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New for 2020 Ford Escape aims for top of segment — again

Written by Norris McDonald

I believe in loyalty. If somebody looks after me, I look after them.

Take my profession. Because of the business I’m in, I read all the daily newspapers in Toronto but the one that gets delivered to my house is the Star. All my relatives are subscribers, too.

I had an uncle who worked for the old Toronto Telegram so, at one time, the Tories in our extended family took the Tely while the Grits got the Star. Now everybody has the Star and Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving gatherings can be — shall we say — interesting because, while everybody gets the Star, not everybody agrees with its politics.

But they don’t dislike it enough to cancel it and besides, I’m a Star man and they respect that. As I say, loyalty.

So you can imagine my surprise the other day when I drove out to the head office of Ford of Canada to cover the unveiling of the completely redesigned 2020 Ford Escape and found the parking lot to be half full of cars and trucks not made by Ford.

I know it’s a free country and everybody can do what they want to do but if I was an employee of a company that made chicken wings, like Pinty’s, I’m not sure I would have a freezer-full of President’s Choice. Or Janes.

But that’s just me. Funny thing, though. I arrived at Ford HQ in a Ford F-150, my daily driver. Great vehicle. Those non-Ford-driving Ford employees don‘t know what they’re missing.

Or maybe they’re all just waiting — yes, that must be it — to buy that 2020 Escape I mentioned a moment ago. Although it won’t be in dealer showrooms till the fall, and pricing won’t be public till May, it looks to be one fine automobile.

This story originally was published in Toronto Star Wheels on April 5, 2019

For starters, the Escape is available in S, SE, SEL and Titanium series trim levels. And you have the choice of four propulsion systems: two gasoline, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid.

The all-new 1.5-litre EcoBoost, standard on S, SE and SEL, is projected to produce 180 horsepower and 177 lb.-ft. of torque. To help conserve fuel, the engine features cylinder deactivation, a Ford first for North America, which senses when one cylinder isn’t needed and shuts it down automatically. The system can activate or deactivate a cylinder in 14 milliseconds to maintain a smooth ride.

The new 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine, available on SEL and Titanium is projected to produce 250 horsepower and 275 lb.-ft. of torque.

(Every model in the lineup, whether powered by one of two EcoBoost engines or the all-new hybrid powertrains, targets an EPA-estimated range of at least 640 kilometres per tank of gas.

(Gonzalo Contreras, who is Product Marketing Plans Manager, SUVs, for Ford of Canada, told reporters the company hopes for a best-in-class EPA-estimated range of at least 885 kilometres for the hybrid while the plug-in hybrid is aiming for a best-in-class pure-electric range of at least 48 kilometres.

(He stipulated that some parts of the car are made of aluminum – the hood, for example – which has allowed the car to shed 90 kilograms of weight, which helps to save fuel.)

Moving right along, the second-row seats can slide, so best-in-class legroom can result and as much as 1,062 litres of cargo space is possible. We were told at the preview that four people and four bags of golf clubs were in the car just last week.

What the company is calling its smartest-ever small SUV — and George Chami, assistant product marketing manager, SUVs, for Ford of Canada explained all this, saying that technology is a big thing with Ford’s customers — has new selectable drive modes, Ford Co-Pilot360 driver-assist technology, a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster, Active Park Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.

It is also longer, wider and slightly lower, making for more room inside the cabin. Yes, despite the lower roofline, the position of the seats allows for more head, shoulder and hip room.

Looking at that lineup of excellence, two things in particular caught my eye: the drive modes and the parking assist.

The Escape hybrid models feature four EV modes that will allow drivers to select the settings most suitable for conditions — to wit:

  • In Auto EV mode, the vehicle decides whether to run on gas or electric power;
  • In EV Now mode, drivers can operate on all-electric driving;
  • In EV Later mode, drivers can switch to full gas-powered driving to conserve electric kilometres for later;
  • In all-new EV Charge mode, drivers can continue to charge the battery while driving and generate electric-only kilometres to use later.

And talking of modes, the selectable drive mode system, which is standard across the lineup, allows drivers to select what’s best when out on the road: normal, eco, sport and slippery plus snow (for Canadian winters) and sand (for when you’re driving in the deserts of California).

While Ford invented the first parking assist, some driver input was required. The new, improved parking assist does all of the work for you. All of it. Active Park Assist 2.0 allows the driver to park in a parallel or perpendicular spot with the touch of a button, without having to work the steering wheel, gear shift, gas or brake pedal.

I don’t have that feature on my truck but I bet it would make things a whole lot easier, particularly when I’m trying to squeeze between two other vehicles.

Now, while we’re talking about “assists,” Evasive Steering Assist can detect a slower-moving or stationary vehicle ahead and provide steering support to avoid a crash.

Another standard feature on the Escape is the Ford Co-Pilot360 suite of driver-assist technologies, including automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping and so-on. Also available are other driver-assist features like Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane-Centering.

FordPass Connect is a standard feature that provides 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 mobile devices. Charging ports and sockets keep those phones, et al, on full charge.

An 8-inch touch screen — standard on SE mod

els and above — shares information with a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster, which displays vehicle information such as how fast you’re going and how much gas you still have.

Available SYNC 3 is compatible with features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Waze navigation. For music lovers, the Escape includes a 575-watt 10-speaker B&O premium audio system.

I noted that Ford had introduced an Escape hybrid in 2005 and was now bringing it, plus a plug-in, back. How long before full electrification? Said Contreras:

“We continuously listen to our customers and we conduct research and keep an eye on trends. We felt the time was right now to bring back the hybrids but also to have them best-in-class. We were top of the segment once, and we want to be again.

“We will continue to monitor what is going on and if the demand is there, electrification will become standard. Now we think the best way is to have the best of both worlds. Ecoboost engines are great and we are giving our customers a choice.

“If you want to go hybrid, you can go hybrid. If you want to go plug-in, you can go plug-in. And if you want to stay with gas, you can do that too. As I said, it’s choice.”