Ford Escape Hybrid
One of our favorites in the category, the Escape Hybrid
is a very capable small SUV thanks to its powerful hybrid-electric
drivetrain, spacious cabin and carlike handling.
Pros: Powerful and efficient hybrid powertrain,
large cargo capacity, comfortable interior, carlike handling,
optional side curtain airbags.
Cons: Four-cylinder engine feels unrefined
at high rpm, so-so interior materials quality.
What's New for 2006: Ford's first ever
hybrid SUV continues into 2006 with package revisions
and a newly available power moonroof.
Ford introduced the Escape in 2001 to capture buyers in
the rapidly growing small SUV segment. It quickly became
a best-seller thanks to a desirable combination of size,
power and ruggedly handsome styling. First-year Escapes
suffered numerous recalls, but recent models seem to have
the bugs worked out. Mazda also sells a version of this
vehicle. Called the Tribute, it shares the Escape's basic
structure, platform and powertrains. A more luxurious
version is also available from Mercury, dubbed the Mariner.
Appealing to a wide range of buyers, the Escape (and Tribute/Mariner)
is intended for those who want the styling and all-wheel-drive
capability of a traditional SUV combined with the size,
price, practicality and driving characteristics of a midsize
The Escape is more suited to on-road driving than off-roading,
due to its light-duty AWD system and unibody construction,
and isn't as rugged as some other compact SUVs like the
Nissan Xterra and Jeep Liberty. Its main competitors include
vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Hyundai
Santa Fe, Saturn Vue and Toyota RAV4. Ford took a bold
step for 2005 with the introduction of the very first
The hybrid drivetrain uses a 2.3-liter, four-cylinder
gasoline engine in conjunction with electric motors to
provide power while keeping emissions and fuel usage to
a minimum. Under full acceleration, both power sources
work together to provide maximum oomph, but under lighter
load conditions, such as stop-and-go traffic, the Escape
Hybrid alternates between the two, oftentimes running
purely on battery power alone. A regenerative braking
system converts energy normally lost as heat into electricity
to recharge the car's batteries. Available in either front-wheel
drive or all-wheel drive, the Escape Hybrid boasts V6-like
acceleration and gets up to 36 mpg. If you like the idea
of driving a hybrid that doesn't force you to give up
an ounce of day-to-day practicality, you would be wise
to test-drive Ford's Escape Hybrid.
The Escape Hybrid power plant consists of a 2.3-liter
gasoline engine and two electric motor/generators. Ford
calls the transmission a CVT, but there's no rotating
belt as is in a conventional CVT. Instead, the motors
work in concert with the gas engine through a planetary
gear set to provide seamless power and maximum efficiency.
If you're the driver of an Escape Hybrid, all you have
to do is move the shift lever to "D" and press the gas
pedal. Fuel mileage is rated at 36 city and 31 highway
on the 2WD model and 33/29 on the 4WD, making the Escape
Hybrid the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market.