Escaping the Pump
By Daniel Weil
Not all hybrids are created equal, and thanks to a strong head start, most are associated with Toyota and Honda. But American brands have been in the market now for some time. GM offers the Saturn VUE Green Line and the Aura Green Line as “light hybrids” (meaning, though less expensive, they don’t move on battery power alone). The GMC Yukon has gone green as well, employing a heavy-duty, two-mode hybrid system similar to those now employed in GM busses worldwide. But it’s the completely functional, unassuming, practical and good looking Ford Escape Hybrid and its full hybrid system that delivers the highest mileage of any SUV yet.
I was recently introduced to the Escape Hybrid at the Santa Monica Airport, where Ford had set up an interesting comparison between the Escape and the Focus, Ford’s most fuel efficient gas powered sedan. While the Focus’ 37 mpg highway rating beat out the Escape’s 30 mpg (which is still great for a small SUV), in city driving, the Escape performed better by almost 7 mpg with its 34 mpg versus the Focus’ 27 mpg. Also, get a load of this, both rate as Partial Zero Emissions Vehicles (PZEVs).
All this is possible thanks to the Escape’s full hybrid system. Full hybrid means the electric motor can actually move the vehicle, which saves you more fuel than the light hybrids. While sitting in traffic the engine turns off, and with a light touch of the accelerator the car moves almost silently via battery-powered electric motor. The gasoline engine may not turn back on until you reach between 20 and 28 miles an hour. This means you can potentially get 500 miles out of a tank of gas! Did I mention this is an SUV? Four-wheel-drive versions see fewer miles between fill-ups, but still produce commendable numbers. And the added sure-footedness it provides widens the field in which this Hybrid can play.
The 2.3-liter, DOHC, 16-valve engine, which the Escape Hybrid shares with the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, produces 155 horsepower when mated to the electric power plant. If you’re really trying to limit your oil consumption, the Escape Hybrid also offers an optional engine that runs on E85 fuel as well as gasoline. As an added bonus, the Ford Escape has the highest Federal income tax credits available on any hybrid. Ford takes the green mentality a couple of steps further by making the seat fabrics from 100% post-consumer product. Yes, those cola bottles you threw away months ago might just end up as seat in the new Ford Escape Hybrid.
Okay, so down to the nitty-gritty, which for gay men means A: “Does it look good on me?” and B: “What’s it like to drive?” As for part A, you decide. I’d say yes – It is a good looking, right-sized SUV that can carry up to 5 adults (4 comfortably) and all of your gear. And for part B, Ford’s engineers took special care to make considerable improvements in the driving experience. This means software and hardware work in harmony to create a much smoother shifting drive than in previous years. Yep, this is one of those situations where the Escape’s computers control the driving feel – and they do a good job. All in all, I would recommend the Escape to any city-dwelling homo or lesbian who wants the “hybrid” label on their car and enough room to carry all his or her stuff.
2008 Ford Escape Hybrid 2WD – base MSRP $25,075
2008 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD – base MSRP $26,825
Ford is a gay-friendly company.
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