One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Ford Escape is a formidable fresh take

The redesigned Ford Escape is fresh from the ground up.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Drive up and down the roads of America's heartland and you'll find the Ford Escape in driveways near and far. The vehicle, now in its fourth generation, is beloved for its cargo capacity and agility, making it one of the top choices for American families when they buy.

The 2020 Ford Escape is a compact SUV that fits into the Ford family above the EcoSport and below the Edge, Explorer, and Expedition. This new model is designed for a global audience. Ford sells the 2020 Escape in S, SE, SEL, SE Sport, and Titanium trim levels in North America.

At the front, it's easy to see the similarities between the Porsche Macan, Kia Sportage, and Ford Escape. Moving along the sides to the rear, the Escape gets much more distinctive and sports a grown-up tail end that isn't unattractive to follow in traffic.

2020 Ford Escape The Ford Escape has evolved for the 2020 model year and sports a completely new exterior design.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Escape will eventually be available in four different power options but the model will only be sold in three when it launches. Its base engine is a 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder (S, SE, SEL) that achieves 180 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. It's a great power plant for in-town driving but if you crave quick ascents up highway onramps, you'll want to upgrade.

The available 2.0-liter EcoBoost (SEL, Titanium) four-cylinder is significant peppier getting 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. This engine is the engine to get if you plan on towing (it can handle up to 3,500 pounds) or have kids and gear to haul around, this is the power plant you'll want.

Both of those engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

2020 Ford Escape The 2020 Ford Escape comes in five trim levels: S, SE, SEL, SE Sport Hybrid, and Titanium.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Escape Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter hybrid four-cylinder, which is paired with an electronic continuously variable transmission. Overall, it is the best engine for everyday driving situations, blending fuel efficiency and power with the Escape's natural passenger and cargo capacities. This engine is smoothest off the line and the added weight of the hybrid powertrain helps the Escape feel more stable on the road.

When the Escape falters most is in its cabin where materials are not up to snuff compared to what you'll find in most freshly redesigned compact SUVs, or even the ageing Nissan Rogue. Ford has done an excellent job repositioning the equipment in the center console and center stack allowing for a more spacious feel for front row occupants.

Like in the 2020 Ford Explorer, the Escape has a disappointing infotainment touch screen. While it looks good, the screen is slow to respond, has navigational woes, and doesn't pinch-to-zoom as easily as it should. This is the most disappointing part of the Escape.

2020 Ford Escape Ford's infotainment system leaves a lot to be desired. It's not always responsive to the touch and its navigation often leads you off the right path.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Each new Escape comes with a bevvy of standard safety technology dubbed Ford Co-Pilot360. The suite of driver assistance features includes automatic high beams, blind spot alert, lane keeping assist, a rearview camera, post-collision braking, hill start assist, and pre-collision assist with emergency braking.

The 2020 Ford Escape starts at $24,885 and tops out over $40,000. The 2020 Escape Hybrid starts at $28,255 for the SE Sport Hybrid grade.

The 2020 Ford Escape arrives on a dealership lot near you soon.

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The Bronze Edition model builds on the XLE trim.

Toyota

The Toyota Highlander entered its fourth generation for the 2020 model year, which brought sleek style, updated tech, and a premium-look interior. A new XSE trim joined the lineup for 2021, and for 2022, Toyota is adding a new hybrid-only Bronze Edition trim.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition adds useful features, such as a hands-free power liftgate.toyota

The new Bronze Edition Highlander builds on the XLE trim with:

  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Digital rearview mirror
  • Ambient interior lighting
  • Memory driver's seat with 10-way power adjustments
  • Hands-free power liftgate

Toyota notes that the Bronze Edition previews features that will show up with the greater 2022 Highlander release. Among them are the new Wind Chill Pearl color, which replaces Blizzard Pearl from the previous model, and height/tilt passenger seat adjustments.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Highlander is a supremely comfortable SUV with room for the family.Toyota

The Highlander carries on into 2022 with a standard 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. A Highlander Hybrid is available, which mates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. Combined system output is 243 horsepower. With the V6 on board, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

2022 Toyota Highlander Bronze Edition The Bronze Edition is available for Highlander Hybrid models.Toyota

All 2022 Highlander models get Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, road sign assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alerts, lane tracing assist, a sway warning system, and automatic high beams. Those features and the Highlander's excellent crash testing scores were good enough for the SUV to earn a Top Safety Pick + designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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Ford EV manufacturing

Ford plans new plants in Tennessee and Kentucky

Ford's new TN facility may be one of the largest in U.S. history.

Ford

Earlier this year, Ford outlined its plans for significant investments in electric vehicle development and construction. Today, the automaker announced a big step forward in that roadmap that will include two new facilities, billions in new spending, and thousands of new jobs.

The $5.6 billion Stanton, TN factory will be called Blue Oval City and will bring 6,000 new jobs to the area. Ford says the site will include a BlueOval SK battery plant, and that electric F-Series trucks will be manufactured there. The assembly plant is designed to be carbon neutral and to send zero waste to landfills once it's up and running.

Ford Blue Oval City Ford plans to create a combined 11,000 jobs.Ford

Ford notes that Blue Oval City will be one of the largest automotive manufacturing sites in U.S. history. The campus sprawls 3,600 acres over six square miles, and will house assembly, battery production, and a supplier facility. The vertical integration of all functions on one site should lower Ford's production costs and reduce its carbon footprint.

The $5.8 billion Kentucky site will be a dedicated battery manufacturing complex that houses two separate battery plants. The location will supply Ford's North American assembly plants and is expected to create 5,000 new jobs. The facilities in both states are being built as part of a joint venture between Ford and SK Innovation, pending regulatory approval.

Ford Blue Oval City The TN facility is expected to be carbon neutral when it's up and running.Ford

The increase in production capacity can't come soon enough for Ford. Earlier this year, the Mustang Mach-E EV debuted to strong demand, and the automaker will soon roll out the first electric F-Series truck. Called the Ford F-150 Lightning, the pickup will be the first electric truck from a legacy automaker.

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