Ford Escape: Chronicling the Changes

Revised: September 22, 2023

The Ford Escape is a compact crossover utility vehicle, one of this brand’s most popular models. Introduced in 2001, the Escape has seen numerous changes, including the introduction of conventional and plug-in hybrid variants. Some analysts count four generations, but we consider the 2008 model an update, not an all-new model. Nevertheless, the Escape remains a strong seller and the two most recent generations are the best of the lot.

Ford logo

Chronicling the Changes

2023Ford refreshes the Escape with modified front and rear styling, new grade levels, and introduces the fourth generation of its Sync infotainment interface. Larger screens are also available.

2022 – No significant changes of note this year.

2021 – For 2021, the Escape gains traffic sign recognition to models equipped with adaptive cruise control. The remaining updates involve trim and package feature changes.

2020 – Ford introduces the third-generation Escape, a model that loses 200 pounds and gains rear seat legroom. The Escape features four powertrain choices, including conventional and plug-in hybrids. The hybrids work with a continuously variable transmission. The gas-only models feature a turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Other features of this model include sliding second-row seats, an all-new suspension system, and standard Ford CoPilot360 – driver-assist technology.

Third-Generation Ford Escape

The third-generation Ford Escape
The third-generation Ford Escape

2019 – Once optional features, including Sync 3, keyless entry, and push-button start are now standard.

2018 — This year, Ford updates its feature availability and resurrects the SEL grade.

2017 — Ford refreshes the exterior and makes small changes to the interior. A 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine replaces the 1.6-liter engine, while the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine gains more power. Additional safety equipment along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility are new features this year.

2016 — The third generation of Ford’s Sync infotainment system rolls out, replacing the previous MyTouch arrangement.

2015 — This year, the only changes involve nominal movement of equipment among the grades.

2014 — Light changes accompany the 2014 Escape following its most recent overhaul. A rearview camera and Sync are now included across the trim range. The SEL grade is discontinued.

2013 — Ford launches the second-generation Escape, making a complete departure from Mazda in the process. Besides the total replacement of the previous model, the 2013 Escape supplies three engine choices, more than any competitor. All three engines work with a six-speed automatic transmission to route power to the front or all four wheels. The first engine is naturally aspirated and displaces 2.5 liters. The next two engines are turbocharged, displacing 1.6- and 2.0-liters respectively. As for the previous Escape Hybrid, that model was dropped. Standard features this year include steel wheels, cloth seats, and an AM/FM stereo with a CD player. Move up through the grades and features such as HID headlights, a hands-free liftgate, Ford Sync, alloy wheels, skid plates, leather seats, and push-button start come in.

Second-Generation Ford Escape

The second-generation Ford Escape
The second-generation Ford Escape

2012 — For its final year, the first-generation Ford Escape returns unchanged. This is the twelfth year for this model, an uncommonly long span for any vehicle.

2011 — Ford adds MyKey as standard equipment.

2010 — Heated seats are now standard with the Limited grade. Available features added this year include the parental MyKey teen driving management, a rearview camera, and automatic parallel-parking assist.

2009 — The Escape receives a slight boost in power for both engines this year along with an upgraded suspension system.

2008 — Ford refreshes the 2008 Escape inside and out, with new sheet metal and a redesigned interior. Its architecture, however, remains the same, therefore we do not recognize this one as the beginning of a new-generation model.

2007 — Light changes accompany the 2007 model, covering package and color choices mostly.

2006 — For 2006, the Escape is virtually unchanged.

2005 — Ford refreshes the Escape for 2005 with updated front and rear fascias and a new grille design and headlights. The base engine is swapped out for a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that works with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic transmission. New gauges, upgraded seats, and now standard anti-lock brakes chart the changes. A Safety Canopy rollover protection system is now optional. An XLT Sport grade is new. An Escape Hybrid joins the fray, adding an electric motor to the base engine.

2004 — Light changes accompany the 2004 model, including a lower price and equipment shuffling.

2003 — The Escape gains a range-topping Limited edition with polished wheels, a reverse sensing system, heated side mirrors, heated front seats, and additional airbags. Ford discontinues the XLS four-wheel-drive model’s four-cylinder engine and manual gearbox.

2002 — Ford upgrades the standard equipment list and makes the V6 engine standard on the XLT grade. A power driver’s seat and 6-CD changer are also included with the XLT. New Sport packages debut.

2001 — Ford introduces the 2001 Escape, a compact utility vehicle with room for five. This model shares its architecture with the Mazda Tribute. The new Ford is this brand’s smallest SUV yet and comes in XLS and XLT grades. Front-wheel-drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional. Both grades come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a 5-speed manual transmission. A 3.0-liter V6 is optional and works with a 5-speed automatic transmission. Among the key features are standard steel or available alloy aluminum wheels, four-wheel independent suspension, and a roof rack. Cloth seats and an audio package come standard. The list of upgrades includes fog lamps, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, and premium cloth seats.

First-Generation Ford Escape

The first-generation Ford Escape
The first-generation Ford Escape

Ford Escape Considerations

The Ford Escape remains one of the top models in its segment. In its earliest years, the Escape was joined by a Mercury Mariner twin, the latter discontinued in 2011 when that brand shut down. We believe, though, that consumers would do best by sticking with 2015 and newer models, as some of the most significant problems involved braking and transmission issues before that date.

A scan of the segment reveals competing models from every mainstream brand and in some cases, there are two models offered. The Toyota RAV4 is the segment’s best-seller, while the Honda HR-V and Nissan Rogue are also significantly represented. The Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Buick Envision, Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5 and CX-50, Mitsubishi Outlander, Volkswagen Tiguan, Kia Sportage, and Hyundai Tucson are other models to cross-shop. Even the Escape is not alone in the Ford universe as the similar-sized Bronco Sport should be considered.

See AlsoThe Three Engines of the Ford Bronco

Photo Attribution

First-generation photo by IFCAR – Own work, Public Domain, Wikipedia.

Second-generation photo by IFCAR – Own work, Public Domain, Wikipedia.

Third-generation and featured photos by Kevauto – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia.

Matt Keegan
Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan is a journalist, media professional, and owner of this website. He has an extensive writing background and has covered the automotive sector continuously since 2004. When not driving and evaluating new vehicles, Matt enjoys spending his time outdoors.

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