2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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When it comes to Hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles, there’s the ‘Theory’ and the ‘Reality’.

The Theory is that hybrid vehicles get much better fuel economy than regular vehicles, pollute much less, and offer comparable performance for a price premium that’s necessary because of all the advanced technology that goes into the vehicles.

The Reality is that most hybrid vehicles don’t get the low fuel economy numbers published by Energuide Canada and expected by their owners; few people really understand or even care how much less they pollute; and their price premium is often a deterrent to buying them.

Studies have shown that it takes a long time to pay off the difference in price between a regular vehicle and its comparable hybrid version in gasoline savings. The Ford Escape Hybrid, for example, costs approximately $5,000 more than an Escape V6 XLT (which offers similar performance). Even if Energuide’s average fuel consumption figure for the Escape Hybrid of 6.8 L/100 km were correct, at $1.00 per litre of gasoline, it would take approximately seven years to make your money back. In reality, it would take longer.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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And though informed buyers will know that the Escape Hybrid is classified as a Super Low Ultra Emissions Vehicle (SULEV II) and Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV) under California’s strict emissions standards, few of them will really understand it. Even Ford’s explanation that the Escape Hybrid is “an amazing 99.4 percent cleaner, on average, than an unregulated vehicle” doesn’t really help. An unregulated vehicle? You mean like my old ’69 Valiant?

And what about the battery? It’s warranteed for 8 years or 160,000 kilometres, but what then? It’s estimated to cost a few thousand dollars to replace it, but exact figures aren’t forthcoming from the manufacturers. And what will be the resale value of an 8-year old Escape Hybrid that’s ready for a new battery?

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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What can be said about the 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid is that it’s a technologically-sophisticated vehicle with fuel consumption that is better than a V6 Escape (but not necessarily better than a four-cylinder Escape) and its emissions of harmful exhaust gases are significantly less primarily because it shuts off the engine at stoplights and runs on battery power alone at low speeds. The other positive thing about the Escape Hybrid is that its performance is comparable to a 200 hp V6 Escape, despite being about 75 kg (165 lbs) heavier.

Price and equipment

Getting into a Hybrid Escape is going to cost you more than a regular Escape. The base price of a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid FWD is $33,599, while an Escape Hybrid 4WD is $36,399. That compares to the Escape V6 FWD XLT at $28,599 and Escape V6 4WD XLT at $31,399.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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Standard equipment on the Hybrid includes a 6-disc CD changer/MP3 player in the dash, air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, cloth seats and 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, variable intermittent wipers including a rear wiper, 16 inch tires and alloy wheels, four wheel disc brakes with ABS, and a continuously variable (automatic) transmission.

My Escape Hybrid 4WD test vehicle included optional leather seats and leather steering wheel cover ($995); side airbags and curtain airbags with rollover sensor ($960); moonroof ($1,020); and 110-volt power outlet ($130), for a total of $3,105 in options. With Freight and A/C tax, my test vehicle came to $40,804.

Additional options include a premium 320 watt stereo with seven speakers ($380), and a navigation system that includes the premium stereo with four speakers, a display screen, and a hybrid drive energy flow graphic ($2,595).

As well, you can order the Escape Hybrid with unique silver painted bumpers and side sills in a package that also includes the navigation system, audio system, heated seats, reversing sensors, 110V power outlet and retractable cargo cover ($5,105).

Hybrid powertrain

The Escape’s Hybrid drive system consists of six main components: a 2.3-litre four cylinder engine with 133 horsepower, a 330 watt nickel-metal hydride battery pack, a 70 kilowatt electric motor, a regenerative braking system that charges the battery when braking or coasting, an electronic controller, and a continuously variable transmission with no noticeable shift points.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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The Escape Hybrid is capable of shifting between electric and gasoline operation automatically and can run on both at the same time. For example, it can run on battery power alone at speeds up to 40 km/h, or when coasting. It can run on the gasoline engine alone under certain conditions such as when battery power is low. And it can run on both the gasoline engine and battery/electric motor when more power is needed, such as when accelerating up a hill. As well, when idling, the engine can shut off automatically to save fuel.

If you compare the Escape Hybrid’s fuel consumption with the non-hybrid Escape four-cylinder and V6 models, the greatest fuel savings occur in city driving rather than highway driving. The Escape Hybrid’s official highway figure is 7.0 L/100 km, marginally better than the four-cylinder Escape’s 7.3 L/100 km and somewhat better than the V6 Escape’s 8.8 L/100 km. The real fuel savings comes in stop and go city driving where the Escape Hybrid’s 6.6 L/100 km is much better than the four-cylinder Escape’s 9.7 L/100 km and the V6 Escape’s 12.0 L/100 km.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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According to the government’s official Energuide figures, the 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid averages 6.8 L/100 km (42 mpg Imperial), but during my week-long test-drive, the on-board computer calculated average fuel consumption at 9.7 L/100 km (29 mpg Imperial). Fuel consumption will vary widely depending on whether you do more driving in a city environment or a suburban environment. I did most of my week’s driving in a suburban environment where I didn’t sit in traffic jams for too long, and moved around quite freely, and did a fair amount of freeway driving. As a result, the auto-stop feature didn’t always activate at traffic lights and the Escape Hybrid didn’t run on battery power alone too often. Since I used the gasoline engine more, fuel consumption was greater.

Driving impressions

In terms of actual driving performance, the Escape Hybrid is very similar to the regular Escape even though it’s 203 kg (447 lbs) heavier than a four-cylinder Escape, and 75 kg (165 lbs) heavier than the V6-powered Escape. The combined power of the 330-volt battery, 70-kilowatt electric motor, and 133-hp four-cylinder engine give the Escape Hybrid similar acceleration times to the V6-powered Escape.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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In terms of towing capacity however, the Escape Hybrid can tow less: 453 kg vs 1587 kg.

