Over the course of its 22-year history, the Ford Escape compact SUV has evolved from boxy and rugged to sleek and civilized. New features for 2023 include refreshed exterior styling, the latest Ford Sync 4 infotainment interface, and a revised trim lineup with an ST-Line adding sporty exterior and interior touches.
Escape’s new lineup has six trim levels, listed here in ascending order of price: Base, Active, ST-Line, ST-Line Select, Platinum, and ST-Line Elite. A bunch of different powertrains are available: a 181-horsepower turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine, a 250-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and two hybrids including a plug-in.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard with gasoline engines, and a CVT (continuously variable automatic transmission) is paired with the hybrids.
Pricing starts at $29,495 including a $1,495 destination charge, for a Base model with front-wheel drive.
I drove the Escape Platinum AWD model, whose four-cylinder engine affords it the vigor not evidenced by the three-cylinder. Its fuel economy rating is still good, at 23 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined, but it falls an expected bit short of the three-cylinder’s 26/31/28 mpg with all-wheel drive.
The test car’s bottom line was enlarged appreciably by a couple of optional packages adding a panoramic vista roof, 19-inch dark wheels, an upgraded 13.2-inch infotainment display, 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, HD radio, head-up display and more.
Escape’s five-passenger interior is roomy, comfortable and practical. Using the second row, the area typically tightest in a compact SUV, as an example: headroom is 39.3 inches and legroom is 38.9 inches in the Platinum AWD model. Some other trims have another inch of legroom. A handy sliding second-row seat is standard on all models.
Cargo capacity behind the second-row seats is 34.4 cubic feet or 37.5 cubic feet, depending on the model, and the flat cargo floor is level with the rear bumper, making the loading and unloading of bulky items achievable with minimum effort.
Bins, cubbies and other stowage spaces are in good supply, including a taut net mounted on the passenger side of the center console, an area historically considered devoid of stowage potential.
The new infotainment system is a five-star achievement, providing all the info and ’tainment you could want, while keeping it straightforward and having a frustration-free touchscreen.
Escape’s urban-oriented design is attractive and sophisticated. Adding the ST-Line was a thoughtful move, giving fans of a more rugged look a great option, even if it’s just for show.
2023 FORD ESCAPE PLATINUM AWD
Base price, including destination charge: $38,960
Price as driven: $41,965
Mary Lowry is a member of the Motor Press Guild and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. She lives in Snohomish County. Vehicles are provided by automotive manufacturers as a one-week loan for evaluation purposes only. Manufacturers do not control content of the reviews.