Don’t cry over the new Focus ST not coming to the U.S., the Escape ST is likely to replace it

The Ford Escape ST is a rumored, high-performance version of the fourth-generation crossover, unveiled in 2019 for the 2020 model year. Ford has yet to confirm plans to launch an ST variant of the Escape, but the company’s announced shift toward SUVs in the United States suggests that a more powerful crossover is in the making. Should it happen, it won’t arrive until 2020.

The trouble with the Escape ST is that Ford has never developed one before, despite the fact that the Escape nameplate has been around since 2000. Sure, Ford did offer an ST-Line model of the Euro-spec Kuga, but the package was only about the looks and no extra power. Will Ford change its mind for the fourth-generation SUV? That’s very likely because high-performance SUVs are growing popular and more and more carmakers are jumping on the bandwagon. Let’s find out how it may look and what it might hide under the hood.

Exterior

  • Very similar to the regular Escape
  • Sportier front bumper
  • New honeycomb grille
  • Larger air vents
  • New, larger wheels
  • Sportier side skirts
  • Black trim
  • Bigger rear spoiler
  • Diffuser-like element
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Up front, the ST will feature a new grille mesh with a honeycomb-style pattern

With no predecessor to look at, imagining the Escape ST might seem like a difficult task, but it’s actually a simple job. Because the new Escape looks a lot like the Focus, it’s safe to assume that the Escape ST will borrow design cues from the Focus ST.

The fourth-generation Escape adopted the styling language that already adorns much of Ford’s current lineup. Just like the Focus and the Fiesta, it now features a wide grille mounted lower in the front fascia and swept-back headlamps. Ford says that the trapezoidal front grille is inspired by the latest Mustang while the front apron borrows from the GT supercar, but that’s just a fancy attempt to hide that the Escape is a Focus on stilts.

Up front, the ST will feature a new grille mesh with a honeycomb-style pattern. This element will be very similar to that on the Focus ST, so it should also have a black finish. A red "ST" badge will adorn the lower right corner. The rendering from X-Tomi Design also shows a revised lower bumper with the center grille featuring the same mesh as the main grille. Onto the sides, there are gloss-black surrounds for the vents additional vents and the foglamps. Both features seem spot on, especially if we compare this rendering to the Focus ST.

The 2020 Ford Escape Is Smarter But it Looks Like a Focus or Fiesta With an Upside-Down Grille
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The spoiler atop the tailgate will grow a bit larger, while the lower bumper will look more like a diffuser

The Escape’s new profile isn’t radically different than the old model, but it has smoother surfaces and a rounder quarter window frame. All these changes make it look more like the Focus though. ST addons should include black window frames, sportier side skirts, body-colored mirror caps, new, sportier wheels, and a slightly lowered ride height.

Similarities between the Escape and the Focus continue around back, so it’s safe to say that the ST models will look similar too. With both the Focus and Fiesta having received horizontal taillights, the Escape followed the same route, and it now features longer and thinner lights. We can also spot Focus’ big trapezoidal license plate recess in the center of the rear fascia, as well as the fake vents that house red lights at the corners of the rear bumper. What will change with the ST badge you ask? Well, not much. The spoiler atop the tailgate will grow a bit larger, while the lower bumper will look more like a diffuser. The Escape ST will also sport larger exhaust pipes and a red badge on the tailgate.

Interior

  • Similar to standard Escape
  • Flat-bottom steering wheel
  • Revised instrument cluster
  • Sportier seats
  • Leather upholstery
  • Contrast stitching
  • Loads of tech
The 2020 Ford Escape Is Smarter But it Looks Like a Focus or Fiesta With an Upside-Down Grille
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Look for a bespoke instrument cluster that shows information in a different fashion

The new Escape has a cool, fresh interior layout to brag about. Nothing like stepping into a new vehicle to find out that it’s a big departure from the old version, but the Escape’s new cabin might be disappointing to some of you. That’s because Ford turned it into an almost identical replica of the Focus’ cabin.

It has the same two-tier dashboard, a similar hood above the instrument cluster, and a trapezoidal center stack with controls at the top and A/C vents at the bottom. The knob and control section below is also identical to the Focus and even the Fiesta. It’s like Ford gave up in the diversity department.

But hey, there’s some good news in this. Because Ford made great efforts to transplant the Focus’ interior into the Escape, it’s easy to anticipate what ST-style features this SUV will have.

The 2020 Ford Escape Is Smarter But it Looks Like a Focus or Fiesta With an Upside-Down Grille
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The Escape ST will have a flat-bottom steering wheel and heavily bolstered seats

First up, look for a bespoke instrument cluster that shows information like turbo boost pressure, oil pressure, and oil temperature in a different fashion. The display in the Focus ST is based on the GT supercar, and the crossover could get the same treatment. Next up, the Escape ST will have a flat-bottom steering wheel and heavily bolstered seats. Ford might not offer the optional Recaro units, as these may be a tad too aggressive for the crossover, but the standard seats will definitely provide enhanced support.

