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Although it's not without a few compromises, the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid is worth a look if you want to do right by the planet but don't want to give up the day-to-day convenience of owning an SUV.
Surprisingly powerful hybrid drivetrain, easily gets 30 mpg, large cargo capacity, comfortable interior with roomy backseat.
Noisy four-cylinder engine, added weight of hybrid components dulls handling, overly stiff brake pedal.
Available Escape Hybrid Models
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There are no changes on the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid, though Ford has extended powertrain warranty coverage to five years/60,000 miles as of July 2006 (Hybrid components are still backed by an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty).
Ford was the first manufacturer to offer a gas-electric hybrid SUV when it launched the Escape Hybrid for the 2005 model year. Initially, consumers clamored to buy this high-tech small SUV, which offers fuel economy in the 30-mpg range. Since then, demand for the Escape Hybrid has been sporadic: When gas prices shoot up, people are eager to buy this hybrid SUV. When prices recede, Ford sometimes has to offer incentives to move it off dealer lots. This is easily explained by the compromises inherent in building a hybrid version of a garden-variety SUV: The Ford Escape Hybrid is indeed more fuel-efficient than regular Escapes, but it's not astonishingly so. Aside from the "Hybrid" badges on the sides and rear of the vehicle and a discreet battery-pack vent on the driver-side rear window, it looks just like other Escapes -- so, unlike Toyota's Prius, it's not really an image-defining vehicle.
That doesn't mean you wouldn't enjoy owning one, though. The Escape Hybrid's powertrain consists of a 2.3-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. Although the Escape Hybrid's cumulative horsepower rating of 155 doesn't sound very impressive, it's quicker than the regular four-cylinder Escape and feels almost as fast as the V6 model. Ride quality is comparable to the gasoline Escape, though the Hybrid feels a bit top-heavy around turns due to its extra 300 pounds of curb weight.
Inside, the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid SUV is notable for its roomy seating, solid ergonomics and mediocre materials quality. Oddly, the in-cabin electronics are outdated in what is otherwise a technologically sophisticated vehicle. Ford provides a central screen with a live-action graphic of the hybrid system at work, but only if you drop two grand to get the optional CD-based navigation system -- which hardly seems worth it given the screen's diminutive size and clunky controls. In addition, the air-conditioning system lacks an electric compressor and thus only cools the cabin when the gasoline engine is running. Finally, features like Bluetooth, an auxiliary MP3 jack and a rear-seat entertainment system are nowhere to be found on the options list.
Buyers who expect a hybrid vehicle to provide phenomenal fuel economy and loads of technology will likely be disappointed by the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid. However, for consumers who'd just like to do something nice for the planet and save a little money on gas without giving up the practicality of a sport-utility vehicle, it's worth a look.
A compact SUV, the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid is available in one four-door body style. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a power driver seat, an in-dash CD changer, cruise control and full power accessories. On the options list, you'll find a premium package that includes monochromatic exterior paint; a CD-based navigation system (with a hybrid energy flow/fuel-consumption display); leather upholstery; heated seats and mirrors; a proximity sensor; an upgraded seven-speaker audio system; a 110-volt AC outlet and automatic headlights. You can also get leather and the 110-volt outlet as a la carte options, along with a moonroof.
The Escape Hybrid power plant consists of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motor/generators. Ford calls the transmission a CVT, but there's no rotating belt as there is in a conventional CVT. Instead, the motors work in concert with the gas engine through a planetary gearset to provide seamless power and maximum efficiency. If you're the driver of an Escape Hybrid, all you have to do is move the shift lever to "D" and press the gas pedal. Buyers have their choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is rated at 36 city/31 highway on the 2WD model and 32/29 on the AWD, making the Escape Hybrid the most fuel-efficient SUV on the market.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist are standard. The optional Safety package includes front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags with a rollover sensor. Stability control is not available. The Ford Escape has done well in government crash testing, earning a perfect five stars for the driver in frontal impacts and four stars for the front passenger. In side-impact crash tests, it received five stars for both front- and rear-seat occupants. In frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the IIHS, the Escape received an "Acceptable" rating (the second-highest on a scale of four). When equipped with side airbags, the Escape merits a "Good" rating (the highest) from the IIHS for side-impact protection; without the bags, it rates "Poor" (the lowest).
The Escape has never been known for its exciting interior, but most buyers will find the layout functional and user-friendly. The front seats can accommodate adults of all sizes, while the backseat is comfortable even for adults. There are 28 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 60/40-split rear seats, and you can fold them down to open up 65 cubic feet of capacity, a good figure for this class. One annoyance particular to the Escape Hybrid is the fact that the air-conditioner only cools the cabin when the gasoline engine is running. Using the "max A/C" setting keeps the engine from shutting off in stop-and-go traffic, but prevents you from reaping the fuel savings of electric-only propulsion in these situations. (Other hybrids get around this problem by using an electric A/C compressor.) Other complaints include the fact that the navigation system is CD-based (but costs as much as more advanced DVD-based systems) and has an undersized screen.
Although the gasoline engine makes a bit too much racket during hard acceleration, the 2007 Ford Escape Hybrid feels nearly as quick as the V6 Escape while returning outstanding fuel mileage. Handling is a bit of a letdown, though. With an extra 300 pounds of curb weight compared to a regular Escape, the Hybrid model exhibits considerable body roll around turns and generally feels less agile than most small SUVs. Additionally, the brakes are difficult to modulate due to the brake pedal's excessive stiffness at the top of its travel. Ride quality is smooth and comfortable, but road noise is considerable.
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