2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD . Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Photo Gallery:
2010 Ford Escape

Hybrid hype is flying high at my current place of employment, the Toronto production of the hit show Jersey Boys.

Many of the young cast members covet a hybrid vehicle. They want to be green. They want to be cool. They want to stick it to Big Oil. Bless their socks. They don’t really know what a hybrid vehicle is, or what it does, but they’re sure that with a little green hybrid badge they’ll drive around for free and butterflies will come out the tailpipe.

When I showed up in a 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD, a twenty-something chap asked me what it was like.

“It has very good full hybrid powertrain, but you’re paying about an extra seven grand for it.”

“That’s okay.” He replied. “You’d make that back in no time.”

Uh, maybe if your commute took you to Timbuktu.

2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD . Click image to enlarge

There is no question the Ford Escape Hybrid works as advertised. Over a week of mixed driving this top-line 4WD Escape returned 7.6 L/100 km, and it doesn’t suffer (much) from being a hybrid. Official figures are 6.6 L/100 km city and 7.3 L/100 km highway. The front-wheel-drive model does better: 5.8 city and 6.5 highway.

But no one will be (or should be) buying this boxy hybrid to save money. The Escape Hybrid starts at $32,409 for the FWD model, stretching to my Limited 4WD tester’s base of $42,299. Out of a total 36,980 Escapes sold in 2009, 1,143 Canadians sprung for the Escape Hybrid’s “feel good” premium. That’s less than three per cent.

The Ford Escape Hybrid goes down the road courtesy of a 2.5-litre Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder working with a traction motor/generator through a continuously variable transmission. All-wheel-drive models come with a third electric motor to power the rear wheels when additional acceleration or traction is needed.

2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD
2010 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited 4WD . Click image to enlarge

New this year is electrically powered A/C, replacing the less efficient belt-driven system.

Toyota may be winning the gas/electric hybrid public awareness campaign, but Ford has the edge in drivability. As with the excellent Fusion Hybrid, “seamless” best describes the operation of this complex full hybrid powertrain. Transitions between gas and electric power are imperceptible, you barely notice the start/stop system, acceleration is more than adequate, and the regenerative braking (usually the bane of hybrid vehicles) is smooth and progressive.

Of course, for all the extra greenbacks you’ll be wanting the ultimate hybrid party trick of fully electric motoring, and here the Escape does not disappoint. Light throttle applications will have you humming through parking lots and down side streets, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much the Escape Hybrid will operate on battery power once up to speed in urban settings. Officially 60 km/h but I saw 70 km/h on a few occasions.

There are some drawbacks. The batteries and hybrid bits add about 136 kg to the vehicle, which has an adverse effect on handling. There’s no “sport” in this sport utility vehicle. The Escape Hybrid lists and understeers at the mere sight of a swift bend, and the lifeless steering only adds to its non-athletic nature.

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