From the September 2023 issue of Car and Driver.
As plug-ins proliferate, we’re going to continue to see more SUVs like the Ford Escape PHEV. Launched in 2020, the Escape PHEV competes in a growing segment that includes the plug-in versions of the Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Toyota RAV4. For 2023, the Escape receives a makeover, but it lacks the performance, richer interior, and all-wheel drive offered by rivals.
Ford previously offered the plug-in powertrain across several trims. Now the PHEV is a stand-alone model, and it’s pricey. The Escape PHEV’s $41,995 base price is higher than that of every competitor except the RAV4, and our test car’s $1595 panoramic sunroof and $4530 Premium package helped push the total to $48,320.
A new nose borrows heavily from the Ford Edge. Inside, there’s a new 13.2-inch touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless, and there are fewer physical buttons, with climate controls integrated into the bottom of the screen. Despite the high base price, most goodies require getting the Premium package, which includes a head-up display, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and quilted leather. Yet no matter how you option it, lots of ugly hard plastic remains.
The hybrid powertrain again connects a 2.5-liter inline-four to two electric motors through a planetary gearset that allows for continuously variable ratios. Combined output is 210 horsepower, down 11 ponies from 2022. When the Escape is operating as an EV around town, the traction motor provides smooth and adequate acceleration. But the SUV feels lethargic when merging onto highways or executing passes. This Escape hits 60 mph in a leisurely 7.7 seconds, more than a second behind the Outlander and well off the RAV4’s 5.4-second run.
The Escape does make the most of its lithium-ion battery, which is smaller than competitors’. The 10.7-kWh pack offers an EPA-estimated electric driving range of 37 miles, putting the Escape between the RAV4 (42 miles) and the Sportage (34 miles). The Escape was similarly midpack in our 75-mph highway range test, returning 30 miles against the RAV4’s 32 miles and the Outlander’s 24.
The relatively stiff suspension could do more to filter the bumps yet doesn’t translate to athletic handling or much grip, returning just 0.78 g on the skidpad. Sport mode turns the light steering rubbery, and the interplay of regenerative and friction brakes leads to a touchy brake pedal. However, the Escape’s 176-foot stop from 70 mph is 19 feet shorter than the RAV4 Prime’s lengthy result.
The minor makeover doesn’t address enough of the plug-in Escape’s shortcomings, and so it struggles to make a mark in the PHEV class. Not only is the plug-in Escape the slowest of the group, but it also is missing an all-wheel-drive option and could use a more luxuriously appointed interior. Or, a big price cut.
2023 Ford Escape PHEV
Vehicle Type: front-engine, front-motor, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Tested: $41,995/$48,320
Options: Premium package (10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, six power-adjustable passenger’s seat, 360-degree camera, Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker sound system, front rain-sensing wipers, wireless charging pad), $4530; panoramic sunroof, $1595, floor mats, $200
DOHC 16-valve 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-4, 163 hp, 145 lb-ft + 2 AC motors, 90 and 129 hp, 48 and 176 lb-ft (combined output: 210 hp, 10.7-kWh lithium-ion battery pack; 3.5-kW onboard charger)
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 13.0-in vented disc/11.9-in disc
Tires: Michelin Primacy A/S
225/60R-18 100H M+S
Wheelbase: 106.7 in
Length: 180.1 in
Width: 74.1 in
Height: 66.1 in
Curb Weight: 4038 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 7.7 sec
1/4-Mile: 16.0 sec @ 91 mph
100 mph: 19.2 sec
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.4 sec.
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 7.7 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.3 sec
Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.4 sec
Top Speed (gov ltd): 122 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 176 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.78 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
75-mph Highway Driving, EV/Hybrid Mode: 84 MPGe/40 mpg
75-mph Highway Range, EV/Hybrid mode: 30/440 mi
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 40/42/37 mpg
Combined Gasoline + Electricity: 101 MPGe
EV Range: 37 mi
C/D TESTING EXPLAINED
Associate News Editor
Caleb Miller began blogging about cars at 13 years old, and he realized his dream of writing for a car magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University and joining the Car and Driver team. He loves quirky and obscure autos, aiming to one day own something bizarre like a Nissan S-Cargo, and is an avid motorsports fan.