We drove every Escape engine variant to find the pros and cons of each
The new 2020 Ford Escape is here, with three engines to choose from. Holding down the base is a 1.5-liter turbocharged I-3 (yes, a three-cylinder engine). Next up comes a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. Finally, there’s a hybrid motivated by a battery and 2.5-liter I-4; a plug-in hybrid will come at a later date. We drove the hybrid, 1.5, and 2.0 and found that each offers markedly different dynamics and performance.
Among the 2020 Ford Escape and its engine options, one is probably best for you—but which?
2020 Ford Escape 1.5-Liter 3-Cylinder EcoBoost: Pros
It’s a triple! Yes, Ford lopped off a cylinder for the entry-level Escape engine. Don’t discount this little mill just because of its unusual cylinder count. It might provide everything you need if you’re eyeing the Escape.
To be specific, this EcoBoost engine is a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder with direct injection, producing 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. It’s connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is optional.
If you’ve never driven a three-cylinder, don’t be concerned: You’ll find this one performs similarly to four-cylinders you’re more accustomed to. Power output is in line with some competitors’ base I-4 engines, as is its 8.4-second 0–60 mph time.
From behind the wheel, the 1.5-liter EcoBoost delivers sufficiently. It feels fine around town and can carry highway speeds with no problem.
2020 Ford Escape 1.5-Liter 3-Cylinder EcoBoost: Cons
In a nutshell, more cylinders mean better smoothness. A three-cylinder engine doesn’t deliver power strokes evenly, and more attuned drivers might detect vibrations created by the inherent imbalance. In our First Test, we found that under brisk acceleration, “you may hear what sounds like TV static from the front of the car.”
On that note, power figures alone don’t tell the whole story. What matters more is how power is—or isn’t—delivered. The 1.5-liter EcoBoost makes much of its juice up top, meaning you really have to get into the pedal to keep it moving. That doesn’t provide a particularly relaxed, effortless driving experience.
Fuel economy is fine but not stupendous, especially considering the small displacement and novel cylinder deactivation system. Front-drive models are rated at 27/33 mpg (8.7/7.1 L/100 km) city/highway, while all-wheel-drive versions are expected to return 26/31 mpg (9/7.6 L/100 km) city/highway. Again, comparable but not necessarily better than some class competitors.
2020 Ford Escape 2.0-Liter 4-Cylinder EcoBoost: Pros
Ford scales displacement proportionally for the Escape’s upgrade EcoBoost engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with direct injection. It’s quite a bit more powerful, making 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque.
That extra grunt is immediately evident. It simply makes the Escape feel quicker; less effort is needed to get the car up to speed. The numbers prove it, too, with a 6.9-second 0–60 mph run. An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission.
However, all-wheel drive is standard, so traction is improved in slippery and loose conditions. It also enables some legitimate towing capability: up to 3,500 pounds (1,587 kg).
2020 Ford Escape 2.0-Liter 4-Cylinder EcoBoost: Cons
Again, how power is delivered tells the story. The engine itself doesn’t have much turbo lag, but the transmission needs time to think. It always shifts to the highest gear possible to save fuel, so when pressing the gas pedal, there’s a delay as it decides which ratio is best for the situation. Reactions, then, aren’t the best; the 2.0-liter EcoBoost might feel quicker but no sportier.
Unsurprisingly, fuel economy isn’t as good as it is for as the smaller engine. The four-cylinder EcoBoost is expected to earn a 23/31 mpg (10.2/7.6 L/100 km) city/highway EPA rating. That’s actually a bit ahead of similarly powerful but quicker segment competitors, so it perhaps shouldn’t quite be considered a negative, just something to be aware of as you compare the pros and cons of 2020 Escape models.
2020 Ford Escape Hybrid: Pros
After an eight-year hiatus, the Ford Escape Hybrid returns. It now features a compact, liquid-cooled 1.1-kW-hr battery pack to assist a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4 engine linked to a CVT. Ford says the switch from air cooling allows the battery to be smaller yet more effectively implemented into the drive cycle.
Whereas earlier Escape Hybrids had battery packs shoehorned into the cargo area or behind the second row, Ford engineers worked to integrate this new unit into the platform from the get-go. About the size of a briefcase and weighing just under 60 pounds (27 kg), it’s now tucked under the floor so it doesn’t eat up interior volume.
Fuel economy is slated to be somewhere near 40 combined mpg (5.9 L/100 km). Ford also targets a 550-mile (885-km) range between fill-ups. If you drive gently, the Escape Hybrid can operate on electric-only power and in the right circumstances will sustain speeds of up to 85 mph (137 km/h) without the engine.
But how does it drive? About as well as its EcoBoost counterparts—in fact, it’s probably the Escape to get. The CVT might actually provide slightly better reactions than the oft-confused eight-speed. Brake pedal feel, a common gripe on hybrid vehicles, seems well sorted here; there’s no awkward transition point between regenerative and friction brakes.
2020 Ford Escape Hybrid: Cons
Any smoothness the electric motor and CVT provide is undone by the Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter engine. Of the three on offer, it seems the roughest and noisiest, slightly oxymoronic given the application. We’re being picky, though. Thanks in part to its new smoothed-out body, the 2020 Escape is largely free of wind noise and is a generally quiet place to be.
There’s no denying performance is less than its turbocharged counterparts. With a combined output of 200 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, it’s down on power compared to the 2.0-liter turbo, and its 8.7-second 0–60 mph run is a blink behind the triple. Regardless, if you’re looking for a sporty, fun crossover, there are others we’d recommend before any Escape.
Although the Escape Hybrid offers the lineup’s best efficiency for now, the plug-in version set to arrive next year will only improve it. Its 14.4-kW-hr battery pack should provide a better mpg rating and legitimate all-electric range. However, unlike the standard hybrid, it won’t be available with all-wheel drive: That larger battery interferes with the rear-axle driveshaft.
Check out our analysis of pricing, trims, and options on the 2020 Ford Escape configurator.
|2020 Ford Escape SE 1.5T||2020 Ford Escape SE Hybrid AWD||2020 Ford Escape Titanium 2.0T AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$28,885||$34,840||$39,775|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||1.5L/181-hp/190-lb-ft turbo DOHC 12-valve I-3||2.5L/168-hp/170-lb-ft Atkinson cycle DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus elec motor; 200 hp comb||2.0L/250-hp/280-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||Cont variable auto||8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,314 lb (59/41%)||3,773 lb (58/42%)||3,714 lb (58/42%)|
|WHEELBASE||106.7 in||106.7 in||106.7 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||180.5 x 74.1 x 66.1 in||180.5 x 74.1 x 66.1 in||180.5 x 74.1 x 66.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.4 sec||8.7 sec||6.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.6 sec @ 84.5 mph||16.7 sec @ 84.7 mph||15.3 sec @ 89.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||128 ft||122 ft||123 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.78 g (avg)||0.77 g (avg)||0.76 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.2 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)||28.3 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)||27.7 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||27/33/30 mpg||Not yet tested||Not yet tested|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||125/102 kW-hr/100 miles||Not yet tested||Not yet tested|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.66 lb/mile||Not yet tested||Not yet tested|