LOUISVILLE, KY – With more and more electrification options available to consumers today Ford is capitalizing on the opportunity by offering its customers the option to once again spec a hybrid drive system on the newly released Escape. Being that it’s one of the most popular models in their repertoire, this is a good move and one that’s sure to lure more people to try the latest offering from the Blue Oval.
For one, there aren’t that many compact CUVs on the market that offer a hybrid drivetrain. Really, there’s only one true competitor and that’s the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. There are others that could possibly be cross-shopped—Lexus NX 300h, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV—but both are more expensive, one’s a plug-in, and that isn’t really apples to apples.
The move to EVs seems to be in full swing with manufacturers promising many new electric cars, but consumers have thus far been slow to adapt and EVs still only account for a tiny portion of the market.
Hybrids were the first mainstream vehicles to use electricity to save fuel nearly two decades ago with the introduction of the Toyota Prius and the largely forgotten first-gen Honda Insight. Since that time the Prius became the poster-child for going green and saving trees but the tech and the world have since moved towards plug-in hybrids and EVs.
But that’s not saying hybrids don’t have a place. They certainly do and the most enticing thing about them is that they offer significant fuel-savings with little change in driving habits and zero downtime from having to plug-in. There is also none of that dreaded range-anxiety associated with EVs.
The Escape was the world’s first hybrid SUV and a successful product for Ford until it was inexplicably dropped in 2012 with the introduction of the third-generation Escape.
We recently got a chance to drive the new 2020 Escape in Kentucky and came away impressed with its tech, safety content, powertrain choices, and refined comportment.
The hybrid powertrain will come standard on the new Escape Titanium—the highest trim level offered. Priced at $36,549 it offers an impressive amount of standard kit. All-wheel drive is an extra $2000 and a premium package can be tacked on for $2300, adding a panoramic sunroof and a head-up display. If you want navigation and adaptive cruise, it comes bundled together with evasive steering assist for an additional $850.
Powering the Escape Hybrid is a naturally aspirated 2.5-L 4-cylinder gasoline engine that runs on the Atkinson cycle for efficiency. It’s hooked up to two electric motors and a planetary gear set that provides additional torque output and also controls the gear ratios, acting much like a CVT but without its drawbacks.
A briefcase-sized 1.1 kWh battery pack is tucked away under the floor and doesn’t intrude into the cabin or cargo area and will provide electric-only operation at low speeds and in steady-state cruising up to 135 km/h.
A good hybrid system should be seamless and this one absolutely is. After about 5 minutes I forgot that I was driving a hybrid at all. It felt just like the regular Escape I drove the day before just with better throttle response.
And that’s not saying that the Ecoboost Escapes have much turbo lag. Both engines mask that very well, but the lack of turbos and the addition of electric boost made this crossover sprightlier than expected.
Despite weighing roughly 70 kg more, there was no detriment to the handling dynamics, and while not as quick as the torquey 2-litre Ecoboost, power was more than adequate for daily use.
Because I forgot I was in a hybrid the eco-driver part of my brain shut down and I just, well, drove!
Usually, when I get into a green vehicle I try and drive in an efficient manner. Like it was a game, and how well I did depended on getting the lowest fuel consumption score. I play the same game trying to beat a navigations system’s ETA. If only there was a way to do both at the same time.
When we got to our destination the Escape hybrid, which comes standard with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, gives you a trip summary readout. Like a scorecard. And it turns out I didn’t do as poorly as I thought. Over 46.5 miles (we were in Kentucky so all readouts were set to America) I averaged 37.6 mpg, which Siri tells me is equivalent to 6.3 L/100 km in Canada. And 17.3 of those miles were driven using electric power only. Ford hasn’t released official fuel-consumption figures yet, but they did tell us that an overall range of over 885 km is possible. In an AWD equipped SUV these are impressive numbers.
Those who drove in a more efficient manner than I did were getting somewhere in the low 40s. Fuel consumption on par with the RAV4 hybrid, one of the most efficient crossovers you can buy today.
How do they compare? A fully loaded RAV4 Hybrid Limited with AWD will run you just north of $42,000 and has a similar level of equipment and safety tech but it does have heated 2nd-row seats which the Escape does not. Although, SYNC is easily the better infotainment choice over Toyota’s Entune system, which finally offers Apple Car Play but still doesn’t play ball with Android. The Ford does offer a panoramic sunroof if you like sun-filled cabins but the RAV4 has a 360-degree camera.
And we can continue splitting hairs but the one thing Ford has to overcome is the sheer popularity of the RAV4 and its legions of supporters. But the Escape, especially this hybrid model, is certainly an example of their best foot forward. And to stir the crossover pot a bit more, come Spring 2020, a plug-in version of the Escape Hybrid will arrive with a 48 km electric-only range giving buyers another reason to consider the new Escape.