On the Grid: 2021 Ford Escape SE Plug-In Hybrid
11 Mar 2022
Back in October 2021, we were involved in a collision. The driver of an SUV in the oncoming left turn lane was texting and made the turn without slowing down enough. As a result, she drove right into the front driver’s side of my wife’s 2017 Ford C-Max Energi Titanium, with the majority of the impact at the location of the hybrid plug, front quarter panel, and driver’s door. Her C-Max Energi was a very reliable vehicle. After 4 years, it still drove like it was brand-new, and it did not have a scratch on it. Luckily, our dashcam caught the whole incident proving that the other driver was at fault.
She loved her car and was in tears when our insurance company told her they were writing the vehicle off. We had new vehicle protection which allowed us to get back what we paid for the vehicle. Unfortunately, Ford does not make the C-Max Energi anymore, so our insurance company had to pay us what it would cost to replace her vehicle with something comparable in Ford‘s current lineup. The replacement would have been the Ford Escape Titanium PHEV which she loved the idea of as she was already acclimated to the technology and options, and it would have made an easy transition. However, due to COVID-19 and the chip shortage, there were no new Escape PHEVs available at the time we were buying, so we ended up purchasing the slightly larger Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.
Recently, I got the opportunity to test drive the 2021 Ford Escape SE plug-in hybrid for a week, at a time when the gas prices were at an all-time high. The timing could not have been better. The Ford Escape PHEV was supposed to be introduced for the 2020 model year, but COVID-19 and the chip shortage delayed the release, so it was finally offered as a 2021 model in the Summer of 2021, with units finally arriving at dealers in the Fall. I think we can all brief a sigh of relief that the pandemic is subsiding.
Of course, you’ll have to wait until the end to see what song I paired with this electrified vehicle.
2021 Ford Escape SE Plug-In Hybrid
Let’s take a closer look at this sporty looking midsize plug-in hybrid SUV.
My parents owned a 2010 Escape, and then a 2017 Escape, so I have driven both the older boxy style and the rounder “Kuga” redesign. The fourth-generation Escape had an overhaul for the 2020 model year, with sleek lines and a sportier look. The redesigned headlights and rounder body shape does remind you a bit of the Porsche Cayenne, but I’m really digging the new sportier look.
The model I tested had Velocity Blue Metallic paint which was quite vibrant. It reminded me of the Liquid Blue Ford used when they unveiled the 2016 Ford Shelby Mustang GT350R, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor, and the 2017 Ford GT at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The Escape is due for another refresh in late 2023, and a complete redesign in 2025.
The interior look and feel haven’t changed much in the last few years. Ford still leads the industry in the use of environmentally friendly auto parts. The Escape’s interior does have a lot of recycled materials, which helps reduce the amount of plastic that can end up in landfills.
The redesigned dash allows for a clear and unobstructed view of the 6.5” colour LCD instrument cluster. The SE trim comes equipped with comfortable cloth heated front bucket seats and a 60/40 split-fold 2nd row that slides to accommodate larger passengers. The model I tested had an 8-Way power driver seat.
The heated urethane steering wheel warms the entire steering wheel, and not just the 9 and 3 positions. The telescoping steering column has a manual tilt with cruise and audio controls.
The centre floor console is spacious inside, and is a comfortable arm rest when closed. The centre console has a media bin with wireless charging as well as one USB-A port, one USB-C port, and a 12V powerpoint.
The Hybrid 2.5L iVCT Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Engine puts out a decent 221 horsepower at 6,250 rpm, and 155 lb-ft of max torque at 4,500 rpm. While it may not have the launch power of a Tesla Model S, the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV has pretty good acceleration from a stopped position.
It’s not the most powerful PHEV SUV in its class, but the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV does have a decent amount of power.
I really loved the way the Escape PHEV handled. Both steering and suspension were tight, allowing you to maneuver the vehicle very well.
