Ford Unveils All-New 2020 Escape, First SUV Application on New Global FWD Architecture

One of two new compact SUVs set to arrive on the new architecture, the “urban” Escape gets a triple, multiple hybrid versions and loads of “seamless tech”.


Ford has unveiled the all-new 2020 Escape, its first SUV based on the new FWD global architecture, leveraging the new unibody toolkit to create a compact “urban” SUV for the voracious sales segment. A second 5-seat, 2-row SUV based on the same architecture – but with a more “rugged, off-road focus” – was announced at the Escape unveiling, though it does not yet have a name or official release date and will be in-addition to the upcoming Bronco.

The new Escape uses the slick and customizable 12.3-inch gauge cluster on duty in the Mustang and Explorer, and is also available with a class-exclusive color HUD. (Ford)

For the (sub)urban buyer, the all-new fourth-generation Escape (Kuga for overseas markets) will provide seven powertrain and two driveline (FWD/AWD) choices globally, with lots of tech designed to help busy consumers through their day. Using the same architecture as the new not-for-U.S. Focus, the all-new Escape provides gains in torsional stiffness, tech content and interior-space flexibility with a significant weight drop.

New global architectures

The all-new Escape is based on one of five new Ford global architectures that will underpin future products, with the Focus/Escape using the new FWD unibody architecture. The Explorer/Aviator will use the RWD unibody kit. A commercial/van architecture is what’s involved in Ford’s discussions with VW. The body-on-frame architecture will underpin Ford’s pickup trucks and the upcoming Bronco. A BEV architecture will support electrified products, including the recently teased Mustang-styled SUV.

Each architecture provides the flexibility for a unique ride height, track width, wheelbase and silhouette, while still providing 70% parts commonality. Ford will use the other 30% of content (via “modules”) to help differentiate each model by market and prevent commoditization. The new Escape is the more urban/sleek compact SUV, to be joined by a more off-road/rugged-looking stablemate.

The 2020 Ford Escape sits slightly lower (20mm/0.79 in.) but first- and second-row headroom, shoulder room and hip room all improve versus the current Escape. (Ford)

Ford has sold more than 6.7 million Escape/Kuga models globally since its launch in 2000, and it’s the 2nd-best-selling Ford in the U.S. behind the F-Series trucks. Its importance was not lost on Jim Hughes (above), the global chief program engineer for Escape/Kuga. His team was handed a new architecture along with an all-new vehicle program, but did get first crack at the architecture’s first SUV.

“I view it as an extraordinary benefit. We are working off a proven architecture that is already used on a sister vehicle line, and we have the flexibility of the modules within the architecture,” Hughes explained. “We are the first SUV, so we had a lot more input into the flexibility of the modules. We also collaborated with our downstream partners and other potential vehicle lines to make sure they had enough breadth to be able to accommodate the needs of other vehicle lines.”

“This to me is a smarter way to engineer a product. Because we're utilizing an established foundation, it reduces the overall engineering workload, improves the efficiency of our engineers and gets our products to market sooner,” Hughes said. “The really wonderful outcome of this flexible architecture is we can package our various set of batteries, and on Escape/Kuga we have many.”

Return of the hybrid

The 2020 Ford Escape will feature a rotary shift-selection dial that improves center-console space, and an 8-inch touch-screen display on all but the base trim. (Ford)
The new Escape provides a new second-row sliding seat with 6-in. of fore-aft travel, which according to Ford provides the same second-row leg room as a Chevy Suburban. (Ford)

The 2020 Escape will be offered with two gasoline and two hybrid powertrains in the U.S. Europe nets a third mild-hybrid option, plus two EcoBlue diesels (1.5L, 2.0L), and the 1.5‑litre gasoline EcoBoost. The standard engine in the U.S. is the “Dragon” 3-cylinder 1.5-L EcoBoost (180 hp/177 lb·ft; 134 kW/240 N·m), that will provide a new cylinder-deactivation mode that lets the triple run on only two cylinders, providing a claimed 6% fuel economy boost. The optional gas engine in the U.S. is a 4-cylinder 2.0-L EcoBoost (250 hp/275 lb·ft; 186 kW/373 N·m) updated with fuel-economy tweaks. Both gas engines will be paired with a new 8-speed automatic, which contributes to the claimed 10% gain in 0-60 mph times.

