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2005 Cute Ute Buyer's Guide

2005 Ford Escape Hybrid Review

by Martha Hindes

2005 Ford Escape Hybrid
2005 Ford Escape Hybrid

Ford adds a coup de grace for '05. Its first-ever hybrid-powered sport utility delivers fuel- and emission-reducing power in a conventional vehicle rather than a miniature-sized casing with balloon-smooth exterior and other-worldly personality.

The decision to develop a larger hybrid made total sense, according to company execs. Sport utilities have borne the brunt of criticism for being gas hogs. Having the most popular small SUV on the planet become a green machine would potentially save far more fuel and deliver more clean air than a mini-sized car, and would send a clear, planet-friendly message in the process.

Ford's Escape is what's known as a full hybrid that combines a special 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder internal combustion gasoline engine with an electric motor, and can run solely on either or a combination of both. Other systems, called mild hybrids, always run in combination. The electric motor gives a boost when more power is needed, cutting the need for a larger engine. The system is self-contained and recharges the motor's battery pack when the engine is running, or from "drag" during braking.

Our test drive of the Hybrid Escape confirmed what we had heard. The hybrid system is virtually undetectable, even during aggressive driving -- other than nearly doubling fuel economy. When you zip past gas stations with no need to fill up, you tend to notice.

Hybrid Escape gives big engine power for budget operational cost, once one balances about a $4,000 premium for the high technology against potential tax credits. Apparently that doesn't bother a lot of people. Even Ford didn't expect it to be as popular as it's becoming.