Following global semiconductor delays, the long-promised 2021 Ford Escape PHEV debuted a few months ago, adding to the longstanding sport utility vehicle’s lineup. It’s a strong addition to the always-expanding segment of family-oriented vehicles.
Sales of SUVs are nearing 50 percent of yearly vehicle sales in the United States. With the new Escape, buyers can combine the utility of a family and small business vehicle with the economy of electricity for short excursions. It also continues Ford’s early entry into the hybrid SUV marketplace, an option that began in 2005.
The Escape is powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and an electric motor. The SUV has a 14.4 kWh battery pack with an EPA-estimated 37 miles of electric-only range and a return of 105 MPGe. When the battery pack is depleted, fuel economy is 40 mpg.
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2021 Ford Escape PHEV: Three Trims Available
Available only in front-wheel-drive, the Escape PHEV has 200 horsepower and advances with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s available in SE, SEL and Titanium trims which range in base prices from $34,320 to $40,130. The reviewed top-line trim starting price point is about $5,000 more than a regular Escape hybrid.
Comfort and cargo space are integral SUV traits. With its second-row seats slid forward, the Escape has 34.4 cubic feet of storage. It increases to 60.8 cubic feet, slightly less than the non-hybrid, with the seats folded. The reason: the hybrid battery is stored in the trunk. The overall space is adequate for usual cargo, but the Escape’s offering is less than the top-selling Toyota RAV4’s specs.
Overall, the interior feels spacious because it is. The Escape has a high roof and a low floor, meaning its maximum of five adults travel without feeling cramped.
While equipped with an infotainment center and advanced safety technology, the Escape is pleasantly void of complications. Button and dials are basic and intuitive. There’s a sufficiently-prominent backup camera noise. But it’s not obnoxiously loud, a common trait in other brands.
2021 Ford Escape PHEV: Plenty of Safety
The entry SE trim includes dual-zone automatic climate control, emergency front braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite radio and heated front seats.
The SEL adds a reverse sensing system, heated steering wheel and mirrors, power tailgate and power driver’s seat. The Titanium includes adaptive cruise control with lane-centering, auto-dimming rearview mirror, a self-parking system, navigation, premium audio, rain-sensing wipers and a hands-free tailgate.
Options for the Titanium trim include: a panoramic sunroof, chrome exterior accents, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery and head-up display. While only plastic, the top-line Escape also features a faux blonde-wood dashboard trim. It’s a handsome touch.
2021 Ford Escape PHEV: Nimble, Not So Quick
With the optional Class II Trailer Tow Package, the towing capacity is 3,498 pounds. It’s only available for the Escape 2.0-liter EcoBoost AWD models. It has a four-pin wiring hardener, factory-installed trailer hitch receiver, Trailer Sway Control and an auxiliary transmission oil cooler.
The new Escape provides a quiet and nimble drive. It accelerates with authority, although, like many hybrids, there’s a noticeable engine whine. Steering is responsive, giving the Escape good maneuverability in tight turning situations. The only problem area? Don’t expect the Escape PHEV to accelerate past traffic or change lanes with authority on inclines. The engine struggles while climbing, even on moderate grades.
Since the brand’s debut 22 years ago, the Escape’s sales steadily increased. It reached a peak of more than 308,000 sales in the United States in 2017. With the influx of more SUVs, the Escape’s yearly sales fell to about 176,000 in 2020.
Hybrid and other alternative fuel vehicles may represent the automotive future with national fuel mandate on the not-to-distance horizon. Still, sales remain low.
How the new Escape will affect the sales volume is unknown. But it’s another option for those considering transitioning out of gas-only vehicles. That’s all good.
Article Last Updated: January 14, 2022.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.