Most drivers can't help but notice the powdery glow of Ford's exclusive paint on the new 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid-an eye-catching shade dubbed Light Ice Blue Metallic. Like the gleaming "HYBRID" badge on the SUV's rear, it sets apart both vehicle and driver in a sea of gas-guzzling, still-standing traffic.
For a summer road trip, there's no better option than a small SUV like the Escape, offering up a sweetly sustainable perk: the effortless jump from 100 percent electric power to 100 percent gasoline power-or a balance of both-to produce the most efficient and powerful driving results.
Whisper quiet upon start up, the Escape Hybrid runs on pure electric power at speeds up to 25 MPH, managing to garner 80 percent better fuel economy than its conventional twin in city driving. (That's 500 miles per tank of gas if you're not cruising highways.) The vehicle, rated at new 2008 EPA guidelines, is estimated to earn 34/30 (city/highway) MPG, a 14 percent improvement from the 2007 Escape Hybrid.
Not too long ago, I climbed into the freshened 2008 Escape Hybrid for a cross-state trek. Ruggedly reminiscent of the older sibs Explorer and Expedition, the new exterior design of the Escape Hybrid is a bit more grown up than years past. It also boasts four new and shiny metallic paint options, including the noted Light Ice Blue, Kiwi Green, Vista Blue and Black Pearl Slate. The interior? It's been upgraded as well. New this year are 100 percent recycled fabric seating fabrics, produced from post-industrial waste (think plastic intended for pop bottles and un-dyed polyester.)
Since the Escape is a SUV, and you're road tripping, cargo space and capability are major factors. With the second row (split 60/40) in upright position, passengers have access to nearly 28 cubic feet of space for stowing gear and goods.
But, you're wondering, how was the drive? It was good. Really. Ford claims that the hybrid's powertrain "provides 0-60 acceleration performance similar to the conventional Escape with a 200-horsepower V6 engine." They're not far off. The SUV doesn't lack power and it provides a smooth ride not unlike any other comparable small SUV. During my three-hour drive through torrential rains, I was both pleased and impressed by the hybrid.
Of course, the best way to discover if a hybrid is right for you is to test one yourself, and I think you'll be surprised by the performance of the Escape Hybrid. Car-buyers have plenty of options when building their hybrid, but most re-assuring, an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on hybrid-related components. Still on the fence? The Complete Idiot's Guide to Hybrid & Alternative Fuel Vehicles by Jack Nerad (Alpha, 2007) details the pros and cons of purchasing green with plenty of unbiased explanation. It's worth checking out.
Check in next week for another review of this summer's hottest road trip hybrids.