The Escape was Ford’s first hybrid, and after skipping the current-gen SUV, it’s back for the 2020 edition as a regular and plug-in hybrid. Both versions use the same new engine and transmission, a 2.5-L Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder (with a new balance shaft) coupled to a new PowerSplit CVT. Ford has not yet provided any torque specifications, but the Hybrid will be rated at 198 hp (148 kW). Able to draw more power from its larger battery, the PHEV will be rated at 209 hp (156 kW).

The fourth-generation of Ford’s PowerSplit electronic CVT transmission sees the power electronics integrated, creating a more compact combo that’s cooled along with the transmission, and the new e-CVT is claimed to boost 45-65 mph times by 20%. Both the regular hybrid and 1.5-L EcoBoost version of the 2020 Escape will offer Ford’s part-time AWD system (now with an AWD-disconnect function). The plug-in hybrid version is FWD only, and AWD is standard with the 2.0-L EcoBoost.

Thanks to the new battery packaging under the rear seats, both hybrid models have the same interior packaging as gasoline models. Both battery packs feature prismatic lithium-ion cells, with the briefcase-sized 1.1 kWh hybrid pack (with cells supplied by Panasonic) sitting to the side of the vehicle’s center line. The 14.4 kWh plug-in hybrid’s pack will feature both cooling and heating circuits for preconditioning of the Samsung-supplied cells, and it’s expected to provide a 30-plus mile EV-only range at speeds up to 85 mph.

Stiffer, lighter, longer chassis

The new Escape uses 1,700 MPa martensitic steel (green) in the A-pillars and as rocker reinforcements on hybrid models, with additional use of high-strength boron steel in the front subframe. (Ford)

The all-new 2020 Ford Escape is 17mm (0.67 in.) wider and 60mm (2.35 in.) longer. Its wheelbase and track grow 20mm (0.79 in.), and it’s lower by that same amount. It’s also over 200 pounds (91 kg) lighter with a 10% gain in torsional stiffness, a 10mm (0.39 in.) lower Cg and a 4.5% Cd aero improvement. The weight loss is due to a host of changes throughout the vehicle, including aluminum lower control arms, hood, differential housing and mini spare, lighter-weight carpets, neodymium speaker magnets and hollow shock-absorber shafts.

The new Escape uses 1,700 MPa martensitic steel in the A-pillars and as rocker reinforcements on hybrid models, with additional use of high-strength boron steel in the front subframe. The door frames have been stiffened and improved door sealing helps improve air leakage by 25%. Ride quality should improve thanks to a rear subframe which (like the front subframe) is now isolated, an additional inch of suspension travel and taller-profile tires on the 17-, 18- and 19-inch wheels.

Hybrids models receive active noise cancellation, and new underbody panels (with coverage now exceeding 80%) improve both aero and NVH performance, as do the new perforated leather seats. Other aero tweaks include a significantly reduced frontal area, active grille shutters and front-tire spoilers, while flush roof rails, the sleek new roofline taper, the tailgate spoiler and optimized taillamp lenses reduce airflow wake.

Large dose of "seamless" technology

Technology is a key marketing aspect in the hot selling small SUV segment, and the new Escape gets a healthy dose. Ford’s Co-Pilot360 safety suite of driver assist technology is standard on all trims, and includes a rear-view camera, auto high-beams, blind-spot detection (BLIS), hill-start assist, post-collision braking, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist and pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking. Other tech available on the new Escape includes lane centering, adaptive cruise with stop & go capability, fully automatic parallel/perpendicular park assist and evasive steer assist.

The available SYNC 3 setup is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Ford+Alexa and Waze. The smartphone-based, remote-functions Ford Pass Connect app is on call, along with onboard Wi-Fi for up to 10 devices. The slick and customizable 12.3-inch gauge cluster on duty in the Mustang and Explorer is available along with wireless charging, a class-exclusive HUD and a 10-speaker, 575W sound system by Bang & Olufsen. The 8-inch touch/nav screen is standard on all but the base trim.

The all-new Ford Escape/Kuga will be built at five assembly plants worldwide serving 180 markets. It’s expected to go on sale in the U.S. in the fall of 2019 save the plug-in hybrid, which is expected in showrooms in the spring of 2020. Pricing is expected closer to launch.