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Two-row or three-row? Is the 2020 Ford Explorer or Escape right for you?

The Ford Escape and Explorer are two formidable SUVs.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Both the 2020 Ford Escape and the 2020 Ford Explorer are meant for consumers of all kinds, from the parent carting their kids to sports practices to the avid outdoor explorer. The vehicles have both form and function – they will get you where you need to go and will do so in style. Ford has completely redesigned the SUVs from the ground up for the 2020 model year.

Driving these vehicles back to back emphasized their commonalities. Both can comfortably transport you, your passengers, and your cargo. On the surface, the primary differentiator between the two vehicles is the number of rows. The Explorer's three-row, six-passenger standard configuration allows you to transport more passengers and/or cargo than the Escape's two-row/five-passenger setup.

2020 Ford Escape The Ford Escape was redesigned for the 2020 model year.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Here's a little more information to help inform your decision.

2020 Ford Escape

The Escape comes in five trim levels: S, SE, SE Sport, SEL, and Titanium.

The SUV's new powertrains give greater fuel economy and better range. Ford offers four powertrain choices for the Escape: 1.5-liter EcoBoost, 2.0-liter EcoBoost, 2.5-liter hybrid, or 2.5-liter plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The 2.5-liter hybrid engine is most fuel efficient. The EcoBoost powertrains are paired with eight-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid and plug-in powertrains are paired with PowerSplit, an electronic continuously variable transmission.

The Escape feels spacious due to smart design. A dial shifter frees up space between front row seats, and a sliding second row offers optimal flexibility between legroom and cargo space. When the second row is fully indexed forward (six inches), the trunk can accommodate a normal sized dog crate. Unlike the Explorer, the Escape does not have a third row of seats. The way the second-row seats move is one of the most impressive parts of the Escape. It is easily configurable to accommodate passengers and cargo.

2020 Ford Escape The Ford Escape has a large cargo area.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Despite its spacious interior, the vehicle feels compact and maneuvers easily on both surface streets and freeways. The Escape swings easily into parking spaces and has good visibility so you don't have to rely on a camera to get between the lines.

Driver assist technology, including a blind spot information system, lane-keeping system, and automatic emergency braking come standard on the Escape in a suite called Ford Co-Pilot360. Additional safety and driver assist technologies are available as part of options packages.

2020 Ford Escape The interior of the Escape is logically set up.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

According to Ford, the Escape's main competitors are the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker is quick to point out that the Escape distinguishes itself from these competitors with its technological capabilities, interior flexibility and styling, and distinctive looks.

The Escape is a great choice for anyone looking for an attractive vehicle suitable for errand-running, exploring, and anything in between. This vehicle offers the flexibility and functionality that today's consumers need. The Escape looks just as at home parked outside a restaurant while you enjoy a fancy dinner as it does perched next to a mountain stream while you set up your campsite.

2020 Ford Explorer

Ford offers three powertrain choices for the Explorer: 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder, 3.3-liter hybrid, or 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6. The Explorer is as fuel efficient as a 2020 Honda Pilot but not as efficient as the 2020 Toyota Highlander.All engines are paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission. Driving the Explorer with the EcoBoost engine felt smoother than driving an Escape with an EcoBoost engine.

2020 Ford Explorer The 2020 Explorer got a complete redesign and now rides on a rear-wheel drive platform.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer is available with three rows of seats but the Escape is not. Driving the Explorer at first felt like driving a minivan, but it quickly became clear that the vehicle is easily maneuverable on both surface streets and freeways. Despite its length, the Explorer was easy to park.

According to Ford, the Explorer is the bestselling SUV in the U.S. More than six million Explorers have been sold since the vehicle's introduction in 1991. The 2020 iteration is the sixth generation of this vehicle. This Explorer has the SUV's broadest lineup ever: Base (fleet only), XLT, Limited/Limited Hybrid, ST, and Platinum.

The wheelbase of the Ford Explorer was expanded for the 2020 model year by six inches, meaning that the front and rear axles are six inches further apart than they previously were. This positively affected the capability and looks of the SUV both inside and outside allowing the vehicle to feel more planted on the road in this new generation.

