Escape ST-Line Elite Compact SUV

CHATHAM, Mass. – Ford redesigned its Escape range of compact sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) for the 2023 model year, producing an even more competitive entry into one of America’s most hotly fought vehicle segments.

This refresh of the Escape’s third generation (introduced in 2001) brings upgraded interior technology, a host of additional advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) along with a cleaner, more modern appearance inside and out.

Already available in hybrid, plug-in hybrid or gasoline-fueled versions, the latter in either front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) configurations, the company decided for 2023 to add a new three-model sporty ST-Line series.

My week in a 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line Elite AWD was a very pleasant experience reinforcing the SUV’s position as a major player in this competitive vehicular jungle. The Escape’s $41,565 bottom line (including factory discounts as well as destination & delivery charge) along with its 32.5 miles per gallon fuel economy impressed when compared to other like vehicles I have reviewed.

EcoBoost engine motivates praise

Ford equipped the Escape ST-Line Elite with its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged EcoBoost gasoline-fueled engine. The venerable aluminum powerplant pumped 250 horsepower and 280 pounds-feet of torque through the eight-speed automatic transmission and then the AWD system.

Electrification has dominated public discussions about automotive powerplants for a number of years, but the work done to modernize – improve fuel efficiency while reducing emissions, increasing power at the same time decreasing weight and overall size – traditional gasoline-fueled engines is often overlooked.

The Escape ST-Line’s 2.0-liter motor is a powerful, efficient example of this evolutionary work. It might not have had the instant, supercar power of some electrics, but never did I feel like it was underpowered.

In terms of efficiency, I got more than 32 mpg while the federal Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 26 mpg overall (23 urban, 31 highway) and it is capable of towing a 3,500-pound trailer.

These numbers, from a two-liter engine which meets all clean-air regulations, would have been unheard of years ago. And at a price well below a comparable electric or hybrid-electric setup.

Chassis up to the task

The Escape’s chassis includes MacPherson-type struts with stabilizer bar, twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks at the front with Independent double lateral link semi-trailing arms with stabilizer bar, progressive-rate springs and hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks at the rear.

The power-assisted four-wheel disc brake system features anti-lock (ABS), ventilated rotors up front, solid ones in the rear.

The review vehicle came with 19-inch ebony-painted aluminum wheels shod with 225/55R19 99H All-Season (A/S) black-sidewall tires.

Comprehensive roster of ADAS

The Escape ST-Line Elite brings a long list of FORD CO-PILOT360™ technologies, the company’s advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS). These include: auto high-beam headlamps; BLIS® (Blind Spot Information System) with cross-traffic alert; lane-keeping system (includes lane-keeping assist, lane-keeping alert and driver alert); pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking (AEB) (includes pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and dynamic brake support); rearview camera; post-collision braking; road departure warning; Active Park Assist 2.0 with front and rear parking sensor; Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with stop-and-go, lane centering and speed sign recognition; evasive steering assist; reverse brake assist; intersection assist, and 360-degree camera with split view and front/rear washer.

This is a collection of systems which not long ago was in the realm of luxury and premium models, not mass-market compact SUVs.

An Escape environment with modern technology, conveniences and luxury

The Escape ST-Line Elite cabin comes filled with modern touches. The review model added the optional ($1,910) Premium Technology Package which brought leather-trimmed seating surfaces; HD radio; head-up display; Active Park Assist 2.0, and the 10-speaker with subwoofer B&O (Bang & Olufsen®) sound system.

The other premium features include two-zone automatic climate-control system; multi-driver seat/mirror memory for the 10-way power-adjustable seat (the passenger seat has six-way power adjustment); wireless charging pad for mobile devices; Ford SYNC® 4 infotainment system with navigation controlled by a new 13.2-inch LCD color touchscreen.

The sum of these parts is a quiet (a Ford trait for its cars and trucks for more than 50 years), comfortable environment for the driver and passengers (up to four in the two-row SUV). This is not a sports car, but the chassis provides reassuring handling quite capable of navigating virtually anything thrown at it at legal – or even reasonably elevated above legal – speeds. Rough roads do not upset it, either, thus maintaining an inviting interior for all. And the cargo capacity, 34.4 cubic feet behind the second-row or 60.8 with the second row folded, means plenty of room for the occupants’ stuff.

Escaping the mundane

The Escape ST-Line Elite’s systems work well together to provide the kind of vehicle which should be more than satisfactory for an American shopper who wants premium features in a reasonably sized SUV.

And they will achieve it in a vehicle more stylish than its predecessors. In the past, the Escape was a more conventionally shaped SUV, all squared off and angles. Ford softened the edges, adding curves where angles had predominated.

“Not every customer wants a rugged and boxy SUV, so we’ve made the new Escape more energetic, confident and sleeker,” said Amko Leenarts, director, Ford Design. “The Escape interior complements the exterior, with a relaxing space that’s stylish yet comfortable with easy access to technology for the road or staying connected with friends and family.”

His words ring true for the 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line Elite, a very good choice in the compact SUV segment.

Next week TBR Drives the new 2023 BMW M2 sport coupe.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.