The 2020 Ford Escape – A Game Changer In The Crossover Segment?

It’s almost becoming a cliche to say that crossovers are taking over the automotive world, but unfortunately it’s the reality we’re living in. For manufacturers, differentiating themselves from rival brands is crucial if they want to control a segment that shows no sign of slowing down in growth heading into next decade. Last year Toyota unveiled the completely redesigned RAV4 which is now in showrooms and already on the road. It’s debut was without a doubt impressive, but fast forward one year later and we’re once again presented with a crossover that sports a new look and built on an all new platform.

The 2020 Ford Escape made a grand entrance just before the New York Auto Show, and already excitement is building for the American manufacturer’s best selling crossover. In 2018 Ford announced they were fully committing to SUV’s, cutting the Focus, Fiesta, Fusion, and Taurus out of the lineup. Many journalists and consumers were concerned about Ford’s future and where the automotive world was heading, but with the list of upgrades that Ford has made to the Escape, next decade is looking bright for the brand out of Dearborn, Michigan.

Exterior

Completely redesigned, the Escape now looks sleek, sporty, and slightly more European. It’s been lengthened, lowered, and widened which is going to be noticeable once you step inside. At first glance the Escape now looks like a crossbreed between a Porsche and Tesla, and from the front fascia to the C-Pillar, it certainly looks like a baby Macan. With journalists expressing the same opinions, this could bode well for the 2020 model year.

Looking around back, I wouldn’t go as far to say that Ford took design elements from Toyota, but the taillights definitely remind me of the new RAV4, but at the same time they also look like they came off a Jeep Cherokee. From the photos and video that have been released, the entire body of the Escape is a teaser of what we can expect from the all new Lincoln Corsair, which will be unveiled in New York on April 17th.

Overall, the overhaul for the exterior was certainly needed. The last generation Escape’s body and design were very worn out and old, with only one minor facelift that enhanced the front fascia. For 2020, the Escape loses the boxiness and slightly bland appearance, which is why styling the crossover in a way that we liken it to a Porsche or Tesla was the right decision moving forward.

Interior

The bulk of the improvements for 2020 are found inside, and it’s here that emotions range from being impressed, surprised, to disappointed. Starting off with the what’s good, Ford will offer a 12.3 inch digital information display with graphics that appear to be on par with Honda. While not trying to sound like Captain Obvious, this implementation of technology the minute you get behind the wheel was certainly needed. American manufacturers have been late to the game when it comes to transitioning from analog to digital instrument panels, but from what we’ve seen, resolution quality seems to be quite good.

Also new is a repositioned 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system that is reminiscent to what you’d expect from Kia. The screen is no longer integrated into the dashboard, and instead is its own piece. What’s disappointing however is that Ford is still using the Sync 3 system for the start of a new generation. I was hoping that instead of a re-skinned infotainment system we’d get something new that would give Honda a run for its money. Yet while feeling a bit discouraged, Toyota’s infotainment system is also outdated, but with Ford committing to a new direction, I expected them to update every aspect of the interior.

Not surprising for 2020 is that Ford got rid of the gear shift lever and is replacing it with a rotary dial. We’ve already seen this transition in the Ford Edge, and by implementing a rotary dial they were able to add a wireless phone charger. So far I haven’t seen or heard anything about that being offered on the Escape, and instead it only appears that this decision was made to increase cargo space for storage compartments up front.

Adjustable Rear Seats

A strong selling point for consumers is the rear seats that now offer six inches of adjustability. Ford claims that when the seats are pushed back, the Escape offers more legroom than a Chevy Suburban which is really impressive. This adds practicality and versatility, especially for families or individuals constantly on the go because if there’s no occupants in the back, that extra six inches of room can be used to maximize cargo room. This feature alone could draw in buyers, and for the tall people in your life, you won’t have to hear them complain about being cramped in the back during a long road trip.

New Engine Options and the Return of Hybrid Technology

Starting off with the old, the 2020 Escape will offer the 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that puts out 250 hp and 275 lb ft of torque, which is a slight increase in power from last generation. All new is a 1.5L Ecoboost 3 cylinder engine, which is definitely surprising. Normally we’ll see smaller four cylinder options here in the United States, while other global markets receive the 3 cylinder engine. For performance you can expect 180 hp and 177 lb ft of torque. Both engine options just listed will be paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission.

When it comes to the all new hybrid engines available, both will be 2.5L 4 cylinders, with one being fully hybrid and the other being a plug in. Ford claims that the full hybrid version will have a fuel range of over 550 miles which is very impressive. Hopefully we can find out if that fuel range is accurate, as it does seem a bit high and ambitious. For the plug in variant, you’ll get 209 hp and an electric charge of about 30 miles.

Is The 2020 Escape A Game Changer?

