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Once a tech leader, now a safety follower, can the 2019 Ford Escape remain relevant until its 2020 redesign?

2019 Ford Escape

2019 Ford Escape

What changes will make the 2019 Ford Escape different?

Maybe a new trim level to commemorate the final model year before this popular compact-crossover SUV gets a full redesign. Expect an all-new Escape for model-year 2020, with fresh styling and slightly larger dimensions. That leaves the 2019 edition a lame duck that’s showing its age versus top rivals in this red-hot market segment.

Ford won’t be able to do anything about the current Escape’s most obvious shortcomings, such as its space-challenged rear seating. But we’d urge the automaker to enhance Escape’s safety features for 2019, primarily by upgrading its autonomous emergency braking system with the capability to stop – not merely slow – the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

Mainly to see if Ford brings safety systems abreast of the segment leaders, virtually all of which have been redesigned since this generation Escape debuted for model-year 2013. See the “Will it have new features?” section below for more on the safety issue.

Otherwise, there’s little reason to wait for the ’19 Escape. It’ll be a near carbon-copy of the ’18. An additional color choice or two is possible, along with maybe a new appearance package. But the styling itself will reprise the cosmetic updates that came with a model-year 2017 refresh. And barring some end-of-the-generation special edition, the lineup, the features, and the powertrains should be model-year ‘18 reruns.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for the 2019 Escape are apt to increase, so you’ll be asked to pay more for an essentially unchanged vehicle. That doesn’t mean you’ll actually pay more, though. Factory incentives have been numerous throughout this crossover’s run and discounts should get even juicer as the ’19 model-year matures, and dealers begin inventory-clearance sales to make way for the redesigned 2020 Escape.

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

Frankly, odds are long that Ford would upgrade safety systems in the final year of a design generation. So if you fancy a five-seater with sporty styling and driving manners to match, an ’18 Escape is probably a better bet for you than a ’19. It’s available in four trim levels, starting with the stripper S and ascending through the better-equipped SE, the new-for-2018 SEL, and the returning flagship Titanium. The S is front-wheel drive only, the others offer a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Both the ’18 and ’19 lineups would also repeat an all-four-cylinder-engine roster that limits the S to a naturally aspirated engine and turbocharges the others. Road manners are a selling point, and intriguing features include such novelties as automated self-parking. But rivals like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Nissan Rogue have more passenger and cargo space. And despite the model-year-’17 refresh, Escape’s Euro-flavored styling has reached its sell-by date.

Will the styling be different?

No. The 2017 refresh established the look for the balance of this design generation. It brought Escape in line with the newer Ford crossovers that bracket it in size and price: the subcompact EcoSport and the midsize Edge. It also kept some visual distance between the Escape and the more expense crossover that shares its underbody design, the MKC from Ford’s upscale Lincoln division.

The ’19 Escape will benefit from some 2017-refresh updates, including a more spacious center console with a less intrusive transmission shifter and a parking brake operated by an electric button rather than a ratcheting lever. Headroom will remain among best in class, but rear-seat legroom will again fall short of the norm. Cargo volume will remain middling as well. The next-generation Escape will use its interior space more efficiently, and likely have a less-cluttered cabin design.

The 2019 Escape will maintain differentiators between trim levels that include 17-inch steel wheels and black instead of chrome exterior trim and for the S model. The 2019 SE should return with 17-inch alloys, the SEL and Titanium with 18s as standard and 19s optional. SEL and Titanium will also retain LED headlamps and taillamps. The SE should also again be available with the Sport Appearance Package, a $1,295 option that brings black-themed body trim, 19-inch alloy wheels, and enhanced-support front bucket seats upholstered in white-stitched leather and cloth. The package could be a starting point for a 2019 special edition, although Ford could also ride the wave toward luxury in this segment with a new trim grade upstream of the already cushy Titanium.

Any mechanical changes?

None likely. The rental-fleet-oriented S should return for 2019 with a coarse and underwhelming naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder of 168 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. Look for the SE and SEL to reprise a turbocharged 1.5-liter four with 180 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. It provides acceleration that’s more than adequate if far from ferocious. Apt to again be exclusive to the Titanium is a turbo 2.0 four with 245 horses and 275 pound-feet of torque. It should again be among the more powerful engines in the competitive set, with a feisty nature that compliments Escape’s impressive handling.

