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It may not be as flashy as the Ford Bronco or as capable as the Expedition, but the Escape still holds its own as one of the most popular SUVs in Ford’s lineup. Along with its practical size, the Escape has earned praise for its stable of versatile powertrains. From a three-cylinder turbo engine to a plug-in hybrid system, the Escape has something for everyone. So, which Ford Escape engine is the best? 

What kind of engine does a Ford Escape have?

Close up front view of the 2023 Ford Escape ST line.
2023 Ford Escape ST Line | Ford

Ford offers four engines in the 2023 Escape: 

  • 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbo with 181 horsepower 
  • 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo with 250 horsepower  
  • Hybrid-electric powertrain with 200 horsepower 
  • Plug-in hybrid powertrain with 200 horsepower 

 Each of these powertrain options offers a different combination of value, power, and efficiency.

The base Escape engine is a turbocharged three-cylinder 

Ford has implemented a 1.5-liter turbocharged three-cylinder as the standard engine for the 2023 Escape. 

Three-cylinder motors are gaining traction in the industry as automakers find ways to coax more power out of less displacement. The Escape is one of the latest models to get such a powertrain. 

Despite its small size, the base engine has respectable power. MotorTrend states the 1.5-liter unit makes 181 horsepower and 190 pound-feet of torque. It can also achieve mid-30s mpg on the highway. 

An available 2.0-liter turbo engine makes robust power 

If the 1.5-liter unit isn’t enough, you can always upgrade the Escape to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. 

This powertrain is much more powerful. According to MotorTrend, it produces 250 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That kind of power adds plenty of confidence, but comes at a cost. Namely, the 2.0-liter Escape engine is a little worse on fuel efficiency at an estimated 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. 

If pure power is a high priority, this is the powertrain to choose. 

2023 Ford Escape Hybrid balances power, efficiency 

The Ford Escape Hybrid offers an excellent blend of power, efficiency, and practicality. 

MotorTrend states the Escape Hybrid offers an impressive efficiency rating at 44 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Plus, its 200 horsepower means the Escape Hybrid is no slouch to drive. 

Some drivers may also prefer the Escape Hybrid over the PHEV because it doesn’t require external charging.  

2023 Ford Escape PHEV uses a plug-in hybrid powertrain 

The Escape PHEV has quickly generated high demand with its blend of EV and traditional internal combustion performance. 

Unlike the hybrid, the plug-in hybrid Escape has a battery system with external charging capability and EV driving modes. MotorTrend reports an electric-only range of 37 miles – perfect for running errands around town. On a full charge in hybrid mode, the Escape PHEV can go more than 500 miles. And it will get 40 mpg combined on the way.  

Each Ford Escape engine has its advantages 

A Ford Escape Hybrid and Ford Escape ST Line sit on a parking garage with a city in the background.
2023 Ford Escape Models | Ford

There’s no right or wrong answer to the question of which Ford Escape engine is best. Rather, it depends on the perspective of each driver. 

Those who are wary or skeptical of EV technology may prefer the traditional efficiency of the 1.5-liter engine; Drivers looking for power will undoubtedly pick the 2.0-liter EcoBoost motor; The plug-in hybrid offers electric performance without having to go with a full EV; and the Escape Hybrid deftly blends efficiency and power. 

At the end of the day, the best way to find out the answer is to get behind the wheel.