Also look for an aluminum gear knob, aluminum scuff plates, alloy pedals, and satin silver trim. The seats and parts of the door panels will be wrapped in leather, most likely in a dark hue. The Focus ST has Ebony leather, which is almost black, and the Escape ST might go the same route. The seats, door panels, and the center console will probably have the same grey stitching as in the Focus ST.

The 2020 Ford Escape Is Smarter But it Looks Like a Focus or Fiesta With an Upside-Down Grille
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Tech-wise, the Escape ST should remain similar to the regular SUV, but the package should include extra options as standard equipment. For instance, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster will be standard instead of the much smaller eight-inch unit. The SYNC 3 infotainment system will include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Alexa, and Waze navigation. The 575-watt, 10-speaker sound system by Bang & Olufsen will remain optional in the ST trim as well.

Just like the expensive Titanium trim, the ST model should have a heads-up display as standard

FordPass Connect, another cool standard feature, will provide 4G LTE connectivity for up to 10 devices and remote access to the vehicle. All you have to do is install an app on your smartphone, and you can lock, unlock, locate, and start the vehicle without getting close to it. The ST will also come with a wireless charging pad in the center console, USB charging ports, and three 12-volt charging sockets.

Just like the expensive Titanium trim, the ST model should have a head-up display as standard. A first for Ford in North America, it projects information onto a six-inch screen in front of you so you can monitor vital information without getting your eyes away from the road ahead.

The 2020 Ford Escape Is Smarter But it Looks Like a Focus or Fiesta With an Upside-Down Grille
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Comfort features should remain unchanged, so look for sliding second-row seats that provide enhanced legroom when they are in full rearward position or an extra six inches of trunk length when in their full forward position. The Escape ST will provide the same 37.5 cubic feet of cargo room as the rest of the gasoline lineup. This means it can carry four sets of golf clubs or a full-size dog crate. Compared to the old Escape, the new crossover boasts an extra 3.2 cubic feet of luggage room.

Drivetrain

  • 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine
  • More than 300 horsepower
  • More than 300 pound-feet
  • Eight-speed automatic
  • AWD system
  • 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds
  • Top speed at 145 mph
2019 Ford Focus ST Exterior
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It's very likely that the Escape ST will borrow its engine from the Focus ST

The Escape ST’s drivetrain remains a mystery, but unlike the Kuga ST-Line, it will be more powerful than the standard Escape. The fourth-generation crossover was launched with a variety of gasoline engines, including a couple of hybrids. Non-hybrid choices include 1.5- and 2.0-liter EcoBoost engines. The latter is obviously the most powerful, as it cranks out 250 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque.

While the 1.5-liter EcoBoost is shared with the Focus in the exact same specs, the larger 2.0-liter isn’t available for the hatchback, which isn’t coming to the U.S. anyway. But it’s very likely that the Escape ST will borrow its engine from the Focus ST. With both cars based on the same platform, it won’t be a problem for Ford to make another transplant under the shell.

The Focus ST features a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine. Replacing the old 2.0-liter mill, this EcoBoost is sourced from the Mustang muscle car and retuned to suit the Focus ST. It’s rated at 276 horsepower and 310 pound-feet, a notable increase over the old Focus ST. But is the output enough for the Escape ST? Given that the range-topping crossover comes with 250 horses and 275 pound-feet, I’d say that the Escape ST needs more oomph. Fortunately, Ford has at least two options.

2019 Ford Focus ST - specifications

Engine 2.3-litre EcoBoost petrol with twin-scroll turbo and anti-lag 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel
Horsepower 280 PS (276 HP) 190 PS (187 HP)
Torque 310 LB-FT 295 LB-FT
Transmission six-speed manual six-speed manual
0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) < 6.0 seconds TBA
The 2020 Ford Escape Is Smarter But it Looks Like a Focus or Fiesta With an Upside-Down Grille
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A rating of at least 300 horsepower would enable the ST to stand out

First, we know that the 2.3-liter EcoBoost can do better. In the Mustang, the turbocharged four-banger churns 310 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. Granted, the Escape ST won’t share the exact same engine with the Mustang, but a rating of at least 300 horsepower would enable the ST to stand out compared to the 250-horsepower, range-topping Escape.

Ford’s second option is to use the revised 2.3-liter EcoBoost that will motivate the upcoming Ford Focus RS. This mill is rumored to deliver around 400 horsepower in order to compete with the latest Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi RS3 hatchbacks. But Ford will probably detune this mill to around 350 horsepower. Just in case it decided to roll out an Escape RS at some point.

