’t have the ability to plug-in and it is also likely cheaper for Ford to build.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        That’s why I had no interest in the C-Max Energi so I ended up with the regular hybrid. It’s a nice concept, but you sure did lose a lot of cargo space with the Energi.

        I hope Ford rectified the cargo space problem with the new Escape.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      The C-Max Energi problem for many was how much cargo space the battery ate up. If this new Escape solves this problem with the under-seat location, I expect the plug-in version will be much more popular.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        The battery did rob some cargo room, but my C-Max Energi is still a roomy car by my humble standards. I could carry a half dozen guitars in cases and three small amps, for example, if my wife ever kicked me out. And that’s without using the roof cargo box. It’s been worth it to double the MPGs of our C-Max Hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryannosaurus

      Poor cargo space was why my wife said no to the plug-in C-Max. The extra large battery took up a significant amount of space. The regular hybrid had been great (averaging 40mpg with mostly rural highway driving). My only regret is the car doesn’t have a spare tire, just a can of fix-a-flat. The new hybrid Escape solves these problems and would be a good replacement if our C-Max got totaled.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Is the PHEV going to be 50 state available?

  • avatar

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I happen to think the RAV4 got hit with the ugly stick. The new Escape is rather attractive (grille subject to debate). The new Baby Bronco (if/when it comes out) should satisfy those who want a “rugged” look.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenn

      mjz wrote: “I happen to think the RAV4 got hit with the ugly stick.”

      ‘Same here. The more I see it, the more it looks to me as if Toyota started with the Jeep Cherokee shape, then tried to differentiate their RAV4. The details look forced, artificial, and clunky. This new Escape looks sleek, simple, and slippery (what used to be termed “organic”), with lots of glass area.
      As far as reviews go, I don’t need an auto reviewer telling me how a vehicle looks, as if he’s a qualified stylist; that’s what photos are for.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Degrees of ugly:
      – Brushed against an Ugly Twig
      – Hit with the Ugly Stick
      – Bumped into the Ugly Tree (the source of Ugly Sticks)
      – Ran through the Ugly Forest and hit every tree

  • avatar
    Brumus

    Still on this “styling” thing?

    I don’t find this unattractive at all and doubt the styling would be a deal-breaker for those looking at this.

    To me, the worst that could be said about the Escape’s appearance is it’s bland or inoffensive. Ugly? That would be a certain Honda product this competes with.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yes this doesn’t rise to the level of ugly. Just anonymous.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yeah much anymore “anonymous” is a breath of fresh air for me. I think this thing is actually pretty handsome.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        Buy one in an interesting color if you don’t want anonymity. The Escape had some wonderful colors of green & brownish orange. I can’t remotely understand why today’s stylists carve so many extraneous lines and slashes, only to hide them in dull, dark paint. It’s like wearing an overcoat over tatoos.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I agree that the looks are meh, but look around, most people don’t want their car to stand out. Bland sells, as long as it’s not stand-out ugly. The Escape’s styling isn’t a problem for most buyers.

      I like the Rav4, but I have penchant for vehicles that stand out from the herd. Full confession: former Honda Element owner. You probably do not want me in your focus group.

    • 0 avatar
      Boff

      I think it looks pretty sharp. In the top pic it is doing a pretty good impression of a Macan.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Now that i’ve seen a few more pics of the new Escape , it looks like Ford is going for a Model 3 look front end. Which, is fairly idiotic. Most 3 buyers aren’t buying them for the looks, but because its a Tesla.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    This has been a slow news week, front page is covered in Hybrid crossovers, and a couple union articles.

    Blech, is there nothing interesting happening in the auto world right now?

  • avatar
    redliner

    The styling is not “controversial”, it’s just plain. Neither ugly nor handsome.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Honda is adding a hybrid with the mid-cycle update of the CRV. A comparison of the Escape, RAV4, and CRV would be in order for any potential buyer.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    How ’bout this, Ford:

    Escape ST, with the 2.3 Ecoboost. Sell it for $35,000. I’d be interested.