Like most Ford vehicles, cabin noise is very low, but noticeable depending on terrain. I noticed it a little more on dirt roads and the highway, but it was low in city driving. Most of the noise came from the front wheel area, which is expected.
There are 5 distinct drive modes available – Eco, Normal, Sport, Slippery, and Sand. Each drive mode changes the driving experience, and allows you to get the most out of the vehicle in that specific driving condition.
• Eco mode gives you the best fuel economy
• Normal is for regular dry road conditions
• Sport gives you that extra punch when needed at the expense of fuel economy (but it is super fun!)
• Slippery is for winter conditions like icy or snow-covered roads
• Sand is for soft loose ground like a beach setting
The Escape’s front-wheel drive with traction control and AdvanceTrac with roll stability control give you decent management of the vehicle, and the four-wheel disc brakes give you very reactive stopping power.
My favourite driving feature? Auto Hold. You press the brake to bring the vehicle to a stop. Once you are completely stopped, you can remove your foot from the brake pedal, and the vehicle remains stopped. The vehicle stays in the stopped position until you press on the accelerator. The rear brake lights do remain on when Auto Hold is activated. This is a super useful feature at traffic lights or in stop-and-go traffic.
I was left wondering why All-Wheel Drive was not available in the Plug-In Hybrid models. While AWD is not a necessity, it is a really nice driving feature that competitors offer as standard equipment. All-Wheel Drive with AWD Disconnect is an available option on the SE, SEL, and Titanium hybrid models.
While the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV beat the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV in cargo space, Ford edges a win in the fuel economy category.
2021 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV
Reg Gas: 9 L/100km combined city/highway
Elec + Gas: 3.2 Le/100km combined city/highway
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime
Reg Gas: 6.2 Le/100km combined city/highway
Elec + Gas: 2.5 Le/100km combined city/highway
2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV
Reg Gas: 5.9 Le/100km combined city/highway
Electricity + Gasoline = 2.2 Le/100km
Another awesome feature in the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV is Power Flow. The SYNC 3 touchscreen displays where the power is coming from (gas, hybrid, or electric) and how it is being used, depending on how you are driving.
The 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV does sometimes fire up the gas engine, even when in EV mode. This is due to several factors like the demand on the vehicle.
If you are looking for the most fuel efficient in its class, the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV is the way to go.
There’s a reason why the 2021 Ford Escape earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick. This vehicle is packed with so many safety features that I could write an article all about this one section.
Ford puts a lot of concentration into the safety of the vehicles they produce, which is very evident by the list of standard safety features included in the 2021 Ford Escape SE Plug-In Hybrid with Ford Co-Pilot360:
• Pre-Collision Assist With Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection, Forward Collision Warning and Dynamic Brake Support
• BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert
• Lane-Keeping System (includes Lane-Keeping Assist, Lane-Keeping Alert and Driver Alert)
• Rear-View Camera
• Auto High-Beam Headlamps
On top of Ford Co-Pilot360 technology, these safety features are also standard:
• Personal Safety System with Dual-Stage Driver and Front-Passenger Airbags
• Driver Knee Airbag
• Front Seat-Mounted Side-Impact Airbags
• Safety Canopy System
• Belt-Minder (Front and 2nd Row)
• Head Restraints
• Front Row Height Adjustable Retractable Safety Belts with Three-Point on all five (5) Seating Positions
• Lower Anchors and Tether Anchors for Children (LATCH)
• Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
• SOS Post-Crash Alert System
• SecuriLock Passive Anti-Theft System
• AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control
• Halogen Projector Headlamps
• Torque Vectoring Control
All of these safety features in the entry level trim is really impressive.
Comfort in a vehicle is one of the first things I look for. If the vehicle is not comfortable on the inside, it really doesn’t matter how sexy it is on the outside. The 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV is quite comfortable, but I was expecting that.