At the end of the day, the all new Escape will put Ford back into contention against Toyota, Honda, and Nissan who all outsold the Escape in its segment. The updates that were made to the exterior bring a sporty, youthful, and fun vibe to a crossover that became quite bland near the end of its cycle. To have a Tesla and Porsche appearance makes this vehicle relevant to most consumers, and at least on paper, makes the Escape an affordable option for a buyer whose budget can’t get them a Porsche Macan.

However, it’s the interior updates that I think will be the prime selling points for most buyers in the United States. The updated digital instrument panel, a more upscale interior, and the six inches of adjustability for the rear seats will resonate best with Ford loyalists and also new consumers as well. The complete overhaul was executed perfectly by Ford, and the changes they made now put the American manufacturer in a good spot heading into a decade.

With Ford continuing to tweak their lineup, there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation for what’s coming on the horizon. The Bronco’s return is right around the corner, a four door Mustang is in the works, and even an off-road variant of the Escape can’t be ruled out. If Ford does this right, they’ll put Honda and Toyota on notice for the beginning portion of the 2020’s.

Is Toyota The Most Unappreciated Brand Right Now?

For almost 17 years after Toyota ceased production of the Supra, the Japanese brand that once captured the attentions of younger consumers by offering more affordable sports cars became known as the most boring brand in the country. The stark difference from the 90’s and 2000’s were apparent as the lineup became primarily geared toward consumer vehicles and looking to the future with the Toyota Prius. It wasn’t until around 2017 that hope was rekindled within the car community, and that there were signs of exciting cars coming on the horizon.

When Scion closed it’s doors, the GT86 and Corolla iM, which is now the Corolla hatchback, joined the Toyota lineup in the United States ushering in a significant change for the brand, not only when it came to performance, but also appearance.

2018 Toyota Camry XSE

This all really begins in the fall of 2017 when the completely redesigned Camry started to hit showrooms across the country. The new XSE V6 trim would offer 301 hp with paddle shifters to go along with an optional two-toned exterior and red leather sports seats. Toyota lowered the roof which widened the interior, increasing shoulder room and giving the Camry more of a sports sedan feel rather than being a mid-size four door family car. Not present on most vehicles in the Toyota lineup, an aggressive black mesh grille added to the sporty appeal, which is something we hadn’t seen in many years. And also hidden in the fine print, an optional 360 degree surround view camera was offered, making the Camry one of the first sedans under $40k to have this feature. So not only is this the beginning of a new age for Toyota when it comes to performance, but technological advancements inside the cabin of their vehicles are slowly becoming present.

2019 Toyota RAV4
2019 Toyota RAV4

Then on the last week of March at the 2018 New York Auto Show, Toyota unveils their redesigned, rugged, and masculine RAV4, immediately drawing attention from automotive journalists. This crossover that was once your average family hauler, now takes on the appearance of a Jeep with square wheel arches but also has subtle design cues taken from Lexus as well. The new RAV4 has received some high praise over the last 6-8 months as some have crowned it the best crossover in it’s segment, which is arguably a very accurate statement when you look at the competitors. What’s setting Toyota and some Japanese automotive brands apart from the rest is that they’re getting creative and edgy with designs, whereas the Americans and even some German brands are becoming far too conservative in a time when innovation and change is being welcomed with open arms.

The RAV4 now looks like it’s the most off-road capable ever in it’s history, and with a variety of different trims like the Adventure and XSE hybrid, fun and higher quality appearances is the theme moving forward. But also, they’re staying relevant during the changes in consumer demands as performance and luxury are two aspects that car buyers want, at least for the foreseeable future.

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

A few minutes earlier, the all new Corolla Hatchback was unveiled intriguing many fans of the manual transmission as it’s optional on the 2019 model. While the small 2 liter four cylinder engine that puts out 168 hp and 151 lb ft of torque isn’t exciting many younger drivers, it is however a throwback to the Japanese hatchbacks of the 90’s with a twist of modern features like 18″ alloy wheels, leather trimmed sport seats, and apple car play and Amazon Alexa compatibility on the XSE trim. While the Corolla hatchback may not be the most exciting car that Toyota has added in the last 2-3 years, they’re at least trying to appeal to car enthusiasts of all ages and that deserves some admiration.

This all leads us to 2019 and the new Toyota Supra. Did they really need BMW’s help to bring back the iconic sports car? Absolutely not. In fact, Toyota is more than capable of tackling this project on their own. However from recent history, they collaborated with Subaru to create the GT86, so it’s not really surprising that they’d look to a German manufacturer to produce the 2020 Supra.

Personally, I think Toyota has taken far too much criticism over the last few weeks, and car enthusiasts should take into consideration where this brand was just a mere 5 years ago. Not many people can honestly claim they foresaw the significant changes the brand was going through, and with rumors of a new MR2 and Celica possibly being on the horizon, car lovers should embrace Toyota for what they’re doing in a time when rivals like Ford are getting rid of sedans and hatchbacks.

At the end of the day judgment should be reserved until track tests and real life driving reviews begin to get released by automotive journalists. After we see how the new Supra performs, then criticism, skepticism, and disapproval can be voiced.