2020 Ford Escape first drive: Back in the hunt

This is the fourth generation of Escape, and Ford made a huge deal of it at a launch event in April of this year at Detroit’s Greenfield Village museum. America buys millions of small crossovers per year, and with Ford ditching cars for these things it takes on even more weight, figuratively. Literally, it lost about 200 pounds.
The 2020 Escape gets two new engines and one carryover. The new 1.5-liter Ecoboost I3 is the most interesting, making a solid 181 hp and 190 lb-ft of torque. It uses cylinder deactivation to go into two-cylinder mode in milliseconds whenever it senses you don’t need all three. The 2.0-liter turbo-four is a carryover and with everything finalized delivers 250 hp and 280 lb-ft. Finally, there’s a new 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle non-turbo four that pairs with the Escape Hybrid powertrain, putting down 200 hp with battery assist. The non-hybrid gets a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The hybrids get a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT. There will be a plug-in hybrid coming later. We can’t tell how the regular hybrid drives until Thursday, so keep an eye out for that. I think I am allowed to say that it will be the one to buy when it goes on sale next spring. The standard Escape goes on sale this fall.
All Escapes have more room for people and stuff than the last model. At the launch event Ford put four golf bags in the back. During this latest drive the company somehow wedged six in the cargo area without folding the rear seats down. They do, however, slide forward 6 inches, which was probably enough for the extra sticks.