Getting past the B-pillar is a bit tight, but very doable for a guy my size. I was able to get in and out with little effort. The pillar did not affect my seat position at all. The manual telescoping and tilting steering column is a blessing, allowing taller drivers like me to keep it in the up and close to the dashboard position when leaving the vehicle, allowing for easy access when returning. It’s a small step to get used to, but a necessary one that will become a habit. The 6-way powered driver’s seat also helped here.
Once in the driver’s seat, it was very reminiscent of Ford vehicles I have driven in the past – the seat was very comfortable, and everything was easily within reach. There was ample headroom and legroom in the front seats. The width of the seat was ideal for my larger body frame, and was quite comfortable. The back seats were roomy enough for my two teenage daughters. This vehicle would be awesome for a road trip.
Ford puts a lot into the comfort of their vehicles. On a past visit to the Research and Development Centre in Dearborn, I was able to see the comfort tests performed on the seats Ford manufactures. With the right amount of padding, the best surface materials, and the right seat contour, they achieve maximum comfort in their seats.
The dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control allows you to keep the cabin at your desired climate, giving you an ideal experience.
Technology features in vehicles have come a long way, and are put in place to make the life of the vehicle’s occupants easier and safer. It’s no secret that Ford has led the way for many years in the tech department. Their Research & Engineering Center in Dearborn Michigan is second to none. Over the past several years, they have pivoted from a car manufacturer to a tech company, and added the following facilities to their roster:
• Ford Greenfield Labs in Palo Alto, California, USA
• Ford Innovation Centre in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
• Ford Connectivity and Innovation Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Ford really upped their infotainment system with the introduction of SYNC 3. I have this exact system in my F250, and it is super fast and intuitive. While SYNC 4 was available at the time of manufacturing, Ford traditionally delays adding new systems like this until complete redesigns.
In keeping with the “making life easier” theme, SYNC 3 makes tasks like making a phone call or using the navigation system easier with voice-activation, allowing the driver to concentrate on the road. When parked, the pinch-to-zoom capability of the SYNC 3 works as easy as your smartphone. Speaking of smartphones… Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on every Ford Escape.
The FordPass App allows you to connect to your vehicle remotely – and by connect, I really mean connect. You can lock or unlock your vehicle from anywhere, start your vehicle, schedule starts, find your vehicle on a map, turn your vehicle into a Wi-Fi Hotspot, schedule maintenance, see vehicle alerts, check your driving data, see fuel levels, check oil life, monitor your tire pressure, see your vehicle’s service history, and call for roadside assistance if required. You can also use the FordPass App to find things like a Ford dealer, public parking, charging stations, or gas stations. And this is not new – Ford has been offering the FordPass App for at least 7 years. I used it with my 2015 Ford F150 Lariat Supercrew, and have loved using it on the 2018 Ford F150 Lariat Supercrew I had after that, and the 2021 Ford F250 Lariat Supercrew I have now.
If you really don’t want to use the FordPass App, the vehicle has a remote start system accessible from the key fob. Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start is convenient if you want to keep the key fob in your pocket.
Ford has thought to include simple conveniences that can sometimes be taken for granted. One of these features is Power Windows with Driver’s Front One-Touch Down, which I absolutely love. This allows me to push the power window button once to open or close the window. If I want to control where the window stops, I can still do that.
The 6.5” Colour LCD Instrument Cluster with Ice Blue Lighting is clear and customizable. There are two trip computers allowing you to use one for each tank of gas, and one specifically for individual trips.
For accessory power, the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV has 4 charging ports:
• one USB-A port, one USB-C port, and a 12V powerpoint in the centre console media bin
• a 12V powerpoint in the rear cargo area
The Escape’s 8” capacitive touchscreen with swipe capability is standard equipment. The vehicle I tested had the voice-activated touchscreen navigation system added, which has pinch-to-zoom capability.
