This second part of our review of the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid is more than a little overdue. So why has it taken so long? Well, to be honest, we’ve driven some pretty exciting machines over the past month and I’m just not feeling fired up about the Escape. That’s really not being fair to Ford’s little green machine though, as it performed flawlessly during it’s time in The Garage. It’s just that I get inspired by vehicles that offer up some sort of exhilarating performance, be it on or off road performance and exhilaration just isn’t the Escape Hybrid’s forte. Or is it?
It all depends on what gets your blood pumping. In a world with dollar a liter gas prices, a lot of people get more fired up about good fuel mileage than they do about winning the stoplight drags in a full size SUV full of groceries. In fact, while first gen hybrids were often bought by the tie dye set, more and more mainstream consumers are enjoying the benefits of more versatile vehicles using hybrid technology. So how did the Escape Hybrid do in the real world?
Our tester was a front wheel drive model that delivers a whopping combined 155 horsepower. While that may not seem like an incredible number, how that power is made is pretty cool. The 2.3 liter, Atkinson Cycle 4 cylinder produces 133 ponies at 6000 rpm, while the electric motor puts out 94 horsepower. When working together, these two powerplants equal 155 horsepower. The cool thing is the way these two systems work together in the real world. Wait a minute, did I say an SUV with 155 hp was cool? Well, it really is some neat technology. On normal acceleration from a stop, the electric motor starts things off, and the gas engine starts when the need arises, usually about 20 kmh. When slowing down, the system makes use of the regenerative power created by the braking system to recharge the 330 volt battery pack.
I must admit that I became obsessed with trying to keep the electric motor lit as long as possible. In fact, on one early morning trip to the rink, I managed to make the 3 kilometer trip without the gas engine starting even once! Talk about great for gas mileage! Government fuel testing says the Escape will achieve 5.7 L/100 km city and 6.7 L/100 km highway when equipped with a 5 speed manual transmission. As they say: Actual fuel consumption may vary. We managed to maintain a combined average of just a tick over 7 L/100 km during our week. Several factors likely affected this. Firstly, our tester came equipped with the CVT transmission. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, our tester only had 800 km on it when we picked it up. No matter what anybody tells you, new cars DO need to break in and usually get terrible gas mileage for the first 5000 or so kilometers. The mileage was likely also affected by the fact that I was late for a few meetings while I had the Escape and had to drive it a little more aggressively than somebody who’s trying to break a fuel mileage record.
On the road, the Escape Hybrid isn’t going to outrun your neighbour’s Grand Cherokee SRT-8, but the pickup is more than adequate for most situations. As there isn’t an ounce of boy racer here, there isn’t much to talk about in the handling department. The Escape does a decent job around town and is quiet and smooth on the highway.
After a week with the 08 Ford Escape Hybrid I was actually a little bit confused. While the vehicle hadn’t lit any fires, it had somehow won over my heart. I was truly sad to see it go, as was the rest of the family. Like some of history’s greatest hippy wagons, the Escape seems to have a personality that attaches itself to the unsuspecting user. Maybe it’s just going to be a matter of time till we start seeing Escape Hybrids running around with Grateful Dead and Ben & Jerry’s stickers in the back window.