The Escape Hybrid starts up easily in the morning, but I noticed a curious smell in the cabin that lasts for about 15 seconds, and then doesn’t reappear until the next morning. I speculated it was a battery smell, but I couldn’t identify it.

The electric power assisted steering is lighter at parking lot speeds and firmer at highways speeds, and is completely independent of the gasoline engine so that when the engine shuts off, power assist is not affected. The Escape Hybrid’s turning diameter of 11.5 metres (37.7 feet) is acceptable for a vehicle of this size. The rear wiper has an intermittent setting, which really helps keep the window clean when driving in rain or snow.

I found the Escape Hybrid handled well – like other Escapes, it features a fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts/rear multi-link). The driver sits tall with good visibility and a good driving position, and the highway ride is very comfortable. The low rolling resistance Continental Eco Plus 235/70R-16-inch tires aren’t noisy or harsh and seem to offer good grip. The 4WD system, which is actually an on-demand all-wheel drive system that runs in front-wheel drive most of the time, is completely automatic, and mostly invisible. There is no centre locking differential for serious off-roading adventures.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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While driving, the transition between battery and gasoline engine is barely discernible, except at idle when it turns off and on – but it’s basically seamless. The disc brakes, though integrated with a regenerative braking system to charge the battery, don’t feel a lot different to regular brakes. In some hybrids, the brakes are very sensitive.

There is a difference in the way the Escape Hybrid’s continuously variable transmission works compared to the V6 Escape’s automatic transmission. The CVT is a ‘stepless’ transmission with no discernable gear changes. Press the gas pedal about half way down, and the engine speeds up immediately to about 4000 rpm, and stays there until the driver eases back on the accelerator. If you push the gas pedal to the floor, the engine speeds up to 6000 rpm and stays there until the driver eases back. Highway cruising is very comfortable. At a steady 100 km/h the four-cylinder engine is doing only 1500 rpm.

Interior impressions

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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The Escape Hybrid has four big doors for easy entry, but there is a small lip to step over when getting in. Both front and rear passengers have plenty of headroom and legroom, but rear seat elbow room is tight for three adults.

As you might expect, the Hybrid has some unique instrumentation including a small round gauge to the left of the tachometer that measures ‘Charge’ and ‘Assist’ functions. The former shows when the battery is being charged, and the latter shows when the battery is supplying power to, or ‘assisting’ the Hybrid system.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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My test vehicle also had a trip computer display with ‘kilometres to empty’, ‘instant fuel economy (low or high)’, ‘electric energy available’, and systems checks such as oil change, charging system, power steering, and 4WD system advisories.

Overall, the Escape’s interior materials are of a good quality with accents that include silver-faced gauges, a silver centre stack, and a silver ring around the shift lever. My car had optional leather seats but not optional seat heaters – you shouldn’t be able to order those separately! My car also had the optional 110-volt power outlet on the lower dash, which is handy for running appliances, particularly when camping. There are also two 12-volt powerpoints.

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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I liked the Escape Hybrid’s tall driving position, comfy seats, tall centre armrest and the deep storage bin below it, the large cupholders, and the power window buttons which are angled towards the driver. I didn’t like the fact that the visor mirrors don’t have lights, and the liquid crystal display on the radio was difficult to see at times because of glare.

Cargo area

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD

2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
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Accessing the cargo area from the rear can be done through the lift-up rear window, or by raising the rear hatch. The cargo compartment is roomy, but because the big battery is under the cargo floor, the total volume is slightly less than in a regular Escape: 765 litres (27 cu. ft.) vs 829 litres (29.3 cu. ft.) with the rear seats up. With both rear seatbacks folded down, there is 1841 litres (65 cu. ft.) of cargo area. To lower the rear seatbacks, you first pull up the seat cushions to a vertical position, remove the rear head restraints, then lift a lever on top of the seatbacks and pull them down. However, there isn’t an obvious place to store the head restraints.

As well, you can put up to 45 kg (100 lbs.) of cargo on the roof rack.

Safety features

While dual stage front airbags are standard, side airbags and curtain airbags with a rollover sensor are optional. Neither traction control or stability control are offered.


Though fuel economy may not be as good as claimed, the Escape Hybrid does get better fuel consumption than the V6 Escape while offering comparable performance and significantly lower emissions. The price premium for the Hybrid may deter some buyers.

Technical Data: 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD

Base price $36,399
Options $3,105 (Leather seats, leather steering wheel cover $995; Safety package: side airbags and curtain airbags with rollover sensor; moonroof $1,020; 110 V powerpoint $130)
Freight $1,200
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $40,804 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact SUV
Layout longitudinal front engine/on-demand all-wheel drive
Engine 2.3-litre 4-cylinder, Atkinson cycle, DOHC, 16 valves
Horsepower 133 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 129 @ 4500 rpm
Electric motor Permanent magnet AC synchronous motor, 330V maximum, 70 kW @ 5000 rpm
Battery 330V sealed nickel-metal (NiMH)
Transmission continuously variable
Tires P235/70R16 all-season low-rolling-resistance
Curb weight 1712 kg (3775 lbs)
Wheelbase 2619 mm (103.1 in.)
Length 4442 mm (174.9 in.)
Width 1780 mm (70.1 in.)
Height 1770 mm (69.7 in.)
Ground clearance 203 mm (8.0 in.)
Cargo capacity 765 litres (27 cu. ft.) seats up
  1841 litres (65 cu. ft.) seats down
Fuel consumption City: 6.6 L/100 km (43 mpg)
  Hwy: 7.0 L/100 km (40 mpg)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Hybrid component warranty 8 yrs/160,000 km
Assembly location Claymoco, Missouri

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