The Ford Escape provides guilt free driving to SUV lovers across North America. Once the bane of environmentalists, this is one SUV out there that breaks out of a class of gas guzzling polluters while retaining its roots in hauling, cargo, and kids.
It's no surprise that an SUV is the first hybrid model offered to the masses by a US auto maker, as Ford is playing to its strengths. 'Built Ford tough,' the Escape shatters the common image of a fragile eco-friendly car.
Equipped with a continuously variable transmission, the Escape doesn't change gears like most conventional vehicles, which have either 4 or 5 gears. Instead, it balances different output levels of the high torque electric motor and the high efficiency 4 cylinder gasoline engine to have a multitude of ratios. At slow speeds, the low rpm muscle of the electric motor gives the Escape V6-like acceleration, and is capable of propelling the vehicle unassisted up to speeds of 25 mph. At cruising speeds, the 2.3 liter gasoline engine takes the lead in getting you where you want to go.
Ford is making a big deal about the Escape's status as a 'full hybrid' - a combination of series and parallel configurations, just like the Toyota Prius. GM's mass market hybrid offering is not only years away, but also the pathetic mild hybrid configuration. Ford's hybrid technology was originally licensed from Toyota, which explains the many fundamental similarities, like the elimination of the conventional starter motor. As the electric motor hits a certain output level, it force starts the gasoline engine.
The advantage of the Escape's hybrid power train is more noticeable during city driving than highway driving (36 city / 31 highway). Rural and highway drivers may not be able to take advantage of the Escape's outstanding city fuel efficiency, and may be better suited by Ford's non hybrid edition of the 4 cylinder Escape. For the soccer moms and weekend adventurers, the hybrid Escape is a perfect fit.
AutoSite.com's Review of the Escape:
All of this whiz-bang technology will be mostly transparent to the consumer. The Ford Escape Hybrid should look and drive just like any V6-powered Ford Escape, except that the engine will shut itself off when it's not needed and there will be a couple of auxiliary gauges to monitor the hybrid power train's electrical components.
Edmund's Hybrid Escape Review:
Fun to drive, the Ford Escape offers impressive road manners for a compact SUV. It drives much like a tautly suspended sedan, with little body roll and responsive steering. The V6 is quite powerful, providing swift acceleration, but fuel economy is mediocre. The Hybrid model is just as quick, and returns outstanding fuel mileage.
Canadian Driver's Review of the Ford Escape:
Driving the Escape Hybrid requires no special skills or knowledge. Because it uses a self-regenerating hybrid system, you never have to plug it in to charge the battery.
Maxim's Escape hybrid Review:
Traditionally, people who drive SUVs have had to exchange their bottomless gas tanks in order to get suburbia-on-wheels comfort. But that isn't the case with Ford's new Escape HEV.