Full 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid Review
What's New for 2011
Changes to the 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid are relatively minor. The Leather package now includes heated front seats, an available Smokers package and HD radio capability (requires optional navigation system). Ford's MyKey system is now standard on all models.
The Ford Escape Hybrid has been around for five years now. Somewhat surprisingly, Ford's still got a lock on this market segment; if you're looking for a small hybrid crossover SUV, the Escape is the only game in town. The good news is that there's a lot to like here.
While the Escape Hybrid's numbers -- 66.1 cubic feet of cargo room and EPA fuel economy estimates as high as 32 mpg in combined driving -- might not seem all that impressive, put the two together and you've got a pretty versatile and efficient urban runabout. The Escape is well equipped with some cool technological features, including Ford's Sync voice-activated multimedia system and an automated parallel-parking feature.
The Escape Hybrid is not without its faults, however. For example, the design is a bit dated and the hybrid system's hardware adds weight that adversely affects handling and braking. Paying a premium amounting to roughly $6,000 compared to a comparably equipped Escape XLT is also hard to justify for folks whose primary interest is saving money at the gas pumps. It also appears as though the Escape will receive a redesign for 2012, with more attractive styling and added refinement.
With all that in mind, we suggest buyers consider a few other options before going with the current Escape Hybrid. Traditional gasoline-powered models like the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are better vehicles overall than the Escape and still get decent fuel economy. You might also check out the diesel-powered Volkswagen Jetta TDI wagon, as it's nearly identical in terms of both fuel economy and cargo capacity. But if you're set on a small hybrid crossover, the 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid will do you right.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid is available in two trim levels: base and Limited. The base model includes 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, an integrated driver blind-spot mirror, full power accessories, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Sync system (includes iPod interface and Bluetooth), a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control and a four-speaker CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. Ford's MyKey technology is also now standard across the model lineup.
Upgrading to the Escape Hybrid Limited adds chrome exterior accents, a sunroof, rear parking assist, a rearview camera with a display located in the rearview mirror, piano-black interior treatments, leather upholstery, heated front seats and mirrors and multicolor ambient lighting.
Options include the sunroof (base model only) and a voice-operated navigation system that includes a hybrid energy flow/fuel-consumption display and a premium seven-speaker audio system that includes digital music storage, Sirius Travel Link and new HD radio capability. The Limited may also be equipped with an automatic parallel-parking system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Escape Hybrid is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine as well as a battery-powered electric motor; combined they produce 177 horsepower. Power is sent through a planetary gearset-based continuously variable transmission (CVT) that provides seamless transitions between gas and electric modes. All-wheel-drive (AWD) models come with an additional electric motor to power the rear wheels when additional acceleration or traction is needed.
In the absence of instrumented test results, we expect acceleration to be comparable to the gasoline-powered base Ford Escape XLS, which reaches 60 mph from a standstill in about 9 seconds. EPA estimates for fuel economy put the front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid at the top of the hybrid SUV category with 34 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 32 mpg in combined driving. The AWD version is rated at 30/27/29 mpg.
The 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid comes standard with antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags with rollover sensors. Ford's programmable MyKey system allows parents to specify maximum speed limits and stereo volumes for their teenage drivers.
In government crash testing, the 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid scored a perfect five out of five stars for all occupants in both frontal and side impacts. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Escape Hybrid its highest ranking of "Good" for frontal offset and side crash protection. Though we haven't performed instrumented testing on a 2011 Escape Hybrid, we expect braking from 60 mph to be poor and probably a bit longer than the disappointing 138-foot distance of a V6 Limited model we tested recently.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid features an attractive interior dressed up with soft-touch materials. Limited models look even more upscale thanks to their chrome and piano-black accents and ambient lighting that allow you to change the color to suit your mood.
While the cabin is relatively roomy, its design is starting to show its age. For example, the front seats are liable to make some folks feel like they're sitting too high up and the lack of a telescoping steering column might make it more difficult for some drivers to get comfortable. The rear seat will hold a couple of average-sized adults, though the lack of reclining seatbacks and fore/aft adjustability make it less comfortable than it could be.
Speaking of those 60/40-split rear seatbacks, there's 28 cubic feet of storage with them up and 66 cubic feet of cargo capacity with them folded down. Folding the seatback down is cumbersome as it requires the headrests to be removed and the bottom cushions to be tumbled forward, a consequence of offering a flat load floor.
One highlight that may well make you forget about these negatives is Ford's voice-operated Sync system that lets you control your cell phone and MP3 player with simple spoken commands. The available navigation system's Sirius Travel Link service is equally handy, with its ability to provide all kinds of useful information including gas prices at nearby stations, live weather radar images, movie theater show times and more.
While some hybrid models have developed a reputation for sluggish performance, the 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid actually doesn't feel that different from its V6-powered cousins. The only tip-off that there isn't a six-cylinder engine under the hood is the labored sounds you hear during hard acceleration.
The suspension produces a decent ride quality, but the extra 300 pounds of hybrid hardware makes the vehicle less nimble than the regular Escape. That extra weight also contributes to long stopping distances, though the brake pedal does have a solid feel to it. Some drivers may also find the brakes a bit touchy until they get used to them.