Ford is reportedly considering adding more high-end variants to the model line we know as the Escapeand which Europeans know as the Kuga. That could include a higher-end Vignale version for markets overseas. But if could also lead to an ST version as well.
The Blue Oval automaker previously limited its ST performance line to its mass-market hatchbacks, in the form of the Fiesta ST and Focus ST. But recently, the Fusion has been spotted running in a potential ST variant, and now Ford is said to be looking into a Kuga ST that could reach American showrooms as the Escape ST.
Speaking with Auto Express, Ford’s European VP Roelant de Waard admitted there was room to take the Kuga/Escape upmarket. “With the maturing of the SUV segment increasingly we will see all derivatives come to that segment, and yes some are experimenting” with performance crossovers. For example, Nissan offers Nismo and Nismo RS versions of the Juke, and Mini offers the Countryman JCW. Meanwhile, Fiat is anticipated to soon roll out an Abarth version of the 500X, and Renaultsport is tipped to be preparing to go down the same road.
With all those compact hot-utes hitting the market, it’d be hard to imagine Ford sitting out for long. The current top engine option in the Escape is a 2.0-liter EcoBoost four with 240 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque on tap, so an ST version would need even more muscle – along with stiffer suspension, bigger brakes, more pronounced aero, and hopefully a manual transmission.
An upscale Vignale version of the Kuga could top the range in Europe, as well. Ford launched the Vignale range with a luxed-up version of the Mondeo (aka Fusion) and is set to follow up with an S-Max Vignale soon. Given that a high rate of Kuga buyers in Europe are said to opt for the top-spec Titanium and Titanium X trim levels, a Vignale version might be the next logical step.