Photo by Boris Ladwig

The all-new 2020 Ford Escape improves upon the previous generation in many ways, including better aerodynamics, a smaller hybrid battery and technology that help drivers avoid collisions.

Seventeen sensors from the available Co-Pilot 360 use cameras, ultrasound and radar to avoid crashes, detect pedestrians and help drivers steer out of the way of obstacles.

The sensors allow both for parallel and reverse perpendicular self parking. Auto high beam headlamps turn off when they sense oncoming traffic — and turn back on when the oncoming headlamps disappear.

When drivers steer to a side to avoid an obstacle such as a stranded or suddenly stopping vehicle, the Escape’s evasive steering assist technology reduces steering torque, which helps drivers move the steering more quickly. That technology is which is standard on high-end Escapes, but available on SE and SEL versions.

Illustration of the Evasive Steering Assist feature on the 2020 Ford Escape. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

When motorists appear to be leaving their lane of travel, they might feel a vibration in their steering wheel. And when drivers try to steer into another lane, a flashing light on their side view mirror will warn them if another vehicle has entered the Escape’s blind spots.

Chet Hern, Ford’s drive assist technology supervisor, said the importance of safety features is increasing as driver attention appears to be diminishing.

“Our world is becoming increasingly crowded and distracted,” Hern said recently at Greenfield Village, an outdoor living history museum that is part of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Mich. Ford unveiled the new Escape in the museum area to highlight its innovations and connections to American icons Thomas Edinson and the Wright Brothers, the laboratories of whom are on the museum premises.

Some of the Co-Pilot 360 tech, including the evasive steering assist, is not available on competing vehicles such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.

The Escape is built exclusively at Louisville Assembly Plant.

Weight, aerodynamics

Photo by Boris Ladwig

While the engines of the new Escape are comparable to the current versions, the 2020 Escape’s 0-60 acceleration is expected to be about 10 percent better, thanks to a lower weight and improved aerodynamics.

Ford lowered the vehicle’s weight by using lighter insulators and carpets and an aluminum hood. To better protect motorists, Ford also used boron steel around the passenger cage. Boron steel is harder than conventional steel and can be produced at a lower temperature, which cuts energy costs,

All 2020 Escapes are at least 200 pounds lighter than their 2019 counterparts, said Dean Nowicki, global program manager for the Ford Escape, said as he stood in the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop.

That means the 2020 Escape weighs less than the current Ford Mustang.

The new Escape also spent close to 220 hours in a wind tunnel to allow engineers and designers to lower the vehicle’s wind resistance.

Debra Hands, aerodynamics supervisor for the Escape, said that many of the vehicle’s aspects were revamped to reduce drag, including mirrors, roof racks, the way the roof tapers in the back, the fog lamp pockets and the front tire spoilers that help manage air flow away from the tires.

Ford also expanded the portion of the undercarriage that has aerodynamic shielding to 80%, up about 15 percentage points from prior models. That shielding also reduces noise and vibration.

Hands said that the engineers had a tougher challenge on hybrid models this time around, because Ford reduced the size of the battery so that it could be placed underneath the body, rather than taking up space in the interior. That also meant, however, that the company had to figure out how to reduce as much as possible the battery’s wind resistance.

Despite the battery challenge, Ford’s designers reduced the Escape’s drag by about 4% compared to the 2019 version, Hand said.

It’s the “most aerodynamic Escape ever,” she said.

Lower, wider, roomier

Photo by Boris Ladwig

Ford reduced the size of the hybrid battery by two-thirds by changing its cooling system. The previous battery was air cooled, which required air pockets between the battery cells. The new battery is liquid cooled, which means the system runs a cool liquid over an aluminum plate that cools the battery by contact.

Removing the battery from the interior also enabled the company to increase the Escape’s second-row legroom by 3.4 inches compared to the 2019 model. The second-row bench also can be moved forward to provide additional cargo space.

In general, the fourth-generation Escape is larger than its predecessor: The wheel base, at 106.7 inches, is up 0.8 inches. The vehicle also is 2.4 inches longer and 1.7 inches wider, with fractionally more headroom — though the vehicle is 0.2 inches lower — and it has 0.7 inches less legroom in the front.

The new Escape also comes with four available engines, including 1.5-liter and 2.5-liter EcoBoost gasoline engines, a 2.5-liter hybrid and a 2.5-liter plugin hybrid. Ford said it expects its regular hybrid engine to produce about 198 horsepower and to have a range of about 550 miles. With a tank of 14.2 gallons, that works out to be about 39 mpg.

The 1.5-liter EcoBoost is an in-line three cylinder engine that deactivates one of the cylinders when it is not needed, such as when the motorist is cruising on the highway. When the motorist needs the extra power again, the third cylinder begins firing again. Ford said the transition from two to three cylinders is seamless, does not affect performance but saves fuel. The system, which can activate or deactivate a cylinder within 0.014 seconds, is a first for Ford in North America.