A six-speed automatic will remain Escape’s sole transmission. SEs with the Sport Appearance Package and Titaniums with the optional towing package should again have steering-wheel paddles that, along with the less convenient standard shift-lever button, allow the driver some manual-type gear control. Expect AWD to remain available on all but the S model. The system is intended primarily to enhance slippery-pavement traction by apportioning up to 100 percent of the engine’s torque rearward when sensors detect front-tire slip. It’ll again augment the admirable dry-road handling baked into the Escape by virtue of its design origins in Ford’s European operation. Still, where road manners were once an Escape selling point, newer rivals such as the CR-V and Mazda CX-5 easily match it for overall handling and composure but in more modern packages.

Will fuel economy improve?

EPA ratings should repeat model-year 2018 numbers, so fuel economy will continue to equal or slightly exceed those of competitors with similar power. Expect the 2019 Escape S to again rate 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined. SE and SEL with their turbo 1.5-liter should again rate 23/30/26 mpg with front-wheel drive and 22/28/24 with AWD. Look for the Titanium and its more powerful turbo 2.0-liter to repeat at 22/29/25 mpg with front-drive and 20/27/23 with AWD.

EPA ratings won’t reflect it, but both turbo engines will again benefit from a fuel-saving stop-start system that shuts them off when the Escape is stationary (leaving accessories running), then restarts them automatically when the driver releases the brake pedal. It works with laudable smoothness. Note that Ford says it used 93-octane gas to achieve full power ratings for the turbocharged engines and that is recommends 91-octane gas or higher for the 2.0-liter.

Will it have new features?

Escape once was among the features leaders in this segment, and it still offers a laudable range of comfort and convenience amenities. But it’s fallen behind on the safety front. Ford has an opportunity to correct that for 2019 by bolstering Escape’s autonomous emergency braking system. For ’18, the system could warn the driver of an impending frontal collision and could slow, but not stop, the Escape to mitigate a crash. Moreover, the system was available only as part of the pricey Ford Safe and Smart package, a $1,295 option for the SE, SEL, and Titanium models.

Virtually every rival offered a system that could bring its compact crossover to a full stop to avoid hitting another vehicle or a pedestrian. And although that level of autonomous braking was limited to upper trim grades of competitors such as the CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, and Kia Sportage, it was standard on every Rogue, RAV4, and CX-5.

Otherwise, expect the 2019 Escape’s Safe and Smart Package to again include a good range of driver assists, including adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set distance from traffic ahead, plus lane-keep assist to automatically steer you back should you inadvertently drift from your lane. Rain-sensing windshield wipers and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert would also continue as part of the package. When ordered on an SE or SEL, the option would add the automatic-dimming rearview mirror and windshield-wiper de-icer that are otherwise standard on the Titanium model.

Ford can’t be faulted for skimping on other Escape features. Returning for 2019, with availability dependent on model, will be the automaker’s Sync Connect smartphone app that enables you to remotely start your Escape’s engine, lock and unlock the door locks, monitor fuel and battery levels, check tire pressure, even find where you’ve parked it. A power liftgate that opens with a wave of your foot beneath the bumper will probably remain a Titanium exclusive, as will hands-free perpendicular and parallel automatic parking.

Expect the S model to again come with a rearview camera, power windows and locks, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, a tilt/telescope steering wheel with buttons for audio and cruise control, and the basic Sync system of hands-free phone linking. The 2019 SE should again add a power driver’s seat, 60/40 split/folding rear seatbacks, dual-zone automatic climate control, and satellite radio. SEL and Titanium models will again include all that, plus upgraded Sync 3 connectivity, leather upholstery, a power passenger seat, driver-seat memory, and upgraded audio.

How will 2019 prices be different?

They’ll almost certainly increase, but Escape should remain competitively priced; even the top-of-the-line Titanium model should start at less than some of its flagship rivals, although loaded an AWD Titanium with every factory option would again push its sticker over $37,000, higher than loaded examples of top rivals such as the CR-V and RAV4. That’s a lot for an aged design, and even “competitive” base prices might put the ’19 Escape at a disadvantage versus its newer advisories. On the upside, Ford and its dealers should be offering steep discounts as the model year winds down and they need to clear inventories of 2019 Escapes to make room for the all-new 2020s.

Note that estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee, which was $995 on the ’18 Escape. Estimated base price for the 2019 Escape S is $24,950. Adding AWD to a 2019 SE, SEL, or Titanium should cost around $1,350.

With front-wheel drive, expect the 2019 SE to start around $26,200. Estimated base price is $29,300 for the 2019 SEL with front-wheel and $31,700 for the front-drive Titanium. Look for imbedded navigation with an 8-inch dashboard touchscreen to again be standard on the titanium and an option for the SE and SEL at around $800.

When will it come out?

Look for a 2019 Ford Escape release date during spring 2018.

Best competitors

Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]