The Ford Escape may have gotten more mentions lately as the launching pad for Ford’s Maverick pickup and their Bronco Sport SUV, but the Escape itself has its own story to tell, as it has recently gotten a host of updates. So, let’s see what’s new with Ford’s compact getaway machine.

The Ford Escape has a much longer history than many of its small crossover competitors; arriving in 2001 when car-based utility vehicles that weren’t station wagons were still a relatively new thing. Now in its 4th generation, the 2023 Escape gets some timely updates to stay ahead of the curve.

But first, one thing that hasn’t changed is that Ford still offers a wide variety of powertrains for the Escape, most of which get minor updating for ’23. They include a 1.5-liter I3 turbo now rated at 180-horsepower, a 250-horsepower 2.0-liter I4 turbo, a revised hybrid with a new combined output of 192-horsepower, and this plug-in hybrid.

The PHEV incorporates a pair of electric motors into an eCVT mated to the Hybrid’s 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I4 for an increased output of 210-horsepower. A 14.4-kWh battery allows for a good 37-miles of strictly EV driving; and you can choose when to use those miles or keep it in auto and let the vehicle decide.

All-wheel-drive comes standard with the 2.0-liter turbo and is available with the 1.5-liter and Hybrid, but this PHEV stays strictly front-wheel-drive to maximize fuel economy.

2023 Ford Escape Dead Front
2023 Ford Escape Grille
2023 Ford Escape Profile
2023 Ford Escape Wheel
2023 Ford Escape 3/4 Rear
2023 Ford Escape Dead Rear
2023 Ford Escape 7
2023 Ford Escape 8
2023 Ford Escape Dead Front2023 Ford Escape Grille2023 Ford Escape Profile2023 Ford Escape Wheel2023 Ford Escape 3/4 Rear2023 Ford Escape Dead Rear2023 Ford Escape 72023 Ford Escape 8

Those Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 101-Combined MPGe and 40-Combined for strictly gasoline engine operation. We took advantage of plug-in opportunities for our test loop and averaged a great 71.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular. No surprise, the Escape has a good Energy Impact Score; 2.7-barrels of oil annually, and 0.9-tons of CO2 emitted.

Now, getting to bigger changes, Ford has upped their touchscreen game big time with an available 13.2-incher. An 8-inch screen remains standard, but both sit on the same dashtop shelf and include the latest version of Ford’s Sync4.

An 8-inch color LCD instrument cluster is also standard, but this larger and more configurable 12.3-inch screen is available.

Front seats are still plenty comfortable, with 6-inches of slide travel for the rear seats, midsize-like legroom is possible.

Cargo capacity is a good 34.4 cubic-ft.; expanding to 60.8 with seatbacks folded.

Outside, the changes may seem minor, but go a long way in improving this 5-passenger utility’s look. New LED headlights are showcased in a face that’s a little less rounded than before, though they haven’t gone the trendy extreme rugged route yet.

The edges of the grille are more squared off, and the lower air intakes slimmed down to allow for more body color up front. Not much changes out back; wheel sizes range from 17 to 19-inches.

2023 Ford Escape Dash
2023 Ford Escape Front Seat
2023 Ford Escape Rear Seat
2023 Ford Escape Trunk
2023 Ford Escape Dash2023 Ford Escape Front Seat2023 Ford Escape Rear Seat2023 Ford Escape Trunk

We rolled them up to the starting line of our Mason Dixon test track eager to see what this PHEV has in store.

EV-power usually means good things for acceleration, but it’s important to keep in mind you’re only dealing with a little over 200-horsepower here, so launching was a little more muted than we’ve experienced in many PHEVs, but quick throttle response and steady power delivery made for an acceptable 7.8-second trip to 60.

CVT means engine revs kept mostly steady throughout the ¼-mile, but engine noise was not offensive at all. We hit 91 miles-per-hour in 15.9 seconds at the end of the quarter.

The pace was also moderate in our handling course. The PHEV’s hard tires lacked the grip to really keep up with what this chassis is capable of. The front end wanted to slide as soon as we added too much speed. Still, steering feel was quite good and body roll minimal.

Braking performance was overall quite good; even with a fair amount of nosedive, stops were straight and consistent, averaging 110-feet from 60 miles-per-hour.

Now, those looking for a little more visual excitement will be interested in the new ST-Line now available on the Escape for ’23. It features lots of sporty black trim, 19-inch Ebony aluminum wheels, a unique rear spoiler, and updated lighting.

Ford has completely restructured the Escape lineup, doing away with the boring-sounding SEs and SELs and replacing them with exciting names like Active, ST-Line, and Platinum. The base model is now called Base, and starting at $29,495, while the PHEV is now a standalone model priced at $41,995.

Many people may have forgotten, but the Ford Escape was actually the first gasoline-electric hybrid SUV sold here in America. That head start allowed them to stay ahead of rivals for quite some time. But more competitors have joined the race recently, some of which offer all-wheel-drive in their plug-ins, are faster, and have greater EV range. Still, taken as a whole, there is certainly much to like about this revamped tech-savvy 2023 Ford Escape PHEV. And, for Ford fans that aren’t quite ready to go the full battery electric route, it’s a terrific option.


As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter I-4
  • Battery Size: 14.4-kWh
  • 0-60 mph: 7.8 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking (avg): 110 feet
  • EPA: 101-Combined MPGe | 40-Combined MPG
  • Transmission: eCVT
  • Horsepower: 210
  • 1/4 Mile: 15.9-seconds at 91 mph
  • EV Range: 37 miles
  • MW Fuel Economy: 71.5 MPG (Regular)