The 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid is notable for Ford's claim that it is "the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet," but in nearly every other performance aspect it is far from world-class.
The Ford Escape Hybrid is a "full hybrid" model, meaning it employs both a gasoline and electric engine (two in AWD versions) and is capable of running exclusively on the latter. Edmunds reviewers list the Escape Hybrid's powerplant as "a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine as well as two electric motors/generators that combine to produce 177 horsepower." On most hybrids, that sort of power output would be impressive, but on a vehicle as large as the Ford Escape Hybrid, 177 horsepower seems a bit paltry. Kelley Blue Book reports that, "according to Ford, the system delivers zero-to-60-mph acceleration equivalent to that of a 240-horsepower V6," but other reviewers aren't quite so impressed. ConsumerGuide, in particular, claims that "passing response is not strong, especially above 60 mph."
The engines that underpin the Escape Hybrid's powerplant team up with "a ‘gearless' continuously-variable transmission," according to Kelley Blue Book. Edmunds asserts that the transmission "provides seamless transitions between gas and electric modes," and TheCarConnection.com's editors are inclined to agree. One of the benefits of a continuously variable transmission is that it works "to keep the engine in the strongest part of its power band," according to ConsumerGuide, but your first time using one can be a bit unsettling, as the engine noise and pitch stay relatively constant during acceleration.
Ford bills the Escape Hybrid as "the most fuel-efficient SUV on the planet," and while some manufacturers might contest that claim, the Escape Hybrid's efficiency is nonetheless impressive. Edmunds reports that the Escape Hybrid "gets 30 mpg in the real world," which nearly matches the EPA estimates of 34 mpg city and 31 mpg on the highway for front-wheel-drive versions. For those in the Snow Belt, the all-wheel-drive variant of the Escape Hybrid gets 30 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Environmentally conscious buyers will undoubtedly rejoice over the Escape Hybrid's fuel economy, but those with more of a performance orientation won't be so pleased. Kelley Blue Book has good things to say about the "new electric power steering system [that] requires less effort from the driver," but ConsumerGuide complains that "the steering feels overboosted and numb, especially at low speeds." The Escape Hybrid also suffers from a heavier overall frame than conventional models, and Edmunds reviewers find that "the added weight from the hybrid components has a detrimental effect on handling and braking." ConsumerGuide agrees that the "braking [is] intermittently touchy at low speeds," but on the positive side, they note that the ride quality is "pleasant." Most other reviewers agree about the comfortable ride quality, with Kelley Blue Book reporting that the "Escape Hybrid transforms into a rather run-of-the-mill SUV, with ride and handling characteristics not significantly different than those of its competitors."