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Ford Escape (Hybrid), 2005: The Weekly Driver Car Review

ford-escape-1The 2005 Ford Escape is the fourth addition to manufacturer’s SUV line, the first hybrid in the class and it makes an impressive debut. The Escape is economically and environmentally smart, and for those still unimpressed by SUVs, the vehicle could easily change their thinking. The 4-door, all-wheel drive 5-passenger rig has a 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder gas engine assisted by an electric motor.

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Combined, it offers 155 horsepower and it’s rated at 33 mpg gallon in city driving and 29 mpg in highway conditions. That’s the best SUV mileage available.

For those still new to hybrids, the Escape is another prime example of the advancement of the combined gas-electric presentation . The electric motor helps save gas by powering the vehicle at lower speeds and complementing the gas engine during acceleration.

The notion of recharging a hybrid battery is no longer relevant; the system recharges the motor’s batteries when the vehicle is decelerating or coasting.

ford-escape-1As such, if an Escape driver didn’t know they were driving a hybrid, there’s little to differentiate it from gas-only Escape models, with two exceptions: The Escape hybrid is quieter and its acceleration ratings aren’t quite as good as the gas XLS 2WD, XLT Sport 2WD or XLT Sports AWD models.

Beyond its combined engine, the 2005 Escape has a larger base engine (28 more horsepower than in ’04) and its interior and exterior styling has been “tweaked” to give it a more refined road appeal.

For my weekly drive, I tested the 4-door, automatic hybrid. In addition to its sizable standard features list (AM/FM/stereo with in-dash 6-CD changer to 16-inch aluminum wheels), my vehicle also included three option packages that added another $3,000 to the base $28,000 price point. The options included the Safety Package ($595), the $1,850 appearance package (including the navigation system) and the Leather Comfort Group ($575).

So for $31,000, is the Escape hybrid a sound choice?

In most areas, the answer is an unqualified yes. The initial price is not a bargain, but the one-time federal tax deduction available to hybrid owners certainly helps.

Despite one consumer publication’s low acceleration rating, the Escape moves more than adequately when a quick punch is required, and it offers a tight, comfortable ride, particularly considering its SUV class. It’s not the fastest vehicle around, but considering its status as a compact SUV, the Escape is sporty around town, and it maneuvers easily in parking or U-turn scenarios.

The interior is well-designed and with Leather Comfort Group offering that includes leather seats, the Escape offers adequate luxury at the aforementioned price point. Driver and front-seat passengers have sufficient head and leg room and the position of the front seat in relation to instrumentation front console is a refreshing arrangement.

While not drastic, the lower position of the console gives the driver a feeling of sitting in modified “captain’s chairs” and a better front-window view. That perch results is good vision around the rest of the vehicle.

Escapeinterior

Buyers of SUVs desire cargo space, and the Escape obliges. Rear seat backs fold flat when headrests are removed and seat bottoms are tilted forward. The Escape has separate-opening rear window as well as a traditional tailgate opening.

Despite its appeal, the Escape has two annoying flaws: The navigation screen is the smallest of any I’ve tested, and the front-seat overhead handles are positioned awkwardly in the front side panel rather than in more usual front side position. But neither issue should discourage a potential buyer.

2005 Ford Escape SUV (Hybrid)

Safety Features — Dual front airbags; side curtain airbags (optional), ABS brakes

Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 33 mpg (city),  29 mpg (highway).

Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Powertrain, 8 years/100,000 miles (battery pack); (24-hour) roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

Base Price — $28,005.

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