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2008 Ford Escape Hybrid- First Impressions

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid Review: Great & Green
by Jessica Howell

Most drivers can't help but notice the powdery glow of Ford's exclusive paint on the new 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid-an eye-catching shade dubbed Light Ice Blue Metallic. Like the gleaming "HYBRID" badge on the SUV's rear, it sets apart both vehicle and driver in a sea of gas-guzzling, still-standing traffic.

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid Going green may seem daunting, but it's an easy task with this full hybrid small SUV, which effortlessly jumps from 100 percent electric power to 100 percent gasoline power-or a balance of both-to produce the most efficient and powerful driving results.

Whisper quiet upon start up, the Escape Hybrid runs on pure electric power at speeds up to 25 MPH, managing to garner 80 percent better fuel economy than its conventional twin in city driving. (That's 500 miles per tank of gas if you're not cruising highways.) The vehicle, rated at new 2008 EPA guidelines, is estimated to earn 34/30 (city/highway) MPG, a 14 percent improvement from the 2007 Escape Hybrid.

I recently climbed into the freshened 2008 Escape Hybrid for a cross-state trek and test-drive. Ruggedly reminiscent of the older sibs Explorer and Expedition, the new exterior design of the Escape Hybrid is a bit more grown up than years past. The new exterior also boasts four new and shiny metallic paint options, including the noted Light Ice Blue, Kiwi Green, Vista Blue and Black Pearl Slate.

The interior? It's been upgraded as well. New this year are 100 percent recycled fabric seating fabrics, produced from post-industrial waste (think plastic intended for pop bottles and un-dyed polyester.) Talk about being green.

Also on the forefront of comfort is a new display placed near eye-level on the dash that highlights temperature, climate controls, and radio station for at-a-glance info. Cool, blue lighting takes the place of green for less-blinding night drives. And most convenient-a 110-volt AC power outlet in the center console. Car phone charger be gone!

Since the Escape is a SUV, cargo space and capability are major factors. With the second row (split 60/40) in upright position, passengers have access to nearly 28 cubic feet of space for stowing gear and goods. Those who've got something to tow can pull up to 1,000 lbs. with a properly equipped Escape Hybrid, powered by the 2.3L 4-cylinder gasoline engine that features Atkinson-cycle combustion and 70-kWatt electric traction motor.

But, you're wondering, how was the drive? It was good. Really. Ford claims that the hybrid's powertrain "provides 0-60 acceleration performance similar to the conventional Escape with a 200-horsepower V6 engine." They're not far off. The SUV doesn't lack power and it provides a smooth ride not unlike any other comparable small SUV. During my three-hour drive through torrential rains, I was both pleased and impressed by the hybrid.

Of course, the best way to discover if a hybrid is right for you is to test one yourself, and I think you'll be surprised by the performance of the Escape Hybrid. Car-buyers have plenty of options when building their hybrid, but most re-assuring, an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on hybrid-related components.

Still on the fence? The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hybrid & Alternative Fuel Vehicles by Jack Nerad (Alpha, 2007) details the pros and cons of purchasing green with plenty of unbiased explanation. It's worth checking out.

For more information on eco-friendly automotive, visit RTM's "green" section: Planet Driven.