This year will go down as the year during which electric vehicles hit critical mass and became normal. Auto buyers are engaged in all they offer, but many are not quite ready to throw away normalcy for an advanced all-electric future. They might like an EV that still cradles a gasoline engine for longer drives – all that and in a body that won’t cause a stir in the neighborhood. I suspect they’ll like the 2022 Ford Escape PHEV Titanium.
PHEV means it’s a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. And, that means it can be plugged in for some electric driving, but can also fire up its gasoline engine to drive coast-to-coast without touching a plug.
The only indicator you get of this wonderous transformation is a little door on the driver’s side front fender where one connects to the grid. The rest of the Escape’s design will cause absolutely no eyebrows to twitch in the neighborhood. Escapes are handsome enough with their Aston Martin-inspired chrome grille, rounded roofline, muscular fenders, and 18” wheels. Titanium levels add more chrome and gleaming LED lighting all-around. Check the long glass “vista roof” too.
I spent nearly 700 miles behind the wheel over two days and had little of complaint inside. There’s a lot of black rubber, but also light woodgrain, metallic finishes, and contrasting color leather seats. Add to that heated front seats and steering wheel, B&O audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, and navigation. Devices hum with wireless charging and Apple/Android connectivity. I like the flatscreen gauge cluster and intuitive infotainment system with touchscreen supported by proper volume and tuning knobs.
Safety is of little concern. Ford stoked with fuel sipper with adaptive cruise, automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and lane keep assist systems. There are also rear cross traffic alert, rear seat child reminder, and a forward pedestrian alert. Not good at parallel parking? The Escape can automate that too. All good stuff.
So, here’s how the powertrain works. Plug it in for 37 miles of all-electric driving. For many of us, that’s enough for our daily commute to work and back. After that’s depleted, the 2.5-liter gas engine fires up to send power to the front-wheels through a continuously-variable transmission. Fuel economy is rated a combined 40-MPG. During my trip, hammering the left lane at something above legal limits, I saw nearly 35-MPG. Ford rates the total system output at 200 horsepower, which is sprightly for an Escape.
Out on the road, the chassis is tuned for comfort over performance. Forget track days, but the four-wheel independent suspension just floats over rough pavement and steering feels calm over hours of travel. There’s nothing particularly engaging about it, but the Escape moves young families and friends comfortably. That, it does well.
Until time inevitably makes electric vehicles seem normal, the Ford Escape PHEV is a good compromise. It’s roomy, comfortable, luxuriously equipped, safety focused, and still delivers 37 miles without disturbing liquefied dinosaurs. And, even when toasting the remains of ancient reptiles, it’s still pretty efficient. All that for a starting price of $35,455 or $43,025 as-tested.
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