Back in February of 2019, Ford Authority was first to report that the all-new, fourth-generation Ford Escape will be comprised of two models: the two-row, five-passenger model available currently, as well as a three-row, seven-passenger variant that will join the lineup roughly two years after the latter. And now, we have some concrete details on the three-row Ford Escape project.
Currently in development under the program code CX788, the three-row Escape will share the Ford C2 platform that also underpins the 2020 Ford Escape (sold as the Ford Kuga in Europe), 2021 Ford Bronco Sport, Lincoln Corsair, and fourth-generation Ford Focus (the one that’s not sold in North America). The upcoming Ford Maverick compact unibody pickup will also use a variant of the C2 architecture, as first reported by Ford Authority.
The three-row Ford Escape will ride on a longer wheelbase and will be longer than the two-row model. It will also feature a more traditional roofline when compared to the two-row Escape. That additional length and roofline will allow the vehicle to accommodate a third row of seats, for a seven-passenger capacity.
Exterior styling of the three-row Ford Escape will mostly carry over from the two-row model, with the biggest differences being the additional length, treatment of the C- and D-pillars, a well as the roofline execution, which will be more boxy than the rapidly-sloping roof in the two-row model.
Inside, the cockpit will carry over from the two-row Escape; the biggest change will be the addition of the third row, access to which will be aided by the sliding second row already available in the two-row model today. That sliding second row will also enable owners to dynamically change the amount of leg room in both the second and third rows. The powertrain lineup should mirror that of the two-row Escape.
As for where it will be sold, we can say with full certainty that the three-row Ford Escape is planned for China and possibly for Europe. In China, the vehicle would be an all-new entry. In Europe, it will replace three existing Ford models: the Ford Edge (known as the Endure in some markets, like Australia), as well as the Ford S-Max wagon and Ford Galaxy MPV. Swapping out the Edge in favor of a three-row version of the Escape makes sense given that the former has been a relatively slow-seller in Europe as well as elsewhere, leading to the cancellation of the next-gen model. Meanwhile, replacing the S-Max and Galaxy with a crossover plays right into the ongoing transition of customers migrating to utilities and away from other vehicle types, be they sedans, MPVs, hatches or wagons.
In Europe, where Ford markets the Escape under the Kuga nameplate, the three-row Escape will likely be called Grand Kuga or Kuga Max. The model will be built at the Ford Valencia plant in Spain, which currently produces the two-row Kuga, among other Blue Oval vehicles. Sources tell us that FoMoCo is planning a European launch in 2022.
The addition of a three-row Ford Kuga in Europe will follow the direction adopted by several rivals, including Volkswagen, Honda, Mazda, and Nissan – all of which have offered or will soon offer extended-length, three-row variants of their compact crossover offerings.
Whether or not the three-row Ford Escape will be offered in North America has been somewhat murky, but we have reason to believe that it will be offered. If/when it does make its way, then it will likely follow the aforementioned naming conventions by replacing “Kuga” with “Escape.” In other words, the go-to-market name will either be Grand Escape or Escape Max. Production should take place at the Ford Louisville Assembly Plant, which currently produces the Ford Escape and Lincoln Corsair.
Update: September 14th, 2020: article updated to reflect different project code.