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2021 Ford Escape Trim Levels with Comparisons & Configurations.

2021 Ford Escape Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: S vs SE, SEL vs Titanium, Hybrid & Plug-In Hybrid
Reviewed & fact checked by
James Murdoch

What 2021 Ford Escape Trim Level Should you Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

In recent years, the Ford Motor Company has decided to build less traditional cars while focusing on its popular truck and SUV models. One of the company's most popular crossover SUVs is the Ford Escape. The 2021 model offers good looks, excellent performance and impressive capabilities.

The 2021 Ford Escape is a four-door hatchback with a lot of options and versatility. The cargo and passenger spaces offer some flexibility and can be configured to suit different needs. There are four available powertrains to choose from. Ford even offers hybrid and plug-in models for most of the trim levels. We will be taking a close look at the many trim levels to see what each has to offer.

Compare the 2021 Ford Escape S vs SE Trims. What is the difference?

The first two trim levels of the 2021 Ford Escape are called the S model and the SE model. Both come equipped with Ford's 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine. This engine has an output of 181 horsepower (hp). An 8-speed automatic transmission and Electric Power-Assisted Steering both come standard. A stock S or SE will also be front-wheel drive (FWD), though all-wheel drive (AWD) and AWD Disconnect options are available.

Both models offer four-wheel-disc, anti-locking brakes. Electronic Traction Control comes as part of Ford's Co-Pilot360™ Technology package. This also includes Curve Control for better handling. Adaptive Cruise Control with Lane Centering is only available on the SE models. Co-Pilot360 Technology offers a whole suite of safety features and driver-assist technology, with just a few differences depending on the trim level.

Both models of the Ford Escape have Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking. There is a Lane-Keeping System as well as a Cross-Traffic Alert and Ford's BLIS system. BLIS is a system that provides information on the driver's potential blind spots. Buyers will also get the Ford SOS Post-Crash Alert System with either model. Every model has a rear-view camera for a better view of what's behind the vehicle.

Moving up to the SE trim level gets owners Automatic High-Beam Headlights. The SE trim also comes with the AdvanceTrac System and Roll-Stability Control. Both the S and SE have a Tire-Pressure Monitor so the driver can see when the tires need more air. The driver and front passenger will be safer thanks to dual-stage airbags up front. There are also side-impact airbags, a driver-knee airbag and Ford's Safety Canopy® System.

The exterior features aren't too different. Both vehicles come with dual chrome exhaust tips. The S model has black exterior mirrors while the SE has body-colored mirrors. The SE also gets some extra chrome trim here and there. Roof-rack side rails are available only for the SE. The S trim gets 17-inch steel wheels while the SE offers 17-inch aluminum wheels with a Shadow Silver paint scheme.

The grilles have a different appearance with the S trim's being molded in the same color as the vehicle. The SE has a black-mesh grille that's surrounded by chrome. Both models have a body-colored rear spoiler, skid plates and Configurable Daytime Running Lamps. The SE offers optional LED Signature Lighting for the exterior. A power liftgate can also be added on to the SE model. The second row and liftgate of the SE get privacy-glass windows.

Moving on to the interior, both trims have cloth bucket seats up front. The SE has unique cloth upholstery of a slightly higher quality. Both models have a 6-way manual driver seat and a 4-way manual front-passenger seat. The SE model has the option of adding heated seats for the front. The rear has sliding, 60/40 split-fold-down seats with an extra map pocket on the back of the front seats for the SE trim.

The SE trim offers Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start while the S trim only gets an optional Remote-Start System. The SE also gets some extra cup holders and small-item storage spaces. The SE trim has extra lights and vanity mirrors for the visors up front. Power windows and locks are standard across the board.

The S models get a basic audio system with an AM/FM radio and six speakers. The SE adds Ford's SYNC 3 Infotainment system for more options. There is connectivity via Bluetooth or USB ports for the SE trim. This makes connecting smartphones and streaming music easy to accomplish. There is also voice-activated technology and a large touchscreen interface.

Compare the 2021 Ford Escape SE vs SEL Trims. What Is the Difference?

The next level up from the 2021 Ford Escape SE model is called the SEL. It comes stock with the same engine and transmission system as the previous trim levels. Buyers do, however, get the option to upgrade the engine to a 2.0-liter model with Auto Start-Stop Technology. The 2.0-liter motor can produce around 250 hp. That's a significant increase over the S and SE trim levels.

The brakes, steering systems and drive train are all unchanged for the SEL trim level. The SEL has a Reverse Sensing System that detects objects behind the vehicle and warns the driver while they're in reverse. The SEL comes equipped with a set of 18-inch machined-face aluminum wheels that have Dark-Stainless paint accents. A set of 19-inch wheels with Ebony paint accents is optional.

