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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
“Surprisingly powerful hybrid drivetrain”
“Fairly stiff suspension tuning that makes for a firm ride”
“Steering, the brakes, and the aerodynamics have been tweaked”
Car and Driver
The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid lives up to its billing as one of the most fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, and it’s certainly the most efficient SUV on the market today.
Both trims of the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid are propelled by the same powerplant, which Edmunds says “consists of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and two electric motors/generators” whose combined “net output is 177 hp.” Despite the relatively paltry horsepower number, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid is surprisingly quick off the line. Jalopnik reviewers find that the “2009 Hybrid…provides stronger acceleration than previous Escape Hybrid models,” and Cars.com claims it “delivers acceptable acceleration that gives it enough power to get up to highway speeds safely.” This is largely due to the electric motors, which “make peak torque almost immediately,” according to Edmunds. That effect decreases markedly at speed, however, and Jalopnik reviewers report that “passing response is not strong, especially above 60 mph.” The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid also gets a slight power boost over last year’s model, and it now makes 20 more horsepower overall than the 2008 version.
The upgraded engine in the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid pairs with a continuously variable transmission, although it’s not a conventional CVT. According to Edmunds reviewers, “there’s no rotating belt as in a conventional CVT,” but rather, “the motors work in concert with the gas engine through a planetary gearset to provide seamless power and maximum efficiency.” The CVT rates well with reviewers, and ConsumerGuide is particularly impressed; reviewers there report that “the CVT does its best to keep the engine in the strongest part of its power band.” The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid is also available in either all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, although Edmunds cautions that “on AWD Escape Hybrid models, a third electric motor steps in to drive the rear wheels,” which makes it “not a true AWD system…so buyers needing a serious snow vehicle will be better served by the regular gasoline-powered Escape.”
Speaking of gasoline, you’ll probably be surprised by just how little you need to keep the Escape Hybrid humming along. According to the official EPA estimates, the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid should return 29 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway in AWD setup, while the FWD gets an astonishing 34 mpg city and 31 mpg on the highway. According to reviewers at Edmunds, the “Ford Escape Hybrid is currently the most fuel-efficient ute available.”
For the latest edition of the Escape, Ford engineers concentrate on improving the ride quality without sacrificing any of the Escape’s middle-of-the-road handling. The engineering revisions appear to work better on the conventional Escape, as Edmunds remarks that “the Hybrid can feel a little top-heavy when pushed around turns.” Cars.com reviewers disagree, however, claiming that “the Escape Hybrid drives like a conventional small SUV,” with “body roll [that] is present but not excessive.” In addition to some improvement in handling, the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid gets a slight boost in ride quality, with Car and Driver finding that “much of the harsh wheel impacts have been eliminated,” although the Ford Escape Hybrid “still isn’t as calm-riding as the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V.” ConsumerGuide characterizes the ride quality as “pleasant, given the age of its basic design,” commenting that “bumps are heard more than they’re felt.”
One common criticism of the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid was that its brake pedal feel was abysmal, and for 2009 that criticism is addressed in a big way. Jalopnik says that last year’s brakes were “very disconcerting,” but for 2009 it “is much, much improved,” and now “feels direct and linear – just like real brakes!”
The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid is the most versatile and utilitarian hybrid on the road, and while it can’t match a number of hybrids in any one performance category, its overall performance makes it worth considering.