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The SUV revolution is sweeping America — even the tuner crowd.

In addition to its usual barn-full of smoking hot Mustangs and pickups, Ford Motor Co. also will introduce a herd of SUV hotties at this year’s Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas.

Every year, manufacturers like Ford (which will boast SEMA’s largest display) team up with SEMA members to present the cutting edge of aftermarket vehicle upgrades. Specialty shops submit their proposals and Ford picks their favorites to promote. SEMA's floor is changing with the market.

Leading the way at this year’s November 5-8 show in the Las Vegas Convention Center will be Ford’s all-new Escape compact SUV. The Blue Oval is leaning heavily on its fourth-gen cute ute as it exits the sedan market — traditionally a hotbed of enthusiasts’ sales. Buyers nostalgic for slammed Focus STs or drag-strip-ready Focus RSs will get an eyeful of Escapes tarted up with black hoods, 21-inch wheels, and rugged fender flares.

“As we move away from sedans, SUVs are picking up the pace," said a Ford spokesman. "SEMA SUVs are definitely a trend for us.” 

The ute lookers are the first compact Escapes to grace the SEMA floor in years — and they highlight the 2020 vehicle’s transformation from boxy ute to coupe-like crossover.

“The old boxy Escape would get a more off-roady look at SEMA with lift kits,” said the Ford spokesman. “This generation is more of a sexy, street cruiser.”

The Escape is not alone on the Vegas stage. The all-new Ford Explorer — for the first time carrying the brand's performance ST badge — also gets a complete makeover. Even the truck-based Expedition SUV gets in on the fun.

Here are the highlights.

Air Design USA Ford Escape Sport Hybrid

Who says hybrids can’t be sexy? With swollen fenders and a black hood, the Air Design Escape takes a page from Detroit muscle cars. The two-tone paint job is provided by Sherwin-Williams and the black fender flares are engorged with 20-inch wheels donning Pirelli Scorpion Verde tires. Inside, the Escape gets a portable refrigerator for long road trips.

LGE-CTS Motorsports Urban Ford Escape

Lowered with Eibach performance springs, the LGE-CTS Motorsports entry rolls with urban swagger and off-road capability. A custom cat-back exhaust gives the 2.0-liter turbo a menacing growl. For adventures to the outback, the hot hatch comes equipped with ski-friendly roof rack crossbars and comfy leather thrones.

MAD Industries Ford Escape  

This MAD entry also lowers the sport utility with a more Focus-like stance while offering huge, 21-inch wheels carrying performance Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. The interior is plush with ultra-suede headliner and ear-rattling Rockford Fosgate audio system.

CGS Performance Products Ford Explorer ST

Ford Explorers used to tow SEMA mods, now the red-and-gray CGS Performance ST is a SEMA car by itself. Complimenting the 400-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6 mill are carbon-fiber tipped exhausts and massive, 24-inch wheels shod in track-ready Pirelli P-Zero tires.

Prefix Ford Explorer ST

The Prefix is a family ute with track ambitions. Lowered for better center of gravity, its meant to give track support at 2020 Trans Am muscle car races such as exhibition and pace laps. To help the driver withstand cornering sideloads, the Explorer ST comes with bolstered Recaro race seats.

Blood Type Racing Ford Explorer Limited Hybrid

More hybrid mischief. The Blood Type Explorer is caked with black mascara, lowers the suspension half-an-inch, slaps on off-road skid plates, and gives the 3.3-liter hybrid V-6 engine a snarly soundtrack.

Good Boy Daisy LifeStyle Ford Expedition Limited MAX

A rolling sound stage aimed at music bands, the Good Boy Expedition pumps up the volume with the ability to livestream in-vehicle musical performances from anywhere. Occupants can lounge in Nappa leather interior while using cameras, mics, and a digital mixer to capture their road trips.

MAD Industries Ford Expedition Stealth

This machine is a more traditional, dirt-kicking SUV  maxed out with a Whipple turbocharger, off-road tires, and performance brakes . A 50-inch lightbar helps lead the way to campsites where occupants can deploy a rooftop tent.

The SEMA Show attracts over 70,000 domestic and international buyers. Find more at

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

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