The second variant is more likely, simply because the Focus ST doesn’t have all-wheel drive. The Focus RS will be AWD, so its EcoBoost engine is already engineered to work with a four-wheel-drive system. This drivetrain combo will probably mate to a version of the Escape’s existing eight-speed automatic transmission.

The 2020 Ford Escape Is Smarter But it Looks Like a Focus or Fiesta With an Upside-Down Grille
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Performance-wise, expect the Escape ST to be the quickest of the bunch. The SUV should hit 60 mph in less than six seconds and reach a top speed of around 145 mph.

2020 Ford Escape drivetrain specifications

1.5L EcoBoost 2.0L EcoBoost 2.5L FHEV 2.5L PHEV
S, SE, SEL SEL,Titanium SE Sport, Titanium SE, SEL, Titanium
Configuration Aluminum block and head, In-line 3 cylinder Aluminum block and head, In-line 4 cylinder Aluminum block and head, Atkinson-cycle I-4 Aluminum block and head, Atkinson-cycle I-4
Bore and stroke 3.31 x 3.54 in. 3.44 x 3.27 in. 3.50 x3.94 in. 3.50 x3.94 in.
Displacement 91.4 cu. in./1,497 cc 122 cu. in./1,999 cc 152 cu. in./2,488 cc 152 cu. in./2,488 cc
Compression ratio 10.0:1 9. 3:1 13.0:1 13.0:1
Horsepower (targeted) 180 hp 250 hp 198 hp 209 hp
Torque (targeted) 177 lb.-ft. 275 lb.-ft. N /A N /A
Transmission 8-speed automatic 8-speed auto with SelectShift® with paddle shifters PowerSplit: Electronic Continuous Variable Transmission PowerSplit: Electronic Continuous Variable Transmission

Pricing

Ford has yet to release pricing information for the new-generation Escape, but the SUV should command less than $30,000 in base trim and around $40,000 for the Titanium model. Since it will sit at the top of the lineup, the ST will be the most expensive version. Expect it to start from at least $47,000.

Competition

Mazda CX-5

2019 Mazda CX-5
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Updated for the 2019 model year, the Mazda CX-5 remains one of the most appealing SUVs in this segment when it comes to styling. The Japanese automakers also made significant progress with its cabin designs, and the CX-5 moved closer to the premium segment. Just like the Escape, the CX-5 comes in many trims. Mazda doesn’t offer a specific performance-oriented model, but the 2019-model-year update includes a new Signature trim that adds a more powerful engine on top of a few fancy features. This 2.5-liter four-cylinder cranks out 250 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. Granted, it’s not as powerful as the Escape ST is expected to be, but it might match it in terms of torque. This CX-5 also comes with a six-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel-drive system. Premium features include a frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED lighting for the glovebox and cargo area, Nappa leather, genuine wood trim, ventilated and heated seats. Pricing for this trim starts from $36,890, so it’s notably more affordable than the Escape ST.

Read our full story on the 2019 Mazda CX-5

Hyundai Tucson N Line

2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line Exterior
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Hyundai is one of the very few automakers in the non-premium segment that decided to jump on the performance SUV bandwagon in recent years. The Tucson N Line is the first result of this decision. This package gives the Tucson a more aggressive appearance via a honeycomb grille, sportier bumpers, and black highlights, while the cabin combines leather and suede trim, sportier seats, and red accents and stitching. The downside is that the N Line upgrade doesn’t include a more powerful engine. The best you can get is the 1.6-liter four-cylinder that generates 175 horsepower, which is way below the Escape ST’s expected rating. The good news is that a full-fledged Tucson N with more than 200 horsepower is underway. The Tucson N Line should cost less than $30,000 before options in the United States.

Read our full review of the 2019 Hyundai Tucson N Line

Final Thoughts

2020 Ford Escape ST
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Although it’s not yet confirmed for production, the Escape ST is very like to happen. Ford already made a small step toward the performance-oriented crossover market with the Kuga ST-Line, but more importantly, the disappearance of the Focus from the U.S. market makes room for an ST-badged compact. Ford’s recently established high-performance division is also set on rolling out new models, and with the Edge ST already on the market, the Escape ST would add to a growing high-performance SUV lineup. And not many non-premium companies can brag about that. Actually, Ford would be the first to have two. So the Escape ST makes a lot of sense.

  • Leave it
    • Not yet confirmed
    • Could be a bit expensive

Further reading

2020 Ford Escape
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Read our full review on the 2020 Ford Escape.

2017 Ford Escape High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 655892

Read our full review on the 2018 Ford Escape.

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