The Escape Hybrid was not only the first mainstream hybrid SUV to be produced but also the first to come from a domestic automaker. Visually identical to its non-hybrid counterpart, the Escape Hybrid offered acceleration approaching that of the V6 model but with the fuel economy of the four-cylinder Escape.
There were two generations of the Ford Escape Hybrid, with the latter benefitting from a more modern design, easier-to-use controls and the ability to operate its air-conditioner whether the gas engine was running or not, unlike earlier versions. When the Escape was completely redesigned for 2013, a hybrid was not included in the lineup. Those looking for a used compact crossover with a small fuel appetite, however, would be well served by the Ford Escape Hybrid.
Most Recent Ford Escape Hybrid
The second-generation Escape Hybrid was produced from 2008 through 2012. The body adopted Ford's newer styling themes seen in the Edge and Expedition, while the cabin was updated and featured more ergonomic and attractive controls.
Ford's optional Sync voice-controlled interface debuted for 2009, along with standard stability control and a slightly larger (2.5 liter versus 2.3) gasoline engine that boosted combined output to 177 horsepower (up from 155 hp). For 2010 Ford introduced an automated parallel-parking system. That year also saw a new electric compressor for the air-conditioning that allowed A/C use at any time. Previously, the A/C would annoyingly shut off whenever the Escape's gas engine was off (such as when the SUV was stopped at a light or moving at low speeds on just electric power.)
The powertrain consisted of a four-cylinder gasoline engine, a pair of electric motors and an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Under full acceleration, both power sources work together and make the Escape Hybrid quicker than the regular four-cylinder Escape. But under lighter load conditions, such as during stop-and-go traffic, the Escape Hybrid switched between the two, oftentimes running purely on battery power alone.
Fuel efficiency is impressive for a hybrid SUV of this time period, as a front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid typically delivers close to 30 mpg in real-world driving. All-wheel-drive models were also offered.
There were two trim levels for the Escape Hybrid: base and Limited. The base version came with 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, a power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, the Sync system, stability control, antilock brakes, front seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. Upgrading to the Limited added a sunroof, rear parking assist, leather upholstery and heated front seats and mirrors. A touchscreen navigation system was optional and came with a premium audio system. The Limited could also be equipped with an automatic parallel-parking system.
The main difference between driving an Escape Hybrid and driving a regular Escape comes down to handling. The Hybrid feels top-heavy around turns due to its extra 300 pounds of curb weight. And like the gasoline-only Escape (and most other compact crossovers, for that matter), this hybrid ute is geared more toward providing sure-footed foul-weather driving than it is to tackling seriously rugged terrain.
Past Ford Escape Hybrid Models
The first-generation Ford Escape Hybrid debuted for 2005 and ran through 2007. The regular Escape dawned four years earlier. The original powertrain featured a 2.3-liter gasoline engine that, together with its electric motor, produced a total of 155 hp.
Although this original iteration is similar in terms of size and driving dynamics to the generation that followed, it had a substandard interior filled with cheap, hard plastic surfaces and outdated controls. Additionally, the Premium package's navigation system was rather primitive and should be avoided. Apart from the availability of a moonroof for 2006, the next couple of years saw no changes.