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A front corner view of the 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line
Vehicle Reviews

2023 Ford Escape ST-Line First Drive: A Stout Little SUV With Plenty of Style

Check out our initial impressions of the 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line, an impressive contender in the compact SUV category. With a well-crafted interior, responsive tech, and multiple engine options, it's a refreshing update from the previous model, offering a promising driving experience and sporty appearance.

The compact SUV category is one of the toughest for automakers to compete in. With perennial favorites like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Nissan Rogue hanging around, the American automakers have a lot to handle. However, some of them, like Ford, have really stepped up to the plate as of late.

One great entry that’s worth a look is the 2023 Ford Escape. I’m driving the Escape ST-Line Elite this week and have been impressed with its stable road manners and updated tech. Here are my first impressions.

They don’t make the Ford Escape like they used to, and that’s a good thing

A rear view of the 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line
2023 Ford Escape ST-Line | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Starting with the inside of the 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line, I’m thoroughly impressed with how well-crafted it looks and feels. There are still plenty of hard plastics on the dashboard and other parts of the interior, but its simplistic design and seat patterns make up for them. The last Ford Escape I drove was over 10 years ago, so this new model is quite refreshing.

Other standout features in this top-trim rig include a 13.2-inch infotainment system that uses the SYNC 4 software. The screen is responsive to the touch, and the menus are easy to get around, although there are quite a few.

The system even allows for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, which makes connecting my smartphone a snap. However, my biggest gripe is the HVAC controls at the bottom of the screen. I don’t like the thought of being unable to use the controls if the screen malfunctions.

Additionally, doing something simple like turning the air recirculation on takes a few screen pokes to get to it. That’s annoying, especially while driving past a cow pasture.

Otherwise, the Escape’s interior is comfortable and spacious. The diamond stitching on the seats is eye-pleasing, and the seats are supportive. I also like the panoramic moonroof, which operates smoothly and quietly.

The 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line has plenty of power

For 2023, the Ford Escape has two different engine options – a 2.0-liter EcoBoost and a 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine. The ST-Line Elite trim I’m driving has the former engine, which makes 250 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque routed to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

On the road, the engine feels peppy without any hints of turbo lag. The eight-speed transmission shifts smoothly, and the power comes on quickly off the line. The Ford Escape accelerates like a scared cat, and that’s a good thing.

Regarding fuel efficiency, the EPA estimates that the Escape can get up to 26 mpg in combined driving situations, and that’s pretty spot-on. In my experience thus far, my Escape tester is averaging 25.5 mpg.

The Escape isn’t purple, it’s red

A side view of the 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line
2023 Ford Escape ST-Line | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Is the 2023 Ford Escape ST-Line Elite Worth Over $38K?

Checking out the Ford Escape’s exterior, my favorite feature is the lightbar that extends from one headlight to the other; it looks cool at nighttime and reminds me of the F-150 Lightning. The ST-Line is mainly an appearance package, which includes more aggressive LED headlights, a black mesh grille, black 19-inch wheels, and LED foglights.

Overall, the enhancements make the car look sportier and match well with its Cinnabar Red Metallic paint job. That’s right, it’s not purple, it’s red.

Ultimately, the 2023 Ford Escape made wade in treacherous waters in the compact SUV category, but it’s definitely ready to swim.