The Car Connection Ford Escape Hybrid Overview
The Ford Escape Hybrid is a small crossover utility vehicle with a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain that makes it up to 70 percent more fuel-efficient than the Ford Escape—while in most other respects it offered the same package and functionality.
The Escape Hybrid was unique to the market when it first went on sale in 2004, for the 2005 model year. It was the first hybrid SUV in the U.S. market, as well as the first hybrid from a U.S. automaker, but the Toyota Highlander Hybrid soon joined the market as another hybrid alternative.
For more about the Ford Escape Hybrid, see our full review pages on the entire Ford Escape lineup.
With a hybrid powertrain closely resembling the configuration used in the Toyota Prius and other vehicles with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive, the Escape Hybrid employs a planetary gearset that manages power seamlessly between power from a pair of electric motors and from the four-cylinder gasoline engine, with energy captured during coasting and braking stored in a nickel-metal-hydride battery mounted under the rear load floor. It's a 'full hybrid system'—meaning that this vehicle can (gently) step away from a stop on electric power only and cruise at low speed for short distances without the gasoline engine starting.
At first, the powertrain included a 133-horsepower, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine that made 155 horsepower total, with the electric motor system. But in its so-called second-generation form—which coincided with a major refresh for the entire Escape family, for 2009—the system got a 2.5-liter engine and new combined output of 177 hp. Also that year, it received an electrically operated A/C compressor.
The changes for 2009 added to extensive cosmetic upgrades that the Escape lineup got for 2008—essentially bringing its appearance more in sync with the Explorer of the time—as well as the Freestyle, otherwise known as the Taurus X.
Overall, drivability and overall presentation of the later 2009-2012 model-year Escape Hybrid models make them our picks. Later versions of the Escape have a far improved interior, with improved cabin noise isolation and better materials, and they tend to ride a bit better. Our only complaint of Escape Hybrid models, across the board, is that they simply don't feel as nimble as other Escapes.
Throughout its existence the Escape Hybrid was a vehicle often used for political photo-ops, and various members of Congress have driven them—including President Obama when he was in the U.S. Senate.
The Ford Escape Hybrid was canceled after the 2012 model year, as Ford redesigned the Escape as a sleeker, more rakish and carlike vehicle and introduced the Ford C-Max exclusively as a hybrid or Energi plug-in hybrid.