On the outside of the SEL, the power liftgate now comes standard. The previously optional LED signature lighting is now standard as well. The SEL model also adds on a set of halogen fog lamps. A set of black roof rails gives owners some extra cargo capacity. Buyers of the SEL also have the choice of black skid plates for the front and rear.

Moving on to the interior, the SEL trim now comes with a memory feature for the front seats. The front seats are also heated for those cold winter days. The upholstery is upgraded to Ford's proprietary ActiveX™ material with soft, suede inserts. This adds extra comfort and a more stylish, upscale look to the SEL models. The safety features remain the same for the SEL.

Most of the comfort and convenience features remain the same as before. There's an optional 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster for the SEL models. The steering wheel gets a premium wrap and some extra controls for the audio system. The steering wheel also now has a heating feature. The audio system and infotainment setup is identical to what the SE trim level offers.

Compare the 2021 Ford Escape SEL vs Titanium Trims. What is the difference?

The Titanium trim level gives buyers the best of what Ford has to offer for their 2021 Escape models. This trim automatically comes with the 2.0-liter engine. It once again comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission and FWD. The AWD Disconnect system is available as an option. The Electric Power-Assisted Steering and four-wheel-disc, anti-locking brakes make a return for this model.

The Titanium sports a set of 19-inch, machined-face aluminum wheels with Dark Tarnish painted pockets. The halogen fog lamps get upgraded to a set of LED lamps. The front grille gets some extra chrome. The roof rails make a return for this trim level. All other exterior features are basically the same when comparing the Titanium to the SEL models.

There are no major upgrades to the safety features for the Titanium trim level. The Titanium does add some extra security, however, with a perimeter alarm. On the inside of the Titanium, occupants will enjoy the Dual-Zone Electronic Automatic Temperature Control. The front seats now have 6-way power controls and the option for leather upholstery. The heated steering wheel can be wrapped in leather as well.

Drivers will find extra space for small-item storage inside of the Titanium models. There's a center console with a convenient media bin. A universal garage-door opener is included at this level. The Titanium offers ambient interior lighting for a sleek and classy look. There is even a handy wireless-charging pad.

The audio system gets a nice upgrade to a B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen. This comes complete with 10 speakers and a subwoofer. Ford's Co-Pilot360 Technology and SYNC 3 Infotainment system are once more included with this version of the Escape. Owners will also enjoy FordPass Connect, which will allow them to remotely access the status and several features of the vehicle.

2021 Ford Escape Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid Models. What Is the Difference?

In addition to the aforementioned four trim levels, Ford also offers hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of the Escape. These come in three of the previously mentioned trim levels. The SE, SEL and Titanium all have hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions. Each has the same mechanical, safety, comfort and convenience features as its gasoline-powered counterpart.

Both hybrid types have a 2.5-liter Atkinson-Cycle I-4 engine. They also share an 88 kW electric motor and an electronically controlled, continuously-variable transmission. There is also a liquid-cooled, lithium ion battery tucked underneath the second-row seats. This setup gets 165 hp with plenty of instant torque for great acceleration.

Both versions are FWD, with AWD being available on the standard hybrid models. The hybrid models can get up to 43 miles-per-gallon (mpg) in the city and around 37 mpg on the highway. Hybrid Escapes have an all-electric range of around 37 miles. The standard hybrid or the plug-in make excellent choices for anyone looking to save some money at the gas pump.

2021 Ford Escape: Which Trim To Choose?

The 2021 Ford Escape has a lot to offer no matter which trim level is selected. If anyone needs extra cargo space, the Escape has plenty to spare. There's 34.4 to 37.5 cubic-feet of space with all of the seats in use, depending on the trim level. With the rear seats folded down, this can be expanded up to 60.8 to 65.4 cubic feet. There's also plenty of room for up to five people to ride comfortably.

The Titanium has some nice extras, especially with the upgraded sound system. If music isn't a priority, then most drivers will be able to live without the other bells and whistles here. The SEL will generally be the best choice for most buyers. It has an excellent ratio of cost to the included features. If performance is a priority, the SEL can be outfitted with the bigger 2.0-liter engine.

The hardest choice here will be between the standard SEL or one of the hybrid models of this same trim level. The plug-in versions will prove to be much more convenient than the standard hybrid models. So the ultimate choice becomes a gasoline-powered SEL or the plug-in version of the SEL.

While the plug-in models cost more, they are sure to save the buyer more in the long run. The fuel economy here just can't be beat. The ability to charge from home adds plenty of convenience. The 37-mile limit on electric-only power means this vehicle will suit most people just fine. Keep in mind that drivers will also have a full tank of gas after the charge goes down too, making this vehicle even suitable for longer road trips.

Used 2021 Ford Escape:
Previous Ford Escape Trim Configurations:

Compare the 2020 Ford Escape Trim Levels