On Tuesday morning, Ford unveiled the refreshed 2023 Escape. A likable small SUV, the current generation has, nonetheless, been something of a mid-pack offering overshadowed by rivals like the well-rounded Honda CR-V, rugged Subaru Forester and avant-garde Hyundai Tucson. But for 2023, Ford is significantly elevating the venerable Escape by adding more technology and enhancing the interior without detracting from the current vehicle’s strengths.
Supersized touch screen
Inside the 2023 Escape, there aren’t too many changes. The dashboard and door panels are basically the same as before, ditto for the air vents, steering wheel and many other (though not all) controls. Nothing is particularly rich, but you do get decent-looking soft plastics on the door panels and dashboard top, though hard polymers are found at lower elevations.
There is, however, one huge upgrade inside this vehicle: You’ll be able to get it with a vibrant 13.2-inch touch screen that’s home to an intuitive Sync 4 infotainment system. This setup also supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. This new display looks great and is a huge upgrade over the standard 8-inch screen you get in lower-end models. Ahead of the driver, an 8-inch digital instrument cluster is also included at no extra charge, though a much more immersive 12.3-incher is available in higher trims. Naturally, this SUV is available with a wireless charging pad as well, so you can leave your cord at home.
More driver aids, too
Improving this vehicle’s tech, a new 360-degree camera system is available and should be a huge upgrade. Rear braking assist, so drivers are less likely to back into obstacles while reversing, and rear parking sensors will also be offered. Finally, engineers have improved the Escape’s adaptive cruise control system by adding curve assist and predictive speed assist. Unfortunately, BlueCruise, Ford’s hands-free driving aid that works on approved highways, is not offered because at the Escape’s modest price point, owners are unlikely to pay the subscription fee for BlueCruise.
Updated controls and seating surfaces
On the dashboard, designers changed some secondary controls for 2023, though not all of these alterations are necessarily improvements. Many audio and climate functions migrate to the 13.2-inch display; important HVAC controls are now accessed by tapping an icon at the bottom of the touch screen, which is a bit clunky.
The volume knob has moved to the passenger side of the lower center stack, which is more of a reach for the driver, though there are satellite controls on the steering wheel spokes. This change, however, allowed the engine start button to be relocated. It’s now opposite the volume knob where it’s far easier to see and reach. Before, this frequently used switch was mounted higher on the dashboard and at an odd angle that made it difficult to see.
Depending on the model, the refreshed Escape will be offered with new appliqués on the seats, including a fetching diamond-stitch pattern that looks great.
One area that needed no improvement is this SUV’s back seat. Spacious and supremely comfortable, the Escape practically offers stretchout amounts of room. The rear seat is also split 60/40, so each section can slide fore and aft independently, plus the backrests recline. Surprisingly for a vehicle in this class, taller adults can sit nearly bolt upright and their heads won’t touch the ceiling.
The 2023 Escape’s powertrains carry over from before. This is bad news because there’s nothing fresh or exciting to talk about under the hood, but the good news is what the outgoing model offers is very good, so change really isn’t needed.
As before, a 1.5-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder with 180 horsepower is the base engine. Stepping up from there, you can also get a potent 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s good for an estimated 250 ponies. Both of these conventional engines are matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The smaller EcoBoost engines will be available with either front- or all-wheel drive, though the latter only comes with four-corner traction.
Of course, the Escape is offered with a pair of electrified powertrains. There’s a conventional hybrid setup that gets you 199 horsepower or you can opt for a PHEV drivetrain that delivers 210 horses and up to 37 miles of all-electric range, which is competitive with plug-in rivals like the Toyota RAV4 Prime and new 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. Surprisingly, you can run the plug-in Escape solely on electrons at speeds up to 85 miles per hour.
Both of the Escape’s electrified powertrains are centered around a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine. An electronic continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive are part of the equation, too. The PHEV model’s battery pack can be replenished from either a Level 1 or Level 2 charger. The former takes 10 to 11 hours to fully juice the battery, but the latter can accomplish the same feat in just 3.5 hours.
New trims, fair pricing
For 2023, the Escape’s old trim structure has been scrapped. The S, SE, SEL and Titanium grades are gone, replaced by Base, Active, ST-Line, Platinum and PHEV. Yes, the latter is now its own separate trim and it should come very well equipped.
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Ford folks seem particularly proud of the new ST-Line, which is available in three grades. These models get a special black mesh grille insert as well as a unique rear skid plate and spoiler. The ST-Line Elite upgrade package also includes special 19-inch wheels treated to a black finish. Inside, this sporty-looking SUV is gussied up with red stitching on the door panels, center armrest, floor mats and steering wheel.
Right now, hybrid and plug-in hybrid models account for 20 to 25% of Escape sales, though this is expected to drop to around 15% next year because of pesky supply constraints. It seems the auto industry just can’t catch a break.
As for pricing, the nicely enhanced 2023 Ford Escape should start at right around $29,000. The most affordable hybrid model is the entry-level ST-Line trim, which should kick off at about $34,000. And finally, the plug-in hybrid Escape is priced from roughly $40,000 and up. All these figures include $1,495 in destination fees.
As before, the refreshed Escape will be built in Louisville, Kentucky. If you like what you see, you can order one of these updated SUVs right now, though examples are not expected to start arriving at dealerships or driveways until early next year.
Updated (8:00 am EDT, 10/25/2022): Added our first look video to the post.