    (By the way, about the styling…I think this is one of those cars that needs more expressive exterior colors – front end aside, the styling’s quite nice. Build one in that nice metallic red on the Ford site and you’ll see what I mean. )

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    Wow, a whole 152 torques. So can it even tow a loaded shopping cart?

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      If you are buying this to tow, you are driving nails with a torque wrench. It is the wrong tool. Ford (and other manufacturers) will happily sell you a more capable crossover for that task should you desire the capability. Doesn’t an Explorer get like a 5000 pound rating? This is just a compact station wagon.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    $33,000+ to just get the 2.0T on this is insane, considering you could once get lower trims with the 2L. Hard pass.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    With a few exceptions, this entire segment is the auto equivalent of having your nuts sliced off with a serrated food processor blade.

    Even if you go with a lux brand, it’s just a bland, boring ride. These seem to be nothing more than a 4 door, small minivan. Gawd I hate this segment. I’d rather have a minivan. It’s honest about what it’s doing. These aren’t.

    And this stupid thing is expensive! And cheap looking.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      +1,000,000

      How are there living breathing human beings paying $30,000+ for a turbo 4 cylinder minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I wouldn’t go THAT far, but these cars are all fairly bland. They’re not all created equal, though – I’d take this over, say, a RAV4 simply because this one isn’t offensive to look at and has some balls, while the RAV4 is ugly, loud and underpowered.

      But, yes, as Hummer says, what this segment boils down to is automakers figuring out how to extract $30,000 out of customers for reworked $20,000 compact sedans. It’s not the first time, though – not too long ago, they were extracting plenty of extra money from customers by making a base Malibu coupe with a landau roof and an opera window, and calling it “Monte Carlo.”

      At least these CUV things have AWD and a decent cargo area.

  • avatar
    Fliggin_De_Fluge

    Nothing ugly or controversial about the styling. Great job on the continuing clickbait content production though, people really appreciate it. I might say its as ugly as you think the new Escape is.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I agree, again, with those that say this is not controversial in the least. Anonymous, bland, boring I’d agree with those and those are not a bad thing in a mass market vehicle who’s target audience is people who aren’t looking to show-off or stand out, in other words the majority of CUV buyers.

    I do not for an instant thing that sport mode means it wont go into EV mode, all you have to do to put it into EV is to take your foot off of the accelerator pedal for about a second and then reapply gently. yeah you’ll need a SOC above ~20% too.

    It would be nice if Ford would release the MPG numbers, this and the Corsair are on the short list for the wife’s next car in the Plug-in version, if it does indeed make the 30mi range and has at least a 6.6 charger. Then the wife could make it to work and back on electricity alone and hopefully it can match her C-Max Energi’s fuel economy or at least come pretty darn close, though with a 30 mi range that is less of a deal breaker.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      It’s really hard to predict what an Energi’s mileage will be- it all depends on your proportion of EV use. I don’t expect the same MPGs from a shape with more ground clearance, but I’d love to be surprised. My current C-Max is showing 74 mpg for this year. If that dropped to 65, the actual gas savings would be fairly trivial, about a quart of gas every 100 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’m talking about the MPG with the battery discharged to the point it is in Hybrid mode. If anything this should cause your average MPG to rise thanks to the expected 30mi EV range.

  • avatar

    If you want stand out Escape you may want to take look at Lincoln Corsair.

  • avatar
    picard234

    Seems odd to do a review of a hybrid without mentioning MPG. What did the fancy digital cluster tell you?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Agreed if it is like any of the previous Ford Hybrids it will tell you the MPG of the trip as soon as you power down, in addition to the trip meters and life time running average.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    The design seems very clean compared to most of today’s designs. I actually think it looks very nice compared to most in the segment.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Please, TTAC, spare me your continuing critique of the styling. First of all, I drive a truly ugly C-Max, so I can accept most anything that works well. Secondly, don’t tell me how I’m supposed to feel about something few of has seen in the flesh. I’ll make up my own mind about styling, thanks, and others will disagree still.

    I have two objective questions for you expert reviewers about this vehicle.
    1) Did they add water cooling to the battery pack, for better longevity?
    2) Does it have my C-Max’s “DISP” button to turn off the central dash screen when it’s not needed? (For me, that’s 90% of the time.)

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