Before we step into the meat of this article, know that nothing is remotely confirmed regarding a high-performance version of the Ford Escape. We all know how automakers love to be conveniently vague when it comes to certain ideas, especially regarding the infusion of horsepower into unlikely candidates. That's what we have here, according to a report from Australian website CarsGuide.
However, vague answers can also be revealing in some ways. In this instance, a recent media event with Ford's James Hughes saw the discussion shift to questions on an Escape ST. Hughes is the global chief nameplate engineer for the Escape (Kuga outside of North America) so he would certainly know if any horsepower shenanigans were afoot. His answer when asked directly about such a machine? In short, no comment. But the report does have him drawing a parallel to the Focus ST as a good foundation for performance, and he allegedly said the automaker always evaluates opportunities.
Such responses are boilerplate-speak for folks on the automaker side of the industry. Hughes' follow-up isn't quite as mild though, as he reportedly says such a thing would be "a fantastic idea." Again, that's not even remotely close to confirming a Ford Escape ST is imminent. However, when the chief engineer of a model line thinks something is a great idea, it's safe to assume there's a discussion on some level about making it happen. Furthermore, it's been our experience on the media side that when something definitely isn't happening, we're told as much and that didn't happen here.
So, where does this leave us on the prospects of an Escape ST? Ford already has ST versions of both the Explorer and Edge, so it's not like such a thing would shake the pillars of Dearborn with steps into uncharted territory. The Explorer ST is arguably the better of the pair with 400 horsepower and a tuned suspension, but it still pales in comparison to the real ST machines Blue Oval enthusiasts want – the deft Focus and Fiesta hot hatches that were yanked from American shores in the name of more crossover cash-grabs.
Gallery: 2020 Ford Escape: First Drive
As such, perhaps Hughes' comparison to the Focus was deliberate. The Escape's smaller platform could be the best of the bunch for evoking the ST hot hatch spirit that's missing in America. The more we think about it, the more it does seem like a fantastic idea. We still struggle to see it being a replacement for the Focus ST, but if Ford wants to keep its enthusiastic buyers from flocking to vehicles like the Hyundai Veloster N or Volkswagen GTI, it definitely needs something aside from the Explorer and Edge in its ST wheelhouse.