2008 Ford Escape Limited
2008 Ford Escape Hybrid
2009 Ford Escape XLT FWD
Ford Escape, 2008–2012. Click image to enlarge

Review by Justin Pritchard

Vehicle Type: Crossover SUV

History/Description: Selection, style and capability were arguably the biggest draws to the previous generation of the Ford Escape. With four and six-cylinder power, front or all-wheel drive, generous ground clearance and a large span of options and packages, this Canadian favourite offered a variation that was just right for virtually any shopper.

Lots of space, good driving dynamics and a small gas bill were big draws to the second-generation Escape Hybrid, which launched just a few years after the original. This model packed the same great mileage as that first Escape Hybrid, but with a far more upscale and accommodating cabin and creature comforts.

Shoppers also note a commanding driving position, comfy seats and handsome exterior styling.

All models were five-seat, and feature content included heated leather, Ford Sync, steering wheel–mounted audio controls, heated leather seats with motorized adjustment, a sunroof, and automatic climate control. Premium audio with a CD changer was also available.

Key competitors included the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue.

Engines / Trim: Escape came with four or six-cylinder power and two or four-wheel drive to meet a range of shopper needs. The first year of this generation of Escape was powered by the same engine choices that powered the model from day one: namely, a 2.3L, 153 hp four cylinder or a 3.0L 200 hp V6. Four-speed automatics (remember those?) were standard.  There was also a hybrid powertrain which mated an electric motor and a 2.3L, 133 hp four cylinder to the wheels via a CVT transmission. Combined output for the two motors was 177 hp.

2009 saw engineers fit two new engines – namely a 2.5L four-cylinder and a 3.0L V6. Power output was rated at 171 and 240 hp, respectively. The V6 is a proper little beastie, and sounds lovely, according to your correspondents test-drive notes. Thankfully, a six-speed automatic became the standard gearbox offering from 2009 and on.

Grade-level nomenclature here sees XLS applied to base-model units, with XLT comprising the mid-range offering as a high-value model with plenty of must-have features on board. Limited models capped the Escape range.

What Owners Like: Performance from the V6 engine, off-road capability with four-wheel drive, a sporty and comfortable ride and a flexible interior were all rated highly by owners. A commanding driving position, winter driving confidence, comfortable seats and exterior styling are also owner favourites. A scan of past test-drive notes suggests that this generation Escape rides and handles pleasingly, despite relatively generous ground clearance and moderate off-road capability, thanks to a four-wheel drive system that mostly knows what it’s doing. Fuel mileage is even rated fairly well by many owners, too.

Fans of the hybrid model also delight at the frequent, fuel-free moments of totally silent driving that add up over the course of each tank of fuel to reduce consumption. A four-wheel-drive model offers extra off-road capability if you need it, while a front-wheel-drive model will turn in the best mileage.  Autos.ca head honcho Jonathan Yarkony reminds us that the Escape will be the only hybrid on this list, mainly because of low purchase prices and the fact that early on, this pioneering model smoked the fuel consumption figures of any other SUV on the scene.

What Owners Dislike: Common complaints include gear hunting on the six-speed transmissions, sluggish power delivery from the four-speed transmission, noisy engines, poor performance from the factory stereo system and higher-than-expected levels of road noise.

Here’s a list of Ford Escape owner reviews from autoTRADER.ca.

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Dash and Console
Ford Escape dashboard shown with optional touchscreen. Click image to enlarge

Common Issues: Approach your used Escape looking for signs of transmission trouble if you’re opting for a 2009 or newer model. Hard shifting, flaring or slipping during gear changes could all be signs of some well-documented issues. A check for leaky axle seals should also be considered mandatory. A Ford mechanic should be familiar with the issues, and able to diagnose any trouble signs quickly on a pre-purchase inspection. Ensure the unit shifts between Drive and Reverse as quickly and smoothly as you’d expect, too.

Here’s some reading. Note that not all Escapes were affected, and that in some cases, a reprogramming of the transmission computer fixes any rough-shifting issues. Sill, numerous owners have reported that a problem with the transmission itself was to blame for replacement of the unit.

Further, note that an issue with the transmission cooler may cause a potentially damaging fluid leak. Here’s some more information. Many owners have had no trouble having the affected components repaired at no cost.

Note that most automatic transmissions require a fluid and filter change, just like the vehicle’s engine itself, at pre-set intervals. Be sure the seller was fond of making these changes. On-time transmission service has a tremendous effect on long-term durability. If you’re not sure when the transmission fluid was last changed on the model you’re considering, budget to have the job done ASAP.

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