2010 Ford Escape Hybrid: A Vehicle For Today With Tomorrow In Mind
|Topics: Ford Escape
Wayne Scraba, autoMedia.com
4 December 2009
Plenty of automakers claim bragging rights when it comes to their own green technology. It may surprise some to know that Ford Motor Company is one of the leaders and one of the first to develop usable production hybrid vehicles—and they did it with one of the least likely vehicles, the Escape Hybrid sport-utility vehicle. Possibly even more surprising to some is the fact that the Escape Hybrid and it's Mercury Mariner Hybrid cousin, are the most fuel-efficient SUVs in the world.
Ford's Escape was a perfect candidate to become a hybrid (in fact, it was the first SUV hybrid). Over the years, the Escape has evolved both mechanically and aesthetically. The latest Escape Hybrid is based upon a 155-horsepower gasoline-fuel inline four-cylinder engine coupled with an electric motor drive that provides performance similar to conventional non-hybrid Escape models. But that's likely where many similarities end.
The hybrid provides almost 75 percent greater efficiency, with 34 mpg in city traffic and 31 mpg (based on 2009 fuel economy ratings) on the open road (four cylinder, FWD models). That means you can drive more than 500 miles (city) on a single tank of gas. It also means that if you venture into the back country, you can travel over 460 miles without visiting a gas station. One question that always seems to arise when discussing hybrids is why do they achieve superior figures in the city? The reason is hybrids do not waste power idling and, in the case of the Escape, it recovers electrical power when stopping by using regenerative braking that is wasted on a conventional vehicle. Basically, every time you use the brake, the battery pack is being recharged. Given the Escape Hybrid's design and engineering, no fuel is actually used when you're stopped in traffic or driving at low speeds up to 44 mph when running in pure electric mode. Over that figure, the inline four cylinder engine kicks in (seamlessly). Another important factor in the Escape Hybrid's performance is the battery pack. The 330-volt nickel-metal-hydride [NiMH] battery is completely sealed and securely encased, and stored under the flat rear cargo floor. It's pretty much a vehicle life battery arrangement (it carries a battery life limited warranty of between 100,000 and 150,000 miles, depending upon the state) that requires no special care or maintenance). So far so good, but what's it like to drive? Our Escape Hybrid Limited test vehicle was a front-wheel-drive model (a similar 4x4 model is also available). The Limited version means you're met with a leather trimmed cabin—low back bucket seats in the front complete with seat heat and a six way power driver control. The back seat is a 60/40 split folding layout. Seat cushions in the Escape Hybrid are made of eco-friendly, soy-based foam, and the seat fabrics are constructed using post-industrial materials, in keeping with the "green" demeanor of the vehicle.
Leather seating is optional. A leather-wrapped steering wheel includes tilt, cruise and secondary audio control functions. Included in the interior mix is an electronically controlled dual zone climate control system, Ford SYNC Voice-activated Communications and Entertainment System, along with a full feature AM-FM stereo sound system complete with six speakers, MP3 capability and SIRIUS satellite radio system. A power moonroof is standard and so is ambient lighting, Rear View Camera, as well as Ford's "SecuriCode" driver's door keyless entry keypad and MY Key feature. Driving the Escape Hybrid is really no different than driving a conventional vehicle (Escape or otherwise). Turn the key, place the gearshift lever into drive and pull away. If you have a heavy foot then you probably won't engage the electric propulsion system with regularity (although it will function while coasting and at stoplights). Drive conservatively, and you'll regularly be met with the quiet hum of the electrics. Once you go over the approximate 44 mph "limit" for the electric motor, the inline four takes over.
When all is said and done, the Escape Hybrid is just as happy running errands in town as it is poking around the back country. Equally important, it sips fuel with the best of them, has a great five star safety rating (no small thanks to the six standard airbags (front, side impact and side curtain) and, depending on options, indulges you with a wide array creature comforts. If you're looking for an eco-friendly vehicle to help you get away from it all, take a long hard look at Ford's 2010 Escape Hybrid. It's definitely a vehicle for today.
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