There is a great deal of concern in the automotive industry over pure electric vehicles.
The two main issues, especially in countries like Canada and the US where the population is spread over vast areas, are range and infrastructure.
Folks who live in major metropolitan areas have access to charging stations and little concern about how far they can go before needing to plug in. Those who live elsewhere have ‘range anxiety’ and a lack of charging stations.
As with any new radical change in technology, there is a period of excitement during which early adopters rush to get on the bandwagon.
Sales numbers from the last few months both in Canada and the US show the bloom might well have come off electric vehicle sales.
Add to that the widespread problem of an infrastructure that is lacking in numbers and woefully unreliable, and you have a good case for buying a hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicle.
Ford was among the first major manufacturers to make pure electric vehicles available.
The Mustang Mach E and the F-150 Lightning have garnered a lot of attention. But Ford has covered its bets by ensuring it has hybrid and plug-in hybrids available for those not yet ready to make the big step up to a pure electric vehicle.
Hybrids and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are the near-term solution while the infrastructure and range issues of pure electric vehicles are addressed.
Plug-in versions provide longer electric-only range. Most people can manage a daily commute without needing to visit a gas station.
In either case, you can motor around for short distances on pure electric power, secure in the knowledge that once the electricity runs out, a good old reliable internal combustion engine will come to the rescue and add many hundreds of kilometres of range.
The subject of this review, the Ford Escape, is available with four drivetrain choices.
You can choose from 1.5-litre three-cylinder and 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engines paired with a conventional automatic transmission driving two or all four wheels. Or, hybrid and plug-in hybrids are available, with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine mated to electric motors with power to all four wheels.
The Escape came in for a mid-cycle makeover for the 2023 model year.
Appearance-wise it looks more car-like than the outgoing model. Dimensionally it also spans the spread between car and crossover. The upright driving position feels like a crossover. But when you pull alongside a taller CR-V or RAV4 or lower Camry or Accord you see where the Escape fits in between cars and crossovers.
The Escape offers car-like driving dynamics and crossover-like ground clearance.
Since its introduction more than 20 years ago, there have been four distinct generations of the Escape, the most recent came to market in 2020. The old S, SE, and SEL trim levels have been replaced by equally meaningless and confusing Active, ST-line, ST-line Select, Platinum, ST-Line Elite and Plug-In hybrid trim levels.
Other revisions for the 2023 Escape include a fresh look up front with a new grille and lights. Faux skid plates at the front and rear lend a more rugged look and the 17-, 18-, and 19-inch wheels designs are new.
The Escape is proof of the variety available to manufacturers of a well-designed (versatile) platform. It shares Ford’s C2 architecture with the Maverick pickup and Bronco Sport off-roader.
The most significant update to the 2023 Ford Escape is one that will never be seen but appreciated by all.
The latest generation of Ford’s electric architecture, introduced on the Mustang Mach E and appearing on the forthcoming Super Duty trucks, is a cloud-based system dubbed Sync 4. It incorporates not only the infotainment system, but Ford’s Co-Pilot360 safety system.
Sync 4 offers the ability to receive and activate over-the-air updates to current feature and add new capabilities. It includes Alexa-Built-in voice commands and navigation with traffic rerouting capability as well as upgraded, configurable screens for driver information and infotainment.
The large central screen grows from 20 cm in the outgoing model to 34 cm for 2023. It now contains controls for the HVAC system as a line of digital buttons at the bottom.
Both cargo and passenger space in the 2023 Ford Escape are class-competitive.
The updated interior addresses most of the complaints of the outgoing model which was behind the pack in terms of material and design.
The big central screen with its crisp graphics, flat-bottom steering wheel, and array of standard features at this grade level are more upscale. The $2,200 Premium Technology package seals the deal with perforated leather seats, a large heads-up display and 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system,
The Escape offers a pleasant blend of ride and handling. The ride is on the firm side which helps reduce lean in the corners but manages to handle major road blemishes without disturbing the occupants. The overall impression is of a sportier nature than most of the competition.
Until you and the world are ready for pure electric vehicles, the Ford Escape offers freedom of choice: conventional gas engines, hybrid or plug-in hybrid.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2023 Ford Escape ST Line Elite HEV
As tested: $56,074 including freight
33-cm LCD touchscreen, SYNC 4 with enhanced voice recognition
LED headlights, automatic high beams, blind spot warning with cross traffic alert, lane keep system, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, post-collision braking
360-degree camera, power heated folding mirrors, power windows, dual zone automatic climate control, heated steering wheel, power heated driver’s seat with memory, remote vehicle start, wireless charging pad, adaptive cruise control
Panoramic sunroof, $1,750; floor liners, $250; Class II Trailer Tow Package, $700; 19-in ebony-painted alloy wheels, $1,000; Premium technology package, $2,200
2.5 litre four-cylinder engine, 83-horsepower electric motor. Combined output 192-horsepower, 155-lb.ft. of torque, continuously variable automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive, NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway):5.6 / 6.5
Length, 4,602-mm; wheelbase, 2,7106-mm, width, 1,882-mm; weight, 1,675-kg