ANN ARBOR, Mich. — I’ve all the time preferred the present Ford Escape and have been in a position to look previous its flaws, mainly uninspired appears to be like and drab interiors, in favor of its respectable driving dynamics and general sensible execution inside the small SUV section. Its refresh for the 2023 mannequin yr helps clean a few of these tough edges out. It’s nonetheless nothing mind-blowing, and the Escape inhabits a mighty aggressive slice of the market, however the brand new ST-Line Elite trim solely reiterated why I like this car, and now it’s even simpler to suggest.
The 2023 Ford Escape will get refined exterior updates that go a protracted option to making this little crossover extra engaging. It sees probably the most enhancements up entrance, the place a brand new grille mimics the good-looking appears to be like of the Ford Edge, with even a whiff of Mustang Mach-E. The grille transforms in form from a goofy smile to a decided grimace, and is moved greater within the fascia with the Blue Oval positioned inside as an alternative of above (which is why it now appears to be like extra just like the Edge as an alternative of the European-market Focus). The brand new LED headlights — reflectors are customary, however greater trims get projectors — get a extra critical look to them, too. Our ST-Line Elite additionally has a recent mild bar spanning the width of the nostril beneath the hood (it appears to be like implausible at night time), which is a tad harking back to the thicker bar spanning the face of the F-150 Lightning. The hood can also be barely reshaped with extra distinguished creases.
That aforementioned ST-Line is a brand new look providing out there at totally different ranges throughout the revamped Escape trim lineup. The ST-Traces get a novel black mesh grille up entrance. Alongside the edges, they get physique shade cladding on the fenders and door moldings, versus the distinction black on different trims, in addition to small “ST-Line” badges. Our ST-Line Elite’s shiny black-painted wheels give a pleasant distinction to the Fast Crimson Metallic paint, as do the black window surrounds — different Escapes get chrome brightwork right here and never for the higher. In again, the ST-Line trims get a much bigger spoiler and a novel black skid plate. This Escape, with its tweaked entrance finish and new ST-Line appears to be like, exudes considerably extra athleticism than earlier than.
However, by way of efficiency, there’s truly nothing moreover athletic in regards to the 2023 Escape. The identical powertrain choices stay. A 1.5-liter EcoBoost (learn: turbocharged) inline three-cylinder engine, customary within the Base, Lively and ST-Line trim, produces 180 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, put to both the entrance or all 4 wheels by way of an eight-speed computerized transmission. ST-Line Choose, ST-Line Elite and Platinum trims get a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder providing 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, with all-wheel drive as customary. The ST-Line trim and up will also be had with a hybrid powertrain making a complete of 192 hp, and both front- or all-wheel drive. The Escape PHEV is now the range-topping trim, with a complete of 210 system hp and 37 miles of EV vary. It’s nonetheless solely out there with front-wheel drive.
The up to date Escape inside is highlighted by an out there 13.2-inch touchscreen infotainment show working Sync 4 software program. Along with being large and inconceivable to overlook, this new unit’s graphics are remarkably sharp, and the display is fast to reply. The rub right here is that lots of the controls you usually anticipate to have their very own laborious buttons at the moment are activated by the touchscreen. Local weather controls, seat heating and most audio controls stay there, however the ones that hold you heat or cool are completely docked on the backside of the display. There’s nonetheless a bodily quantity knob on the middle stack, in addition to the steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Decrease trims with the eight-inch touchscreen do get bodily controls for audio and HVAC. We will have a good time the truth that wi-fi Apple CarPlay and Android Auto at the moment are customary throughout the Escape lineup. The iPhone projection labored fairly nicely, with the HVAC controls nonetheless accessible alongside the underside of the show, and the Escape’s native residence display only a single, straightforward contact away. The latter is a giant enchancment for Ford – getting out of Apple CarPlay was once a irritating tap-tap-tap scenario.
Our tester was geared up with the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster (customary on ST-Line Elite and Platinum trims, which is simply as crisp and clear because the infotainment show. There was additionally the non-obligatory head-up show, nevertheless it’s a small piece of glass that pops up from the instrument panel hood, slightly than being projected onto the windshield. Regardless of its small measurement, it’s nonetheless fairly helpful, offering vital highway and car info in our line of sight. It’s a part of the Premium Expertise Bundle that moreover features a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, HD Radio, Ford’s Lively Park Help 2.0 (which helps you steer, speed up and brake into parking areas) and a set of snazzy leather-based seats. Customary on this trim is a wi-fi telephone charging pad within the cubby beneath the middle stack alongside each USB-A and USB-C ports.
The ST-Line trims get a pleasant flat-bottom steering wheel with purple stitching, whereas the tech bundle’s leather-based seats go the additional mile with perforated quilting that contributes to a very upscale feel and appear for an Escape. That’s welcome, for the reason that current-generation Escape inside has all the time been a letdown by way of model, supplies and ambiance. There are nonetheless loads of laborious plastics round you, however, greater than ever earlier than, your eyes and palms are drawn to the tech and the extra attention-grabbing textures. The stitching all through the cabin reinforces the sporty character in our tester, as do the carbon fiber-looking plastic trim items on the doorways and sprint. The inside additionally feels fairly spacious, with no place within the cabin feeling significantly cramped. The non-obligatory panoramic sunroof permits a variety of mild or, in order for you, recent air.
The cargo space is simply as accommodating because it’s all the time been. Now, Ford’s official quantity behind the second row of 37.5 cubic toes comes with an asterisk. That’s, in principle, in the identical ballpark because the section’s greatest, however to get it, you need to totally make the most of the Escape’s admittedly helpful sliding again seat characteristic that the others don’t have. Mainly, you need to select between max cargo and max again seat area. Fold down that again seat and also you get 65.4 cubic toes behind the primary row, which is certainly lower than these household haulers.
Driving this refreshed Escape is a well-recognized affair. Acceleration from the two.0-liter EcoBoost is faster than you would possibly anticipate, getting this factor transferring down the highway with a way of urgency when requested. It takes only a second for the total press of energy to come back alive off the road, nevertheless it builds by the center of the rev vary and tapers off slowly because the tachometer pushes north. It feels completely competent making passing maneuvers at highways speeds.
The Escape’s suspension is an effective match for this peppy turbo motor, as each work to encourage you to drive it just a bit more durable than you usually would most mainstream compact crossovers. There’s some good highway really feel by the suspension and sufficient stiffness to maintain it feeling pinned down in corners. That’s to not say the experience is harsh — it’s nonetheless comfy, if not probably the most compliant. It looks like what the ST-Line’s considerably sportified exterior look would have you ever imagine. The steering is a bit too artificially boosted, however not less than there may be some suggestions available. It’s additionally encouragingly exact, offering car-like confidence when pointing it from one curve to the subsequent.
There’s one factor which will give consumers pause: the value. This ST-Line Elite begins at $39,955, together with $1,495 in vacation spot (although Ford’s configurator at the moment reveals an out there $500 “2.0L EcoBoost Low cost Bundle”). No less than that will get you the two.0-liter turbo, all-wheel drive, these improved appears to be like and upgraded tech. Our tester, with its non-obligatory paint end ($495), panoramic sunroof ($1,595), these slick black wheels ($195) and Premium Expertise Bundle ($1,910), together with that aforementioned 2.0L low cost (-$500) rings in at $43,650. That’s a hefty price ticket for the section, however with the Escape’s good driving dynamics and the enhancements Ford applied for 2023, together with the sharp ST-Line look (or “cute” as one truck-owning passerby known as it), that value tablet will get simpler to swallow.