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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.

A new program by Ford and Lincoln allows app users to shop for Nationwide insurance via app.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Shopping for new insurance? Ford and Lincoln have partnered with Nationwide to help owners of the companies' vehicles obtain the right type of insurance for their needs. All the "paperwork" can be done electronically via the FordPass or Lincoln Way app.

Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure, powered by Nationwide, offer an all-digital way to secure usage-based insurance coverage through Ford Motor Credit Company's licensed insurance agency. As part of the usage-based insurance plan, Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure policyholders consent to be enrolled in Nationwide's SmartRide usage-based insurance program and will share their vehicle connectivity information with Nationwide for the initial six-month policy.

2020 Lincoln Corsair A number of Ford and Lincoln models are eligible for the insurance.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

To get a quote, users simply have to log on to their FordPass or Lincoln Way app, click on the insurance tile, fill in some information, and submit the information. To assist with the process, the app automatically fills in key vehicle information on the form.

According to a release, "customers in 39 states with qualifying 2020 Ford or Lincoln vehicles can purchase a policy in minutes and become eligible to save up to 40 percent."

"This is the latest way we're improving the customer experience," said Elena Ford, chief customer experience officer at Ford Motor Company. "Insure makes getting insurance easier for connected-vehicle customers to cover one of their biggest investments – their vehicle – while saving money."

Once customers purchase a policy, the connected vehicle will track and share distance driven, hard braking and accelerating, idle time and night driving to establish a policy rate for renewal. The data are shared with Nationwide through the vehicle's embedded modem, eliminating the need for a special app or vehicle plug-in device. Any discount will be applied when the policy is renewed.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Users in 39 states are eligible for the insurance.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

As part of the plan, customers will have access to Nationwide's standard Accident Forgiveness option, as well as crash repairs using genuine Ford parts.

"Customers want to be able to purchase auto insurance as quickly and easily as possible," said Brad Lemons, Nationwide's senior vice president of Personal Lines Product and Underwriting. "Ford and Nationwide are bringing together the best of our businesses to help make this happen in a way that is sure to delight our customers."

States where Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure are available include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. Launches in other states are planned over time.

The insurance offer starts with these models: 2020 Ford Explorer, Fusion, Mustang, Transit Connect, Escape, Edge, EcoSport, Expedition, F-Series Super Duty, Transit, Ranger and the upcoming all-new 2021 F-150; and 2020 Lincoln Aviator, MKZ, Corsair, Nautilus and Navigator.

The new kiosks significantly cut down on the time spent checking in vehicles at dealerships.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Last fall, Ford initiated a pilot program at seven dealerships across the U.S. that installed digital kiosks designed to help improve the check-in experience for Ford dealerships. The result is a 75 percent reduction in the amount of time customers spent checking in when they arrive at the dealership for service.

"Our goal is to change the perception of the dealership experience," said Robert De Filippo, global director, Ford Retail Customer Experience. "We can start to do this by meeting rising expectations for fast and reliable service and letting each customer know they matter to us."

Ford outdoor kiosk check in Ford is piloting outdoor kiosks as well.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Liberty Automotive Group in Ohio recently ordered more kiosks after successful implementation of the initiative, which resulted in interactions lasting only 25 percent of the time of the traditional check-in at the dealership.

"The way I see it, there are two types of customers," Andrew Bellavia, Chief Operating Officer of Liberty Automotive Group said. "Customers who are coming in for quick service or maintenance on low-mileage vehicles who want to get in and out quickly, and then customers who have unique cases that they want to discuss in-depth with our service staff. These kiosks provide an option to the customer who wants to move fast, freeing up service advisors to address the more complex concerns."

Bellavia said in December the kiosk in the Brunswick location assisted 241 out of roughly 1,100 customers, and 85 percent of these said the kiosk made their check-in process easier.

Across the seven pilot dealers, the average customer check in time using the kiosk is just over two minutes. Additionally, 84 percent of Bellavia's users said the kiosk made their check in experience easier and 90 percent said it was able to answer all of their questions.

Ford explains how the kiosk experience works:

Imagine pulling up to a busy service area. All service advisors are busy assisting other customers. A wait seems eminent. Enter the digital service kiosk. Not unlike digital kiosks seen in other retail establishments such as fast-food or airline travel, digital kiosks in dealership service areas allow customers to check-in and select services without interaction with a service advisor.

Upon approaching the kiosk, the customer is prompted to enter their phone number via touchscreen. From there, the customers' primary information is displayed for verification of name, address, vehicle type, and preferred method of contact. The customer then chooses the services their vehicle needs from various menu options and selects how they would like to be contacted with updates regarding their vehicle service. Recalls pertinent to the customers' vehicle also are displayed on the screen during the check-in process.

According to Ford, outdoor versions of the kiosk currently are being piloted to provide access to vehicle drop-off or pick-up any time of day or night. The new outdoor kiosks will offer similar options as the indoor iterations and will eventually have the added capability of accepting and delivering keys.