"This is a long review, but I am in the car alot (>15k miles), and I appreciated the specific reviews.
I ordered a 2009 and have had it since October. I wanted to be able to get stability control (it was silly that was not on the 2008) and to get the improved horsepower, though I was a little nervous getting a vehicle with a new powertrain. I compared several other vehicles and was coming from a V8 Jeep (needed better gas mileage but did not need the towing capacity). I have not had a Ford product before, and did ALOT of comparison shopping because I had no intention of getting a hybrid.
I have gotten the expected gas mileage. I surprising like the capless fuel thing (it doesn't seem like a big deal...but). I had to stop watching the hybrid screen because it was too distracting : ).
Mine is fully loaded with everything except the running boards. I don't agree with the kbb review that the CRV has more power--the one I test drove was very anemic generally but especially in the mountainous territory I live in and 2 lane roads where I need acceleration to pass; plus the CRV did not have bluetooth in the '08--I don't know if that has been corrected. There is really good pick up and response in the Escape. The Acura SUV was nice, and was the only thing that had a stereo that came close to the sync system, but overall was not worth the money, the premium gas, and other issues. The Nissan dealer wanted to charge a premium over sticker--after I laughed at him I left without test driving it, so I can't really compare past that. I did not need a third row seat, and you just could not justify the math work on the Highlander Hybrid (at least I could not) if you did not need the third row so that did not work.
The sync system is great--I had to have sirius and love the sync feature of favorite songs, I only wish the list could be longer; I have experienced a little cutting out but that is clearly a software thing: the cool thing is that with the usb port you can try to fix it yourself before you even have the dealership do it if you want. You can tell that will be good for updates later. I love the MP3 jack for my audiobooks as well as having the regular outlet in the console (great for tailgating, or even when I need to charge both work and personal phones at the same time). The other '09 improvement is the piano black in the console; it is nicer cosmetically. Interior storage in the center and sides are good; there is not much of a glove compartment, but as the driver you can't reach that when driving so I prefer the center console. Also, in particular, the integration with the phone, and one touch transfer of the entire phone list from your phone is great.
I needed the AWD for the mtns but have seen it kick in (there is a light on the dash) in some rainy weather where the roads have bad drainage, so I am even happier I traded the slight gas mileage.
The nav system is great. Ford has subbed out the maps to a real GPS company, which makes a huge difference (I have seen some who sub it out to the stereo company and the maps end up being subpar).
Cons-- (You will see that some of these are nitpicky) Can't get the deals on the hybrids, but I do think gas will go back up and these hold their value better so I could make the math work (the less you finance, the easier it is for the math to work). I wish it had the Homelink for the garage door opener. The back seats got better in the '09 but don't lay down perfectly flat (I am constantly moving stuff). I wish the exterior and interior came in more colors/options, but I think that is a function of the lower production numbers. The seat heater only has one heat setting (the jeep had two which was nice) and after a while it dies down, and by a while I mean 30-40 mins--I have a long commute. The passenger seat is manually adjusted. The leather on the seats is not as high as quality as the jeep--stuff rubs off on it (keep in mind, my car in a mobile pit); it wipes back off, but I noticed it. Also, the eco-friendly filling of the seats does not feel as sturdy, or maybe the seats are shaped differently, but there may be a slight quality trade off there (I did not have a negative reaction to the curvature of the seats as some have). I don't mind the rugged styling as much--the square shape allows slightly more space in the back and the blind spots in the very curved SUVs are horrible."
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