Ford has announced a refreshed and revamped 2023 Escape lineup that retains hybrid and plug-in hybrid models, the latter being among the versions that may be available in sportier ST-Line form.
As the automaker positions it, the move is a natural extension of what it started with the introduction of the Bronco Sport for 2021, when it effectively split the size of the Escape into two different vehicles and form factors. . Go a little sportier and more urban, and the Escape is still the one, but pivot to the square side, with more obvious hints of rugged weekend wear, and you’re left with the Bronco Sport.
Among compact SUVs, the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 are the elephants in the room. But as Ford rightly points out, if you add up the sales of the two models and you top those two other sales champions. And that’s before you even take note of the 40-mpg Maverick hybrid pickup.
2023 Ford Escape ST-Line
Ford still positions its hybrid versions of the Escape as a premium powertrain but not necessarily the best. The revamped range includes Base, Active, Platinum and Plug-In Hybrid models, with the new Active level replacing the older SE and SEL. Base and Active come with a 181hp 1.5-liter turbo-3 engine and front-wheel drive, while the top-of-the-line Platinum can be had either as a hybrid or with a 2-liter turbo-4, 0 liters of 250 hp, both with all-wheel drive.
The Hybrid’s powertrain is carried over, with a 2.5-liter front-wheel-drive inline-4 Atkinson-cycle engine, managed via a planetary drive system, making 200 combined hp and connected either to the front wheels only ie, mechanically, providing all-wheel drive. For 2022, Escape Hybrid models achieved 40 mpg combined with all-wheel drive and 41 mpg combined with front-wheel drive.
The Escape Plug-In Hybrid is a standalone model in the lineup and is only offered with front-wheel drive. It has a version of the same system, but with a 14.4 kWh battery that can be recharged in just 3.5 hours on 240 volts or less than 11 hours on 120 volts. Then it can go 37 miles on rechargeable power and delivers a combined 210hp (slightly less than Ford’s 221 quotes for the 2022 version).
2023 Ford Escape plug-in hybrid
Ford boasts that between Auto EV, EV Now, EV Later and EV charging modes, owners can choose the one that best suits their needs; but as we noted in our review of the Escape Plug-In Hybrid, EV Now doesn’t always lock out the gas engine when there’s a full charge.
Just below the Platinum is a sporty new ST-Line model that can be had in all forms except plug-in hybrids and in Select and Elite packages. In total, the ST-Line will represent 50% of the Escape range.
The ST-Line is mostly a sporty-looking upgrade package featuring a black mesh grille, rear scuff plate and single-wing rear spoiler, along with red seat stitching and trim, armrest central and much more inside. After seeing this in person, it accomplishes this, with the blacked-out look creeping closer to hot hatches than SUVs. In terms of real-world performance, its firmer suspension damping, flat-bottomed steering wheel and 18-inch wheels can help convey a hint of performance. Elite versions also upgrade to 19-inch painted alloys.
2023 Ford Escape ST-Line
All versions of the Escape now include LED reflector headlights, upgraded lighting and a sliding rear seat that adjusts six inches fore and aft to help juggle space between cargo, seats for children and other passengers.
The Escape gets Ford’s Sync 4 infotainment system, adding available cloud-connected navigation and enhanced voice commands along with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto wireless connectivity. Top trims feature a 13.2-inch central touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, and all trims in the range will get over-the-air software update capability for a range of vehicle systems.
The Escape adds Ford’s latest Co-Pilot 360 safety kit, with features to help oncoming vehicles through intersections and blind spots. The Enhanced Safety Package adds available adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic braking and an evasive steering feature. Other available features include rear parking sensors, 360 degree camera and wireless device charger.
2023 Ford Escape ST-Line
If there’s a surprise here, it’s that Ford doesn’t expect the reconstituted Escape to sell in much higher numbers than it did as a hybrid; he sees around 15% hybrids and 7% plug-in hybrids in the overall Escape mix. He said the Escape Hybrid and PHEV models are sold to an entirely different type of buyer than the Mustang Mach-E, so it’s not about blaming what those in the industry call cannibalization.
More hybrids are on the way, Ford hinted; but they are not quite there yet. Toyota has already sold nearly 50 percent of its RAV4 crossover in hybrid or RAV4 Prime PHEV form, and Honda aims to sell half of its redesigned 2023 CR-V models in hybrid CR-V form.
Ford says the revised Escape lineup will hit dealerships in early 2023.
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