2005 Escape New Car Test Drive
Ford Escape is the best-selling of all the small, affordable sport-utilities, and it's a solid choice among these so-called cute utes. The Escape offers agile handling, a smooth ride, and comfortable seating for four average Americans. It also offers brisk acceleration when equipped with the optional V6 engine. It's compact but practical. Folding down the rear seats reveals a flat, moderately sized cargo area. Best of all, its prices are relatively low, up only an average of 1 percent over 2004 prices.
For 2005, Escape has a fresh new face, new headlamps, and a brightened interior. The new base 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine is a big improvement over the old 2.0-liter, and it's available with an automatic transmission for the first time, a benefit of its increased power. The 2005 Escape offers a fully automatic four-wheel drive option that operates transparently in the background. The standard manual transmission is new, with lighter shifting efforts and shorter throws. And a revised suspension improves the ride.
But the biggest news is that the Escape Hybrid has finally arrived, using a special version of the 2.3-liter gas engine teamed with an electric motor. It's designed to deliver quick response while delivering excellent fuel economy. The Ford Escape is the best-selling compact sport utility vehicle in the United States. Now it's available in a hybrid version. And, no, you don't have to plug it in.
What is a hybrid? It's a vehicle that draws power from the combination of a traditional gasoline engine and an electric motor and special battery pack. The Escape Hybrid is the first such SUV available in the United States, and also the first hybrid with available all-wheel drive and 1000 pounds of towing capacity, and allows buyers to enjoy the benefits of a small SUV while greatly enhancing fuel economy and lowering emissions.
By combing a four-cylinder gasoline engine with the boost from the electric power pack, the 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid provides acceleration much like the regular Escape equipped with an optional V6 engine, but the Hybrid returns twice the fuel economy in city driving and nearly double on the highway.
Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that hybrid vehicles such as the Escape never have to be plugged into any sort of electrical outlet. The vehicle's battery pack is automatically recharged by the gasoline engine and by regenerative braking, technology that takes the otherwise wasted energy generated by braking and sends it to the battery pack.
There is a price premium that must be paid for equipping a car with a hybrid powertrain, but there also are federal and perhaps even state or local tax benefits available to help offset that cost.
Ford Escape comes in three trim levels, XLS, XLT, and Limited, all available with front-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). There's a choice of three powerplants and a choice of transmissions.
XLS ($19,265) is the base model and comes standard with air conditioning, illuminated remote entry, power windows and mirrors, tilt steering column, center console, 15-inch steel wheels and an AM/FM/CD/cassette audio system with clock. The new 2.3-liter four-cylinder Duratec 23 engine produces 153 horsepower and 152 pound-feet of torque, nearly 18 percent more power and 10 percent more torque than last year's engine. It has a balance shaft for smoothness, and it comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. A 200-horsepower 3.0-liter Duratec V6 and four-speed automatic are also available: The XLS 4WD model ($21,015) comes standard with the V6 and automatic.
XLT ($22,780) and XLT 4WD ($24,530) come standard with the V6 and automatic transmission. XLT also gets four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), premium cloth upholstery, a power driver's seat, privacy glass, a power moonroof, cruise control, a cargo cover and convenience net, fog lights, an in-dash six-CD changer, and white-letter P235/70R16 tires on 16-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels. The XLT No Boundaries Package 47S on our test truck ($1,055) adds all-terrain tires, painted aluminum wheels, black painted step bars, Class II trailer towing, and wheel lips. New this year is XLT Sport ($23,690 FWD; $25,440 AWD) with all the XLT standard equipment plus 16-inch bright machined aluminum wheels, P235/70R16 tires, painted Dark Shadow gray fascias, bodyside cladding, wheel lip moldings and black step bars.
Limited ($24,615) and Limited 4WD ($26,365) come with premium leather seats, seat heaters, front side-impact air bags, dual front sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated exterior mirrors, a reverse sensing system, and a MACH Audio in-dash six-CD changer with automatic volume control. Limited sports a monochrome exterior with body-colored trim and bright machined 16-inch aluminum wheels.
Option packages are available for each trim level. XLT Premium Package ($1230) includes leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 60/40 split rear bench seat, front door map pockets, an overhead console with dual storage bins, a front passenger under-seat storage tray, and a power moonroof with sunshade. Also available for 2005 is the Limited Luxury Comfort Package, which includes the MACH audio system, heated side-view mirrors, reverse sensing system, front and rear premium leather-trimmed seats and heated front seats.
The Escape Hybrid is priced about $4,000 more than a V6, and is available in all trim levels. The Escape Hybrid is available with front-wheel drive ($26,380) and all-wheel drive ($28,005). It comes in one well-equipped trim level. Options include leather seating, upgraded audio equipment, side-curtain airbags and a navigation system.
For comparison, the standard two-wheel-drive Escape with a four-cylinder engine has a base price of $19,265 and the top of the line, all-wheel-drive version with a V6 engine starts at $26,365, about the same price as the two-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid that provides similar acceleration and perhaps even better overall dynamic performance.
The most expensive option on the Escape Hybrid is the Energy, Audiophile and Navigation system package ($1,850) that includes an upgraded Audiophile audio system, CD-based satellite navigation and a display on the nav screen that illustrates instant and recent fuel economy and the way energy flows between the gasoline engine, electric motor, battery pack and wheels.
If you're among those who want a hybrid, you likely will opt for this package because it graphically and immediately demonstrates the benefits you derive from the technology. By paying some attention to the graphs, you'll find yourself becoming an even more environmentally friendly and fiscally efficient motorist.
A safety package ($595) includes side-curtain airbags that cover all seating areas as well as side airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger. Such airbags can provide life-saving protection in a collision.
Other options are a leather comfort group ($575), an appearance package ($625) with front and side fascias, Ford's MACH audio with 6-disc changer ($565), a 110-volt AC power outlet ($110), a retractable rear cargo cover ($75) and rear carpeted floor mats ($25).
The 110-volt AC power outlet can be a practical option, whether you plan to tailgate or camp, or might want to plug in an air compressor or other equipment. Many accessories from Ford dealers or aftermarket companies are available for the standard Escape and they also fit the Escape Hybrid.