2020 Ford Explorer The 2020 Explorer shares many of the design hallmarks of the last-get Explorer.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Explorer feels more spacious (although it expanded by no more than a tenth of an inch in any direction). Passengers have more leg and shoulder room and the trunk can fit more cargo. The SUV has improved departure and approach angles for off-roading.

It can now tow up to 5,600 pounds (one of the highest towing capacities in the segment) whereas previously it had a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.

The engine and transmission are now mounted north-south, giving the vehicle a nearly 50-50 weight distribution, which helps it feel balanced and agile.

The Explorer also has great technical abilities, including autonomous emergency breaking, reverse break assist, traffic sign recognition, and side wind stabilization.

2020 Ford Explroer The 2020 Explorer features a large 10-inch screen in the center of its dashboard in premium models.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The SUV has a focus on human-centered design. The configurable cargo management system allows you to hold a variety of cargo, from groceries to sporting equipment. Step cleats allow easy access to the top of the vehicle. A console in the second row allow passengers to store beverages and other items. Its low profile ensures that the third row is still easily accessible.

According to Ford, the Explorer's main competitors are the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander. Reasons to choose the Explorer over its competitors are its range, horsepower, and long list of standard equipment.

The 2020 Ford Escape and the 2020 Ford Explorer can take you from the mall to the mountains and do so with panache. As Lee Newcombe, Explorer Marketing Manager at Ford, summed it up, all of the vehicles' features are "meant to make your daily drive or your adventure drive easier on you".

What may not be easy on you is the price tag. The 2020 Ford Explorer starts around $32,000 and tops out well over $58,000. The Escape is more cost-effective coming in with a starting MSRP of $24.885 and reaching $33,550 in its top Titanium trim.

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The CX-50 features body cladding and rugged styling.

Mazda

Mazda's got a busy 2021 and 2022 as it gears up to release several new vehicles. The first is almost here, and today the automaker shared preliminary details. The CX-50 is an all-new SUV that shares a platform with the Mazda 3 and CX-30.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Production begins in January 2022. Mazda

At first, the CX-50 will be offered with Mazda's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, one of which is turbocharged, but electrified powertrain options will join the lineup down the road, including a traditional hybrid. Both gas engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. A new drive mode select system is also standard that allows the driver to change the CX-50's behavior to match road and driving conditions such as towing and off-roading.

2023 Mazda CX-50 A new drive mode selection feature allows the driver to change vehicle behavior. Mazda

The new SUV's styling is a departure from the norm for Mazda, whose typical designs are sleek and elegant but far from rugged. That changes with the CX-50. Mazda installed beefy fender flares, body cladding, and a chunky front bumper that make the SUV look ready for the trail. New colors debut with the CX-50 as well, including Zircon Sand for the exterior and a terracotta upholstery option for the interior. The SUV will be the first Mazda to be offered with a panoramic sunroof.

2023 Mazda CX-50 New color schemes are available for both the interior and exterior. Mazda

We don't have full pricing or options details yet, but Mazda says that the CX-50 will be built at the facility in Huntsville, Alabama that it shares with Toyota. Production is scheduled for January 2022.

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New compact pickup truck

2022 Ford Maverick: A small truck with big ability

The Maverick can tow up to 4,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Ford

Pickup trucks are big. And, over the past two decades as sales have skyrocketed in this segment of the automotive market, mid-sized, full-sized and Super Duty-sized trucks have grown more popular and larger in nearly every dimension. Bigger was better. However, for Ford and many buyers now, the option of a pickup with tidy dimensions is . The 2022 Ford Maverick is the revitalization of the compact truck and this all-new model is filled with a host of surprises and appealing features. Among the surprises are clever design and storage solutions, with the built-in opportunity for DIY customization, as well as a long list of available accessories.

