One of the highlights besides the Escape’s stellar fuel economy is its redesigned interior. The boxy, square-jawed dashboard exudes the interior found in Ford’s full-size trucks, and the tall cabin almost convinces passengers they’re in a full-size truck. But unlike full-size trucks, the Escape keeps the green theme in full effect with cloth upholstry made of 100 percent recycled material – which could be good or bad depending on what the seats were in a prior life.
The backseat is equally cavernous with ample legroom even with the front seats in full rearward position. The rear cargo area expands from 27 cu. ft. to 66 with the seats folded. It’s a bit of an effort to convert the seats, but once complete, you’re rewarded with cargo flatness absolute. Underneath the rear cargo mat sits the partial culprit of the Escape Hybrid’s hulking weight and dopey handling – the 330V Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) Battery Pack.
The center stack is well thought out with big, simple buttons and an adequate seven speaker stereo system with CD, MP3 and satellite capability. The touchscreen navigation system is intuitive and also features hybrid consumption readouts for those rabid about fuel economy data. The console also comes with an optional 110V AC outlet, handy for charging items like a laptop computer. At night, the Escape’ instrument cluster glows with an attractive blue hue brighter than a bottle of Aqua Velva.
But a couple glaring oversights still exist. One is the fact that A/C has limited operation in electric mode. If you’re stuck in rush hour traffic on a scorching summer afternoon and the car is operating on battery power, A/C will only work in the MAX A/C position; AKA an F5 tornado. Also, for some inexplicable reason, Ford forgot to put audio controls on the steering wheel. A huge disadvantage when playing radio station war with your passenger.
In previous generations, the Escape has sported an exterior which some considered less than masculine. It didn’t seem to hurt the Escape’s sales numbers, but for 2008, Ford has gotten machismo with the Escape, squaring off the edges and adding a big faux chrome grille and tasteful accents. Although it looks a lot tougher, looks is where the Escape’s toughness ends. At the end of the day, its still a hybrid vehicle that won’t tow more than 1,500 pounds.
With the Escape Hybrid, value depends on what kind of driving you’ll be doing. Considering that a FWD Hybrid costs more than $3,000 over its gasoline-only V6 equivalent with far more power, you have to be a hardcore city driver or pretty serious about being green to justify the added expense. If you consider the V6 MPG numbers of 18 city and 24 highway, at $3 per gallon of gas, you’d have to drive over 100,000 highway miles to gain back that $3,000 difference. However, if the majority of your driving is city, the added expense will be paid back in only 40,000 miles. The Escape Hybrid is a far better value for urban pavement pounders than it is for the long-haul road warrior.
Who should buy it?
Obviously, people who buy the Escape Hybrid are buying it for reasons other than value. For those who do a lot of city driving, have rather large cargo requirements and don’t mind sacrificing performance and extra cash for an eco-friendly vehicle, the Escape Hybrid is worth a look. If you don’t meet all of these criteria, then look at the gasoline burner.
Although carREVIEW.com consumers rave about the Escape – giving it an extremely high overall ranking – at least for the 2008 Hybrid model, we must disagree. It’s poor braking, handling, lack of traction control, shaky NHTSA safety results and overall general boringness make us want to look elsewhere. But if you simply must have “the most fuel efficient SUV on the planet”, then you’ll find all your heart desires in the Escape Hybrid.
|Official website for Ford cars, hybrids, trucks, and SUVs – www.ford.com|
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