Ford’s Escape crossover is a critical vehicle for the brand. It’s Ford’s leading offering in the SUV space — the most rapidly growing segment in the industry — and as such is a crucial foothold in securing new customers, especially families. Where there are families, there are often fathers. And where there are fathers, there’s usually plenty of complaining about the boring, utilitarian nature of crossover SUVs.
In response, automakers have stepped up to offer more fun versions of cars traditionally reserved for commuting children or sheets of plywood. For the right amount, VW will happily sell you a Tiguan R-Line. If you’ve got the means, Audi would love to send you home in an SQ5. Lexus can strut its NX 200t (that’s for turbo), and even within Ford’s own stable, the Edge Sport can satisfy most fatherly duties while lessening the sting of not driving a two-door coupe.
Choices remain limited in the lower pricing brackets, though. Most luxury automakers will happily dish out a performance crossover for over $50,000, but on the same field where the Ford Escape plays, there isn’t much in the way of a genuine performance SUV. So rumors that Ford is considering adding an ST version are all the more exciting because at least for a little while, it could have the $25,000-$35,000 performance utility bracket largely to itself.
It wouldn’t be totally alone — the car would still have to contend with the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works, or even the Nissan Nismo Juke RS. They produce 208 and 211 horsepower respectively, but to really earn the ST badge, the Escape would have to produce more than that — the Focus ST hatchback makes a stellar 252 ponies from the factory floor.
Currently, the largest engine you can get in the Escape is the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four, which makes 240 horsepower. That’s a lot if it was plugged into, say, the Fiesta, and it certainly gets the job done in the Escape, but with Ford’s menu of turbocharged engines, there’s plenty of room to move up. Logically, there’s the 2.3-liter EcoBoost that makes 305 horsepower in the Mustang (and 345 in the Focus RS), but if that’s still not adequate, there’s the 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter EcoBoosts as well.
Granted, this rumor is far from substantiated. It comes from England’s Auto Express, which spoke to Roelant de Waard, the vice president of sales, marketing, and service for Ford of Europe.
“With the maturing of the SUV segment increasingly we will see all derivatives come to that segment, and yes some [other manufacturers] are experimenting with that [performance SUVs],” he told AE. The site also discussed the possibility of a Kuga (the European name for the Escape) Vignale, a high-end near-luxury trim that we don’t have here in the States.
These sorts of statements are usually fairly easy to dismiss, but with Ford planning the release of 12 new performance models by 2020 and similar rumors of a Fusion ST, it’s not outside of the realm of feasibility. We don’t know a whole lot right now, but we can say with certainty that an Escape ST would be a welcome addition, especially for fathers everywhere, to a soporific segment.