SYNC 4 is available in the 2021 Mach-E (SYNC 4A), 2021 F-150, and 2021 Bronco. However, there’s a really good chance it will be in the next mid-cycle redesign scheduled for late 2023.
Like most plug-in hybrids, storage space is pretty limited. The 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV has 974 L of storage space behind the rear seats, which puts it behind the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. That being said, it is still a significant amount of room for the size of the vehicle. The hybrid battery location on the bottom of the vehicle allows for minimal passenger and cargo space intrusion.
The 2021 Ford Escape SE Plug-In Hybrid has a starting price of $40,649.00 (CAD). The model we tested had $4,500.00 of optional equipment added, bringing the total to $45,149.00. With all of the options, this puts the 2021 Ford Escape SE Plug-In Hybrid around the middle of the price range with its competitors.
Based on the 10 different categories covered above, I gave the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV an overall score of 83.0.
Overall Score: 83.0
The following are key specifications. For trim specific specs, please visit the Ford website.
Vehicle Type: 5-passenger SUV
Suspension: Front – Independent MacPherson strut-type with stabilizer bar, twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks. Rear – Independent double lateral link semi-trailing arms with stabilizer bar, progressive-rate springs and hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks
Brakes: Power 4-wheel disc with Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)
Engine: Hybrid 2.5L iVCT Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Engine
Horsepower (hp/rpm): 221 hp @ 6,250 rpm
Max. Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 155 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Transmission: eCVT Continuously Variable Automatic
Battery Size: 14 kWh
Electric Range: 60 km
Driving System: Front-Wheel Drive
Recommended Fuel: Regular Unleaded Gas and Electricity
Maximum Towing Capacity (lbs): 1,500
Wheelbase: 2,710 mm
Length: 4,585 mm
Width: 2,174 mm
Height: 1,679 mm
Passenger Volume: 2,945 L
Trunk Volume: 974 L
Curb Weight: 1,612 kg
Combined Electric + Gas: 2.2 L/100km
Combined (hybrid only): 5.8 L/100km
City (hybrid only): 5.5 L/100km
Highway (hybrid only): 6.2 L/100km
Time To Charge
Level 2: 3 hr 30 min
Level 1: 10 to 11 hours (estimated)
Basic: 3 years/60,000 km
Powertrain: 5 years/100,000 km
Safety Restraint System: 5 years/100,000 km
Corrosion (Perforation Only): 5 years/unlimited distance
Roadside Assistance: 5 years/100,000 km
The 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV is a fun vehicle to drive! I really enjoyed using the HOV lanes for the week and searching the FordPass App for charging stations. I was already used to using the SYNC 3 infotainment system, so there was no learning curve. The B&O sound system with 10 speakers was fantastic, offering amazing sound with nice lows and clear highs.
One of my only criticisms was the lack of an all-wheel-drive option on all plug-in trim levels, while AWD is available on the regular hybrid models.
Overall, the 2021 Ford Escape SE plug-in hybrid is a great option if you are looking for better fuel economy and flexibility than a traditional hybrid vehicle, but are not quite ready to go all-in with a full electric vehicle (BEV).
Titanium by David Guetta ft. Sia
This is a song that I overheard my daughters listening to a few years ago, and it really stuck. It talks about being “bulletproof” with “nothing to lose”, but it also tells a story of a real feeling of determination.
Ford has often been criticised for things they do technology-wise, yet other auto manufacturers follow suit after they see that it was a good move on Ford’s part. But Ford has always stood their ground, and been a leader in the industry – especially with the Ford Escape. From the 2012 redesign to this latest plug-in model, the 2022 Ford Escape PHEV is “bulletproof” with “nothing to lose”.
You shout it out
But I can’t hear a word you say
I’m talking loud, not saying much
I’m criticised, but all your bullets ricochet
Shoot me down, but I get up
I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Motor & Music featuring the 2021 Ford Escape SE PHEV and Titanium by David Guetta ft. Sia.