2009 Ford Escape HybridPosted on April 26th, 2009
Compact sport-utility vehicle with a green connection
By Nina Russin
Ford broke into the hybrid market with the Escape four years ago. Since then, Ford’s green SUV has undergone numerous technology updates: this year it gets a new inline-four cylinder engine that develops twenty more horsepower and twelve foot-pounds of torque over the unit it replaces. EPA fuel economy is slightly higher than the outgoing model.
The test car is the front-wheel drive model. Buyers can opt for an on-demand four-wheel drive system that has better all-weather performance. The down side is a considerable reduction in gas mileage: about four miles-per-gallon less than the front-wheel drive car.
For the first time, Ford is also offering a premium model. The Escape Limited Hybrid comes with special wheels and chrome accents on the exterior. Inside, buyers get an upgraded audio package. Ford’s keypad entry system is also standard.
For 2009, all Escape models have Ford’s capless refueling system that automatically seals when the driver removes the filler nozzle. The system reduces evaporative emissions, and eliminates an unnecessary piece of hardware.
Roll stability control is now standard. The system uses gyroscopic sensors to measure both yaw and roll, and takes measures as necessary to reduce the risk of rollovers.
Compact footprint enhances maneuverability
The Escape is small enough to function as a city car. Its 103-inch wheelbase and 60-inch track make it easy to slip into the average parking spot. A 36.7-foot turning radius is small enough for the occasional U-turn.
The hybrid has 8.3-inches of ground clearance. While front-wheel drive cars don’t have the traction to go on extreme off-road trails, the extra ground clearance is an asset in deep snow, or for clearing the occasional obstacle on an unimproved road.
A fully-independent suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars produces a car-like ride. Ford uses an electric power steering pump in place of a hydraulic system. It’s more compact, saves weight, and is more reliable over the long haul. The Escape has excellent steering feedback, providing plenty of assist at low speeds, while maintaining a positive on-center feel on the highway.
Four-channel antilock braking is also standard, helping the driver to maintain directional control in wet weather. I’m disappointed to see that the Escape Hybrid has rear drum brakes. Anyone who’s had to pound rust ridges off an old brake drum knows that it’s not a pleasant task. Not only are drum brakes harder to service; they tend to retain water, and don’t stop as evenly as discs.
Plenty of power for the open road
One thing to love about hybrid cars is their ability to accelerate hard. Because electric motors develop peak torque at extremely low speeds, hybrid cars do a champion job accelerating into high-speed traffic. The continuously variable transmission eliminates clunky downshifts that can be the bane of cars with small engines.
Though the driver doesn’t sit as high as in larger SUVs, it’s pretty easy to monitor two or three cars ahead. Doing so has safety benefits, and enables the driver to maintain more even throttle pressures, to enhance gas mileage. Visibility to the sides and back of the car is also good; the side mirrors minimize blind spots to the rear.
The test car is equipped with an optional navigation system, which incorporates a real-time fuel gauge on the screen. My average fuel economy was about twenty-nine miles-per-gallon: less than the EPA estimate of thirty-two. Since I drove the car in 90-degree weather, I had to run the air conditioner.
The Escape has a mechanical air conditioning compressor that runs off the engine. Electrical compressors can run independent of the engine, so they work when the engine shuts off at idle. With the air conditioner running, the Escape engine remained on, rather than shutting off at traffic lights. This caused a five mile-per-hour reduction in fuel economy in stop-and-go traffic.
Inside, the Escape Hybrid has some appealing features for buyers with active lifestyles: among them, a USB port and 110-volt outlet up front for plugging in computers and handheld devices. The hybrid comes standard with Ford’s Sync system that enables users to control MP3 players and Bluetooth enabled phones hands-free.
Redundant audio and media controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction. A large center console bin has a built-in change holder and a small tray for cell phones. The glovebox is rather small: it will hold the owner’s manual and registration papers, but not much else.
The standard audio system is MP3 compatible and comes prewired for satellite radio. Ford throws in a six-month complimentary subscription to Sirius. Sirius travel link comes as part of the optional navigation system, providing real-time traffic updates.
Both rows of passengers have plenty of access to cup and bottle holders. The hybrid’s battery pack is under the cargo bay, so it doesn’t cut into rear passenger space. There is no floor tunnel, so three small adults can fit in the second row. Second row passengers get access to their own 12-volt outlet, on the back of the center console.
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor, so the Escape meets our bicycle-friendly standards. A strap on the seat cushions flips them forward to make room for the seatbacks. It’s necessary to remove the headrests as well, but the whole operation takes under a minute.
The current Escape has more room behind the rear seats than earlier models: enough for a couple of people’s luggage, groceries or small camping equipment. Roof rails are standard on the Escape Hybrid, so larger cargo can go up top. The spare tire is mounted under the chassis.
Ford’s safety canopy, standard on the Escape hybrid, provides exceptional protection in side-impact collisions. Side curtain airbags are tethered to the sides of the car so passengers can’t slide between the airbags and windows. The Escape hybrid received five-star federal crash test ratings for both rows of passengers in side impact collisions.
Other standard safety features include front and side airbags, antilock brakes, a tire pressure monitoring system, traction and roll stability control. The Escape Hybrid is covered by a three year bumper-to-bumper warranty. Hybrid-specific components are covered by an eight-year/100,000 mile warranty.
Ford builds the Escape Hybrid at its Kansas City assembly plant.
Likes: A sport-utility vehicle that’s the right size for city dwellers, with fuel-saving hybrid technology and available four-wheel drive. Ford’s standard Sync system and a 110-volt power point up front enable the owner to use his Escape as a mobile office.
Dislikes: A mechanical air conditioning compressor significantly impacts fuel economy.
Model: Escape Hybrid
Base price: $29,645
As tested: $33,035
Horsepower: 153 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 136 lbs.-ft. @ 4500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 34/31 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $695 destination charge.
7 responses to “2009 Ford Escape Hybrid”
i already upgraded my family car to Hybrid to help the environment.:-.
the best thing about hybrid cars is that they do not pollute the environment in the same way that petrol cars do.,~
toyota and other car manfucaturers should step up the production of Hybrid Cars.`’
hybrid cars would be the best thing because they are less polluting to the environment -.~
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