2009 Escape Hybrid New Car Test Drive
The Ford Escape has been thoroughly updated for 2008, reinforcing the character and appeal that have made it America's perennial best-selling small sport-utility vehicle. The improvements nearly cover the spectrum, and inject a new level of refinement. The Escape's standard safety features are upgraded significantly for 2008.
We'd call the Escape a little truck among small SUVs. Its new styling deliberately invokes Ford's larger, truck-based Expedition and Explorer sport-utilities. Escape's ride height and seating position are a bit higher than competitors such as the Honda CR-V, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is substantially more than most other vehicles in the class.
Yet the Ford Escape still delivers the advantages of unit-body, car-based competitors such as the Honda CR-V. Its smooth ride and agile handling make for enjoyable driving, and its compact dimensions make the Escape easy to park.
The base four-cylinder is adequate for all-purpose driving while the V6 offers quicker acceleration performance. All variants, including the V6 and Escape Hybrid, deliver some of best EPA mileage ratings in the class. All, including the gas-electric Hybrid, are offered with either front- or all-wheel drive. For the most part, the Hybrid drives just like a conventional gas-only Escape. It's a well-executed package. It offers better fuel economy and lower emissions but demands little additional effort or knowledge from the driver.
The new 2008 Ford Escape still provides comfortable seating for four, or five in a pinch, but with noticeably more headroom than in pre-2008 models. Folding the rear seats opens a good sized cargo area with a flat floor, and space behind the seat surpasses that in the trunk of the typical sedan. Interior storage options have improved considerably. The finish is more upscale and pleasing, and feature function and switches are among the best.
Safety features that were extra-cost options on lower-trim models are now standard across the board, including Ford's Roll Stability Control system. Escape now sets the class benchmark for safety features.
There's a Ford Escape model for most tastes and needs. They range from a decently equipped, four-cylinder Escape XLS 2WD for under $19,000 to the leather-upholstered Escape V6 Limited 4WD, with premium audio, navigation, dual-zone auto climate control and reverse sensing for about $30,000. Dollar for feature, Ford Escape prices have dropped considerably the past few years. The premium for the Escape Hybrid has also decreased. It's now less than $2,000 more than a comparably equipped Limited.
The Ford Escape remains one of the more appealing vehicles in its class, regardless of price, and certainly one of the better values. Those shopping for a small SUV should put it on their short list, especially those who appreciate its big-truck styling.
The five-passenger Ford Escape is offered with front-wheel drive or fulltime all-wheel drive, and either a four-cylinder, V6, or gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain. The four trim levels are distinguished by engine and standard features.
The Escape XLS ($18,580) and XLS 4WD ($21,320) are powered by a 153-horsepower 2.3-liter inline four that generates 152 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, a four-speed automatic ($1,000) is optional. The XLS comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and locks, an AM/FM stereo with CD and auxiliary jack, rear window defroster and 16-inch steel wheels.
The Escape XLT ($20,880) and XLT 4WD ($22,360) add more standard features, including upgraded cloth upholstery, a power driver's seat, cruise control, privacy glass and 16-inch alloy wheels. A 200-hp, dual overhead cam 3.0-liter V6 ($1,000) is optional on the XLT, and includes the four-speed automatic.
The Escape Limited ($23,580) and Limited 4WD ($25,330) come standard with the V6 and automatic, plus leather seating, a 6CD changer and automatic headlights.
The Escape Hybrid ($25,075) and Hybrid 4WD ($26,825) are equipped similarly to the Limited models, but add the hybrid powertrain. This so-called full hybrid features a more fuel efficient, 133-hp Atkinson Cycle version of the four-cylinder engine and a 70 kilowatt electric motor. Unlike some mild hybrid SUVs, the Escape Hybrid can run on 100 percent electric power up to about 25 mph.
The Escape offers more option choices than many small sport-utilities, starting with some popular packages. The Cargo Convenience Group ($395) includes a retractable cargo area cover and a compartmentalized rear storage bin. The Audiophile Package ($695) includes a high-power stereo with seven speakers, subwoofer and the in-dash CD changer. The Limited Luxury Package ($795) adds dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and a back-up warning system. The Audiophile and Navigation Package ($2,695) includes the stereo upgrade and Ford's touch-screen navigation system; in the Hybrid, it also adds a meter that graphically and immediately demonstrates the benefits of hybrid drive, and helps the driver maximize fuel economy. Other options include cruise control ($225), CD changer ($295), a power moonroof ($795), floor mats ($55), 16-inch alloy wheels ($375), 17-inch chromed wheels ($695), and a Class II towing package ($345).
Safety features have been upgraded substantially for 2008, making equipment that was previously optional on lower trim levels standard across the board, and setting the class benchmark for small sport-utilities. Passive safety features include front- and side-impact airbags for front occupants and curtain-type head protection airbags for all outboard seats. The side curtains can remain inflated for several seconds in the event of a rollover, and are designed to slide between the side glass and occupants if the people are oddly seated or resting heads against a window. Active safety systems include four-channel antilock brakes (ABS), electronic stability control and Ford's Roll Stability Control system. RSC adds a second gyroscopic roll-rate sensor to the typical stability control package, measuring the Escape's roll angle and roll rate and applying countermeasures (such as braking one of the wheels or reducing power) to increase rollover resistance.