KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Ford's foray into the world of hybrid-electric vehicles appears to have been a short trip. After launching the Escape Hybrid to much fanfare, the company has backed away from its lofty hybrid fleet goals, focusing instead on alternative fuels such as E85. That's a shame, because the Escape Hybrid is an impressive little SUV, touting outstanding city fuel economy and greatly reduced emissions. While the Escape Hybrid costs about $5,000 more than a comparably equipped gasoline Escape, the price is still within reach of most consumers and is nearly $12,000 less than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. On the other hand, Saturn's VUE passive hybrid costs about $3,500 less, although it cannot match the Escape Hybrid's city fuel economy figures.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you've been shopping the hybrid market but find the Toyota Prius and Honda Accord too small for your daily needs, the Escape Hybrid may be the solution to your problem. Unlike the Saturn VUE, which constantly uses its gasoline engine, at speeds below 25 miles per hour the Escape Hybrid runs solely on electric power.
You May Not Like This Car If...
The Escape Hybrid is a relatively new commodity. With no long-term testing data to indicate how the vehicle will hold up after many years of ownership, there is a risk. With a starting price just over $26,000, you'll need to drive many miles before seeing a fuel cost benefit that will be enough to recover the higher price of the Hybrid compared to the less expensive gasoline-powered Escape.
What's Significant About This Car?
Outside of four new packages that bundle a number of appearance, safety and entertainment features, there are no major changes for 2007.
Though Ford claims the Escape Hybrid pulls like a V6 with the fuel economy of a four, we found the acceleration to be just average. The electric motor does provide a decent supply of torque, so passing at speed was a breeze. There are a number of electrical assists on the Escape Hybrid, including the steering, which feels heavy in turns and provides only moderate feedback at high speed. Around-town driving produced the promised EPA city driving estimates of 33 miles per gallon, but we came up a bit short on our highway jaunt, achieving an estimated 26 miles per gallon. The CVT transmission works well at keeping the engine torque at its maximum, but it seems to take some time to get the most out of the gasoline powerplant.
The optional navigation screen includes an energy flow diagram that shows which powerplant is working and when electrical energy is being used or stored.
CVT Automatic Transmission
The Escape Hybrid's planetary CVT automatic transmission eliminates the need for reduction gears, helping to maximize engine torque and fuel efficiency, and is a distant cousin to the transmission in the legendary Ford Model T.
The Escape's interior is almost luxurious, with high-quality materials used throughout the cabin. The Hybrid's interior is nearly identical to that of the other Escape models, with the exception of the instrumentation that includes readouts for the electric motor. The low dash and high seating position give a commanding view of the road and the Escape features one of the most spacious rear seats in its class. Because the battery packs are located beneath the cargo floor, there is no loss of interior passenger room.
The Escape Hybrid shares the same handsome exterior as the gasoline-powered Escape, with only a few minor detail differences. Green leaf badging with the hybrid insignia and a subtle air vent along the rear-most driver's side window are the only visible cues that this is a hybrid vehicle. Outdoor adventurers will appreciate the easily accessible roof rack and the wide flip-up rear hatch.
Notable Standard Equipment
The Escape Hybrid has a 133-horsepower 2.3-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine teamed with a 70,000-kilowatt (roughly 94-horsepower) electric motor, a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) automatic transmission, air conditioning, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes (ABS), keyless entry, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, fog lights, AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer, six-way power driver's seat, cruise control, tilt wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels and a rear wiper/washer.
Notable Optional Equipment
Options include GPS navigation, 110-volt outlet, front-side and side-curtain airbags with roll-over sensors, leather seating, cargo cover, four-wheel drive and an upgraded audio system.
Under the Hood
The Escape Hybrid's propulsion system combines a four-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor. The two are tied together by a computer-operated control center that switches back and forth between (or in some cases joins together) the two units. Around-town driving is handled primarily by the electric motor, hence the impressive city EPA figures, while the gas engine is used primarily at speeds above 25 miles per hour.
2.3-liter in-line 4 with 70,000-kilowatt electric motor
133 horsepower @ 6000 rpm, 155 horsepower with electric motor engaged
124 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 36/31 (FWD), 32/29 (4WD)
The front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $26,240, while the four-wheel-drive version is $27,845. Loaded with all the options, the Escape Hybrid tops out around $33,000. A look at the Fair Purchase Price shows the typical transaction price for the Escape Hybrid to be at or slightly above the MSRP. How much you pay may depend on your location and dealer supply in your area, so be sure to shop the Internet as well as the regular dealerships before you buy. The Escape Hybrid is in only its third year of production, yet it's expected to retain 69 percent of its value at 24 months and 54 percent at 48 months.