Looking at the Ford Escape, you can understand why compact crossover SUVs have become such a force to be reckoned with in the American auto market. The Escape is just as sleek and stylish as the average sedan but with more room for cargo and passengers, and Ford makes a point to keep it stocked with a full suite of the latest tech features so that it feels fresh and modern year after year.
The Escape is getting a mid-cycle refresh for the 2023 model year. It’s not quite a new generation, but there are a number of changes to cover. Whether you’re thinking about getting one of these SUVs for cruising around town or your auto enthusiasm extends beyond just sports cars and souped-up trucks, let’s take a look at what you can expect from the 2023 Ford Escape.
From a quick glance at the exterior, you’ll be able to tell that the 2023 Escape has a brand-new face. If we were to anthropomorphize this compact ute, we’d say that it’s got a more serious expression than it did in the 2022 model year. Instead of being rounded, the headlights are sleek slits on the side of the facade. The shape of the grille is different, it’s wider, and it’s been raised higher up onto the front of the face, with the Ford logo now sitting proudly in the middle of it instead of hovering above, as it did in the old design.
Overall, these changes make for a sportier appearance. Where the old face had more rounded edges, the new one has a bolder, more chiseled feel. It’s certainly more likely to stand out in the crowded field of crossovers, which can serve a twofold purpose. First, there’s the hard-to-pin-down benefit of having a stylish vehicle, making an entrance, and all of the other things automakers love to wax poetic about. Then you have the practical upshot of being able to spot your ride more easily in a crowded parking lot full of hundreds of other compact crossovers. All-in-all, we think the new look was a smart move.
Would it really be a significant auto-update if there weren’t some tech upgrades to talk about? The user interfaces inside cars, trucks, and SUVs seem to be getting more advanced by the minute, and if you don’t keep up with the latest features, you’ll start to look out of date quickly. Like other big automakers, Ford keeps an eye on the tech world and moves swiftly to avoid becoming passé.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have been part of the Escape’s infotainment setup for years, letting drivers connect their smartphone to the SUV’s interface and control apps, including navigation, music, and communication, directly through the vehicle’s touchscreen. When these features first came out, they required the smartphone to be physically plugged into the car via a USB cable. But Ford’s new SYNC 4 infotainment system supports wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing drivers to access all the same features without needing to keep a cord on hand.
The Escape also offers an available wireless charging pad, so between those two features, you could truly go wireless. Is keeping a small and affordable item like a USB cable in your car the biggest headache in the world? No, but cables are easy to break or leave behind in a hotel, so there is a practical upshot to leaving them behind. Plus, it’s simply more high-tech, and there’s no denying the cool factor of technology that still feels a little bit like science fiction. The SYNC 4 system is also capable of over-the-air software updates. That means that new features can be rolled out to Escape owners without the need for them to go into a dealership or service station. The infotainment system is also standard across all trim levels now, while it used to be left out of the most basic option.
New Trim Levels
Speaking of trim levels, the whole lineup has been overhauled for the new model year. The terminology has been completely renovated, so S, SE, SEL, and Titanium are now defunct. Under the old system, there were ten distinct trim levels, with distinctions like SE, SE Hybrid, and SE Plug-In Hybrid padding the list. The 2023 lineup cuts that figure in half, bringing it down to five: the Base, Active, ST-Line, Platinum, and PHEV.
But don’t be fooled by appearances; several trims still have multiple engine options. For instance, the Escape Platinum may come standard with the gas-powered 2.0-L EcoBoost engine, but it can also be equipped with either the traditional hybrid or plug-in hybrid powertrain. The only difference is that these are now options under a single trim level rather than three separate trims.
The Base trim, as the name implies, is the most basic and affordable option. The Active brings more comfort and convenience features to the table, like dual-zone automatic climate control, a power liftgate, and a rotary shift dial in place of the standard gear shift that makes room for extra cup holders, USB ports, and console storage space. The ST-Line has unique styling inside and out, sporting an exclusive grille design, a spoiler, and red accent stitching.
This trim also has two upgrade options that offer more luxury features while retaining the exclusive style: the ST-Line Select has heated front seats and LED reflector headlamps, and the ST-Line Elite has a larger 13.2-inch touchscreen and a 360° camera view with split view. While Platinum is situated higher on the ladder than ST-Line, it actually has a slightly lower MSRP than ST-Line Elite, offering similar tech features but lacking the exclusive style. At the very top of the list is the Escape Plug-In Hybrid, which comes with heated seats, and the larger touchscreen, in addition to its more fuel-efficient engine.
While the 2.5L I-4 Hybrid Engine is still available on several trim levels, it is interesting that it’s no longer standard on any trim. In contrast, there were three trim levels on the 2022 Escape that came standard with the non-PHEV hybrid engine. It will be interesting to see where this powertrain configuration is going to be used going forward. Is this a sign that it will ultimately be left behind in favor of the plug-in variant, hang on as an available option, or will it make a comeback as a more prominent player in the next generation? Time will tell.
Some Final Thoughts
Individually, none of these changes are particularly significant. Many are surface-level, which makes sense, given that this isn’t a complete redesign. But taken together, they lead to an Escape that does feel distinctly more modern than its predecessor. Its new look is bold and stylish, it has some useful new tech features, and it no longer offers a base model with a second-rate entertainment system.
The new trim levels are also simplified and straightforward. The Base is much more transparent for the entry-level option than the S, while the Platinum trim more clearly projects its top-of-the-line status than Titanium, and the PHEV succinctly highlights its main feature. Clearly, this update runs deeper than a new shade of paint, and we think it does a good job of making the Escape feel fresh for the 2023 model year.