Escape Hybrid

In the next few years, hybrid SUVs are set to become more popular as automakers hope to offer something for families looking to go green. But even as the market expands, history will note that the Ford Escape Hybrid was there first.

Debuting in 2005, the Escape Hybrid was not only the first mainstream hybrid SUV to be produced but also the first to come from a domestic automaker. Looking essentially identical to its non-hybrid counterpart, the Hybrid effectively offered the power of the V6 model with the fuel economy of the four-cylinder Escape.

Today, the Ford Escape Hybrid benefits from a recent redesign. Much of the sheet metal has changed, but the underlying hybrid components are essentially the same. As a choice for a new or used hybrid-powered small SUV, the Escape is worth a look.

Current Ford Escape Hybrid

The current Ford Escape Hybrid remains the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market. A two-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid should be able to deliver close to 30 mpg in real-world city and highway driving. Its powertrain consists of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, a pair of electric motors and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) that basically works like a regular automatic transmission.

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.

Although the cumulative horsepower rating of 177 doesn’t sound very impressive, the Ford Escape Hybrid is quicker than the regular four-cylinder Escape. Two-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive models are offered.

There are two trim levels: base and Limited. The base Escape Hybrid comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, a power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Sync system, stability control, antilock brakes, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Upgrading to the Escape Hybrid Limited adds a sunroof, rear parking assist, leather upholstery, heated front seats and mirrors and multicolor ambient lighting.

A touchscreen navigation system (with a hybrid energy flow/fuel-consumption display) that comes bundled with a premium seven-speaker audio system, digital music storage and Sirius Travel Link is optional. The Limited may also be equipped with an automatic parallel-parking system.

The main difference between driving an Escape Hybrid and driving a regular Escape comes down to handling. The Hybrid feels top-heavy around turns due to its extra 300 pounds of curb weight. And like the gasoline-only Escape, this hybrid ute is best suited for on-road duty, as its unibody construction and all-wheel-drive system limit its off-road abilities.

Used Ford Escape Hybrid Models

The current-generation Escape Hybrid was redesigned for 2008, when Ford updated the entire Escape line. Changes were essentially cosmetic, with new exterior styling and interior tweaks. The body adopted Ford’s newer styling themes seen in the Edge and Expedition. The cabin’s look was also fresher and more contemporary than the previous Escape’s cabin, with more ergonomic and attractive controls.

Ford’s optional Sync entertainment and communications interface was added to the features list the following year, along with standard stability control and the current model’s larger gasoline engine. Model year 2010 introduced the parallel-parking system and a new electric compressor for the air-conditioning that allowed A/C use at any time; the air-conditioning on all Escape Hybrids prior to this year would shut off whenever the Escape’s gas engine was inactive (such as when the SUV was stopped at a light or when moving at low speeds on just electric power.)

The Ford Escape Hybrid debuted for 2005, although the regular Escape dawned four years earlier. The original powertrain featured a 2.3-liter gasoline engine that, together with its electric motor, produced a total of 155 hp. Although this original iteration is similar in terms of size and driving dynamics to the current model, it featured a substandard interior filled with cheap, hard plastic surfaces and outdated controls. Additionally, the Premium package’s navigation system in particular was laughably ancient and should be avoided. Apart from the new availability of a moonroof the following year, the next couple of years saw no changes.