2022 Ford Maverick The Maverick's bed can swallow 4x8 sheets of plywood.Ford

The Maverick starts at $19,995 and comes standard with a hybrid powertrain. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engine is available. Ford says over 100,000 customers have already ordered the entry-level pickup that comes with a 4.5-foot bed and a crew cab body style only. Both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions are available, although AWD can be optioned with the gasoline engine. The mini-truck comes in XL, XLT and Lariat trims, with an available FX4 package that adds toughness and technology for off-the-road terrain. The package adds different suspension tuning, underbody protection, all-terrain tires, and backcountry drive modes, like Mud/Ruts and Sand, as well as Hill Descent Control. A First Edition Package offered for the first model year only comes on the Lariat trim and brings unique graphics, trims, and wheels. Sized like Ford's Ranger and other compact trucks of the past, Maverick is the solo offering in this reborn segment, although some might cross-shop it with the all-new Hyundai Santa Cruz that has a truck bed, but is pitched as a sports activity vehicle.

The Maverick is built on the same unibody platform and high-strength steel subframe as the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport. In the right light, it even looks a bit like the "baby Bronco" from the front with an upright body style, an eye-attracting front face and Ford's drop-down side windows. Standard LED headlights flank the grille while bed rail caps are vertical and extend from the bed to the top of the back window. One of the most appealing features of the truck is Flexbed that offers many different ways to organize and stow cargo within the bed's box 54.4-inch back end that can accommodate 4 x 8 sheets of plywood and has low sides for easy access along with a multi-position tailgate. Of note, Maverick has standard built-in 12-volt electrical power prewired on both sides of the bed at the rear to help with DIY electrical projects, plus two available 110-volt 400-watt outlets (one in the bed and one in the cabin) to power phones, laptops, small TVs and small corded tools. Fun features are under-the-bed stowage and a tailgate cleat that serves as a bottle opener.

2022 Ford Maverick An eight-inch touchscreen is standard. Ford

The base powertrain's hybrid is motivated by a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder that is shifted through Ford's PowerSplit CVT transmission; the internal combustion engine joins with an electric motor to improve fuel economy and bring a power boost. This Maverick version has 191 combined horsepower sent to the front wheels and 155 lb.-ft of torque while the 2.0-liter EcoBoost directs 250 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft of torque to either the front wheels or all (for the AWD) and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Drive modes include Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery and Tow/Haul. The hybrid has a payload of 1,500 pounds that can accommodate an ATV in back and a tow rating of 2,000 pounds, which will allow the truck to tow a pair of personal watercraft or small camper. The EcoBoost-powered truck equipped with the optional 4,000-pound Tow Package can tug a 21-foot boat.

We sampled a few different trucks and performed some towing and hauling exercises on roadways in the Nashville, TN environs. Top of our "likes" list is the hybrid powertrain that garnered great fuel economy and moves quickly when motivated by the throttle, as a result of good torque-on-tap. We were impressed by the backcountry prowess of the FX4 model that we motored on a dirt tow track that included a modest uphill climb and a section with a small rock ledge. The truck performed well with no slippage or drama. Of note, the AWD set-up has a more sophisticated rear suspension, a multi-link configuration in place of the front-driver's torsion-beam design.

2022 Ford Maverick Two powertrains are offered, including an incredibly efficient hybrid.Ford

The Maverick interior is somewhat simple and utilitarian, with materials and surfaces that favor function over form. The doors have large pockets that can hold a one-liter water bottle, and there are cupholders to hold up to 18 beverages, plus store a tablet or notebook. Base trucks are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-ready with a 8.0-inch touch screen for infotainment and ride on painted 17-inch steel wheels. Uplevel trucks get a few extra goodies, with wheel options that include 18-inchers. The five-passenger, four-door truck has a clever and deep stowage well under the rear seat that can even hold a fully-inflated basketball. The compact truck is projected to get better fuel economy than a Honda Civic; Ford says the hybrid can achieve up to 40 mpg city and has a 500-mile-long range on a single tank of gas. During our day-long drive exercises, we actually had a slightly higher rating.

There are a number of standard safety features onboard with Ford Co-Pilot 360, such as Pre-Collision Assist with Emergency Braking and Automatic High Beams Headlights and a list of optional safety technologies that includes Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go, Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Alert and more.

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