The Ford Escape is now three years into its fourth generation which means it’s probably time for a mid-cycle refresh and that’s exactly what it will be getting come early 2023. Given that the compact crossover segment where the Escape plays has supplanted midsize sedans as the top non-pickup segment in the U.S. it’s critical for Ford to have a competitive entry and the company hopes the changes for 2023 will jump-start sales.
The current generation Escape has lagged well behind leading competitors including the Toyota Rav4, Nissan Rogue, Chevrolet Equinox and Honda CR-V. However, Ford did bifurcate its compact utility lineup with the introduction of the off-road oriented Bronco Sport, leaving the Escape as a more urban and commuter focused vehicle. Ford isn’t pivoting from that strategy, and the changes to the Escape may help strengthen its appeal to former car owners.
Visually, the biggest change is at the front where a wider grille is complemented by new headlamps with LED outlines and a slim, full-width light bar connecting the corners. The blue oval badge also moves from a position above the grille to being embedded. Ford has been adopting a similar face on new models introduced overseas recently including the China market Mondeo and European Transit Custom van.
At the back, the taillamp design has been reworked and the tailgate release is now hidden under the lip above the license plate pocket. The rest of the sheet metal remains unchanged apart from some new wheel designs.
The entire powertrain lineup is carried over unchanged with the 1.5-liter three-cylinder and 2.0-liter four-cylinder EcoBoost engines paired with 8-speed automatic transmissions. The conventional 2.5-liter hybrid as well as the plug-in hybrid with an EPA-rated 37 miles of electric range are also unchanged. Front wheel drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available on everything but the PHEV. Those that want a plug-in hybrid with extra traction will have to step up to the Lincoln Corsair Grand Touring.
The trim lineup has been revamped for 2023 with Ford ditching the long-running S, SE, SEL and Titanium configurations. The base Escape is now called Active while the trim is Platinum. New for 2023 is the addition of the ST-Line package starting at $995 over the Active with the 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo engine. There are also ST-Line Select and ST-Line Elite packages.
The ST-Line is set apart by having all of the wheel-arches and lower body surfaces that are normally flat black, painted in body color. Combined with the black alloy wheels and mesh grille, it certainly looks a bit sportier and has the appearance if not the reality of sitting a bit lower. Mechanically, the ST-Line Escape is unchanged apart from some adjustments to the damping on the all-wheel-drive 2.0-liter turbo model. The PHEV is now it’s own distinct trim level.
Inside, the 2023 Escape gets technology upgrades with the analog instrument cluster replaced by a standard 8-inch digital cluster or optional 12.3-inch cluster. The infotainment also gets a significant upgrade moving from SYNC 3 to SYNC 4. The standard center touchscreen is now 10-inches across diagonally, while the same 13.2-inch display from the Lincoln Corsair is optional. One other item the Escape won’t be sharing with the Corsair for now is hands-free driving. The 2023 Corsair gets ActiveGlide, but the Escape will not be offering BlueCruise.
Unfortunately, with the move to bigger screens, Ford has opted to ditch physical climate controls in favor of touch controls on the screen. At least those virtual controls are in a permanent strip across the bottom so there is no need to search through menus. SYNC 4 also brings with it embedded Alexa voice services so if you live in the Amazon ecosystem, you can do all things you can do with an Echo in your home. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay now also work without a wired connection.
In making the changes, Ford has also installed its networked vehicle electrical/electronic architecture that debuted on the Mustang Mach-E and F-150. Among other things, that means the Escape will now have support for over-the-air upgrades to all of the electronic systems in the vehicle. Hopefully, Ford can also get its upgrade process working better since many Mach-E and Lightning owners have received few if any updates.
The 2023 Escape order banks are now open and new models should arrive at dealers early in 2023.