Among automakers, it’s a bit of a race right now to see who can be the one to adapt to the electric vehicle future better than the rest.
Ford is starting to step up in this fight, as it recently announced that it will invest $22 billion in electric vehicles (and $7 billion in autonomous vehicles) through 2025. And it’s already selling new EV offerings such as the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning.
One step short of a full EV is a plug-in hybrid (or PHEV), and I recently had the chance to test a Ford offering in this realm: The Ford Escape PHEV. This type of vehicle is a good step for people who aren’t quite ready to rely on a fully electric vehicle, but want something other than a traditional ICE ride — either for environmental reasons, or just to get a break from the yo-yo gas prices we so often see.
I tested a 2021 Escape PHEV, but it carries over to the 2022 model year pretty much as-is, other than some new paint options.
Vehicle: Ford Escape PHEV (plug-in hybrid)
Price as tested: $40,130 (starts around $34,000)
Best feature: Fuel economy, green credentials; smooth ride, sharp design
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Who will want this vehicle?: SUV buyers looking for a well-designed and comfortable ride that will keep them away from the gas pumps
Last redesigned for the 2020 model year, the Escape maintains a low, sporty and attractive exterior redesign, one that catches your eye but isn’t overly flashy.
Starting with the exterior, wheel options range from 17-inch steel wheels to 19-inch nickel-painted aluminum, depending on trim level and packages chosen. Lots of sharp looking options are available, and all-season tires are included with all models. It also comes with LED lighting all around, from headlamps to taillights, plus rain-sensing wipers and a hands-free liftgate.
Moving inside, there is adequate seating capacity for five adults in the Escape. The interior design featured quality materials (ActiveX seating, leather steering wheel), and seats were comfortable and impressive for a nonluxury compact SUV.
If you’re trying to fit people and/or cargo into the Escape PHEV, you’re in luck.
On the people side, there’s around 40 inches of headroom for both front and rear passengers. And there is a total of 60.8 cubic feet of cargo volume with the back seats down. And a wireless charging pad for your cell phone is also available.
HOW’S THE RIDE?
Both plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and full hybrid (FHEV) versions of the Escape run on a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid engine, and an Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission, which provide a maximum of 221 horsepower and 155 lb.-ft. of torque.
Only front-wheel drive is offered on the PHEV version of the Escape, but other versions of the Escape also offer all-wheel drive.
The Escape features anti-lock braking, and a regenerative braking system that, when operated properly, will replenish the vehicle’s electric power as you drive..
The ride in the Escape PHEV is smooth and extremely quiet. It’s not for fans of power-focused rides (most hybrids are not), but families wanting an enjoyable and responsive driving experience will still love it.
The Escape PHEV is not a rocket from a stopped position by any standards (0-to-60 time is nearly 9 seconds), but it can still do the job when you need to move quickly, in situations like merging onto the freeway or switching lanes on a busy road..
If you like the Escape but don’t want a hybrid, non-hybrid engine options include:
- A 1.5-liter I-3 EcoBoost engine offering 181 horsepower, 190 pound-feet of torque
- A 2.0-liter I-4 EcoBoost engine offering 250 horsepower, 208 pound-feet of torque
Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system in the Escape had a solid overall design and functionality, both via voice commands and touch controls.
The one hiccup I found was that voice commands weren’t always recognized on my first attempt for Navigation, especially for POIs, but otherwise the system understood my commands easily. There are also helpful on-screen commands that suggest the best thing to say, as you master the learning curve for the system, which features an 8-inch touchscreen with a clean and user-friendly setup.
The Escape also featured an impressive 10-speaker sound system, intelligent adaptive cruise control, push-button start, a pedestrian alert sounder, rear view camera, reverse sensing system, and exciting new tech such as the optional Active Park Assist 2.0.
On the safety side, the highlight is the Escape’s Ford Co-Pilot 360 features, which include: Auto high-beam headlamps; Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert; Lane-Keeping System (includes lane-keeping assist, lane-keeping alert and driver alert); Pre-Collision assist with automatic emergency braking (includes pedestrian detection, forward collision warning and dynamic brake support); Post-collision braking and Hill Start Assist.
The Escape also features the usual bevy of air bags found in today’s vehicles, covering those in the car from the front, sides and even a driver knee airbag. Safety ratings of the Escape are nearly perfect, as it’s an IIHS top safety pick.
With a plug-in hybrid, fuel economy is obviously one of the big selling points. And the Escape PHEV delivers in this area.
Official numbers are 40 MPG gas only, and 104 MPGe (electric and gas combined). My real world testing was a few miles per gallon lower, but these are still great numbers for the segment.
A fully charged battery will get you up to 38 miles per gallon on electricity. It takes about three hours to charge with a 240V outlet, and 10.6 hours to charge with a 120V outlet. So upgrading the power source is definitely worth it for a plug-in hybrid owner.
If you drive mostly short distances and charge overnight, you’ll barely ever need to fill up at the pump, which is becoming more and more important with fluctuating gas prices taking a toll on people’s wallets these days.
Fuel mileage ratings on the standard hybrid (non plug-in) version of the Escape are: 44 city/37 highway/41 combined (FWD); or 43/37/40 (AWD)
The Escape PHEV I tested was at the high-end Titanium trim level, and came to a final price of just over $40K. If you go with the base version of the PHEV, you’ll pay around $34K, while the non-hybrid Escape starts around $27K.
Trim levels offered are S, SE, SEL and Titanium.
In terms of price vs. the competition, there are plenty of SUVs out there but most don’t offer a plug-in hybrid. One example that does, the Toyota RAV4 Prime, is a bit more expensive, starting at around $40K.
The Escape comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile Bumper to Bumper warranty, plus 5 years of roadside assistance and an 8-year/100,000-mile hybrid warranty.
Ford buyers looking to make that first step toward a fully electric vehicle, without taking the full plunge, have a solid in-between option with the Escape plug-in hybrid.
It’s got a great look, strong tech and safety features, impressive mileage, and a solid overall driving experience. If you’re looking into getting a hybrid SUV, this is definitely one to consider.
Matt Myftiu can be reached via email at [email protected] His past reviews can all be seen online at autotechreviews.com.