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In 2004, the Ford Escape Hybrid was released. This model is 75% more fuel-efficient than the regular Escape according to Environmental Protection Agency tests and was the first SUV available to the public with hybrid technology. Most reviewers weren't lenient with the Escape Hybrid to see what kind of fuel mileage it would deliver. Most drove it like they would drive any other vehicle, and averaged better than 35 miles per gallon around town. That bests even the 4 cylinder powered Escape which is rated at 22 mpg in town and 25 on the highway.

The Escape Hybrid's optional Energy system provides instant fuel economy on a thermometer-style image at the left side of the display screen with your average economy and a stock market-style chart of fuel use for the last 15 minutes filling most of the screen. By paying some attention to the screen, you find yourself trying to get better and better fuel economy. Ford notes that the Escape Hybrid qualifies for super-low (SULEV) or advanced technology partial-zero (ATPZEV) emission vehicle status.

The Ford Escape Hybrid is unique among hybrid vehicles in that its battery pack comprises a tray of what appear to be dozens upon dozens of C cells, except they are Nickel-metal hydride (NI-MH) batteries which provide 330 volts of power, equivalent to 87 horsepower. The battery pack is in a sealed box located beneath the rear cargo floor and does not intrude on the Escape's cargo-carrying capability. The battery pack is warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles.

The batteries do add some weight to the rear of the vehicle, but in the case of the Escape that weight makes the hybrid better balanced than the standard V6 Escape. The Escape V6 has 61 percent of its mass carried by the front wheels. The Escape Hybrid is slightly better balanced, with only 57 percent of its weight out in front. That means more neutral handling, flatter cornering and improved braking characteristics. This should provide better maneuverability in emergency situations and enhance front tire and brake wear as well.

The Escape Hybrid's gasoline engine is a 2.3-liter, inline four-cylinder that operates under what is known as the Atkinson cycle, a technology designed to enhance the quality of fuel combustion. The Atkinson cycle sacrifices some horsepower but keeps intake valves open longer and operates under a higher compression ratio.

The 2.3-liter engine in the standard Escape provides 153 HP, 20 more than the Atkinson cycle engine, but the electric motor gives the hybrid power very similar to the Escape V6, which is rated at 200 HP.

To waste as little of the engine's power as possible while transmitting it to the drive wheels, Ford equips the Escape Hybrid with a continuously variable transmission. This transmission doesn't have standard gears. Instead, it has metal bands that adjust to best match the engine's performance. Thus there is no hesitation as gears shift. The CVT does offer a low-range setting for increased traction.

All-wheel drive gives the Escape Hybrid capability in foul weather.


High Points

  • V6 like acceleration
  • Clean styling
  • Rides better, out handles V6 Escape

Low Points

  • Anemic performance on highway
  • Jeep Liberty is more capable off road.
  • Hybrid Energy and Sound difficult to use effectively

Performance and Handling

Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) operate smoothly. Pedal response has been praised. Four-wheel disc brakes with Brake Assist help handling, allowing full braking power when it senses the driver has mistakenly relaxed pressure on the brake pedal in an emergency stopping situation. In addition, electronic brake force distribution (EBD) provides more effective, more stable braking.

Gas Mileage

Trim

FWD CVT

4WD CVT

Engine

2.3L I-4

2.3L I-4

MPG (City/Highway)

36/31

33/29

Reliability and Maintenance

Interior and Comforts

Escape Hybirds come with flint gray interiors, either in a nicely patterned premium cloth or leather. The driver's seat has six-way power adjustment controls. All of the switchgear is easy to find and to use. The rear seat has ample room and a 60/40 split back that provides several options for expanding the size of the flat rear cargo floor.

The gauges have black figures on a white background and are easy to read in even bright daylight. At night, the colors reverse, with white numbers against a glareless black background. The biggest difference between the Hybrid and the regular Escape is seen on the tachometer, which reports the revolutions per minute of the engine. In the Escape Hybrid, the tachometer needle has a sub-zero setting that it uses to indicate that the car is running only on electric power, such as while sitting at a stop or even while traveling on the road in certain conditions.

The optional Hybrid Navigation system with Energy flow display, graphically demonstrates the benefits you derive from your Hybrid purchase. Reviewers report becoming fixated with the displayed graphs, attempting to drive as efficiently as possible. The screen isn't as large as those in some other vehicles, but its graphics are extremely clear and we had no trouble reading even the smallest details, either at night or while wearing sunglasses in bright daylight.

The navigation system includes a Home button that can lead you back to whatever location you set as your home base, or you can easily program it to take you to various destinations. The optional 110-volt AC power outlet (house current) can be a useful feature for travelling, tailgating or working.

Exterior

The design of the Ford Escape is clean, not likely to look outdated within just a few years. Visually, the Escape Hybrid is barely changed from the standard Escape, and most people won't even notice anything different. There are small Hybrid badges just behind the front wheels and also on the rear hatch. The hybrid also has a vent built into its left rear quarter-panel glass; this vent helps cool the battery pack. Standard fog lamps set toward the outside portion of the lower front fascia provide a nice balance to the car's face and visually widen the Escape Hybrid's stance. The Escape Hybrid has a two-tone appearance, with body panels and lower fascia in complementary colors. Five-spoke alloy wheels are 16 inches in diameter and wear 235/70-aspect tires tuned to provide a smooth and comfortable ride, not for severe off-road duty. One very useful exterior feature is the glass backlight opens separately from the rear hatch door, aiding to load or unload small packages.

Styles and Options

The Ford Escape Hybrid is available in one 4-door body style. Front wheel drive is standard with four wheel drive being optional.

Standard Equipment

  • 6-way power adjustable driver's seat
  • Air conditioning
  • AM/FM stereo with in-dash 6-CD changer
  • 16" aluminum wheels
  • Power door locks with remote keyless entry
  • Power windows with driver one-touch down
  • Variable intermittent windshield wipers
  • Cruise control

Safety Package - $595

  • Safety Canopy™ System with side-curtain airbags and rollover sensor
  • Front-seat side-impact airbags

Appearance Package - $695

  • Silver Metallic finished fascias, side cladding and wheel lip moldings
  • Body color painted door handles and lift-gate surround

Leather Comfort Package - $695

  • Driver and passenger leather trimmed map pockets (front & rear)
  • Leather wrapped steering wheel
  • 6-way power driver's seat

Premium Package - $3,995

  • Heated leather seating surfaces with perforated leather inserts
  • Navigation system with Hybrid energy flow display, 7-speakers & MP3 capability
  • Safety Canopy™ System with side-curtain airbags and rollover sensor
  • Front-seat side-impact airbags
  • Reverse sensing system


Optional Equipment

  • Power sunroof (requires Premium Package) - $585
  • Audiophile 6-disc in-dash CD changer with 7-speakers & MP3 capability - $595
  • Navigation system with Hybrid energy flow display, 7-speakers & MP3 capability - $1,995

Main Competitors

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