2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 5, 2011

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2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Buying Advice

The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid is a member of a rare breed: a compact sport-utility vehicle powered by a combination of gas engine and an electric motor. It’s one of only a few such vehicles on sale in the U.S.

The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid comes in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive Ford Escape Hybrid is priced higher than the front-wheel-drive model. The AWD Escape Hybrid has worse fuel economy than the front-drive version, and qualifies for a smaller tax credit. So a front-drive Escape Hybrid is the smarter buy for most people. But either way, Escape Hybrids are in short supply. Ford sold out the 2008 models without filling all orders, so order early for a 2009.

There aren’t a whole lot of choices in terms of options or trim levels when it comes to a Ford Escape Hybrid, so aside from choosing front- or all-wheel-drive, there’s little to be saved in terms of equipment choices.

Something to consider is that all hybrid vehicles cost more than their non-hybrid counterparts. Hybrids have a gas engine and an electric motor, a battery pack, and lots of sophisticated technology.

However, buyers of new hybrid vehicles receive a tax credit to help offset the extra expense. That credit is $3,000 on a front-wheel drive Ford Escape Hybrid. A similarly equipped front-wheel drive gas-engine-only Ford Escape XLT lists for about $5,000 less, so that brings the price difference into the $2,000 range – and that’s before discounts on the gas-only version are taken into account. It’ll take a while to make up the extra cost of the hybrid, even with record oil prices.

Among compact SUVs, the conventional Ford Escape offers adequate though unremarkable performance. This basic vehicle is among the oldest in its class, with a basic design dating from model-year 2000. It’s seen refinements over the years, but it is feeling dated compared to the competition.

The Ford Escape Hybrid version was introduced for the 2005 model year as the first hybrid compact SUV. It looks little different from the gas-powered Escape, the big difference being in its propulsion system.

The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid is a “full” hybrid, meaning it can save fuel by driving on electric power alone, or it can operate in combination with gasoline-engine power, depending on how sensors perceive demand.

The Escape Hybrid’s engine is a modified version of the base Escape’s gas-only 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and is tuned for higher fuel efficiency. Combined with the electric motor, total output is equivalent to the base engine’s 170 horsepower, and is delivered through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Instead of having a few fixed gears, or “speeds,” like a conventional transmission, a CVT uses a type of pulley system with nearly limitless combinations to transfer power and keep the engine running at peak efficiency. It has the added benefit of driving smoother than a normal transmission because you don’t feel gear shifts.

The Ford Escape Hybrid is available in only one trim level, though as with gas-only Escapes, it’s available with front- or all-wheel drive. The AWD system does not have low-range gearing.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Changes back to top

Since it received an essentially cosmetic rehash in 2008, the 2009 Escape Hybrid will see only a few minor changes.

All 2009 Escapes get some aerodynamic tweaks on the front end and around the rear wheels. Base versions gain a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, a modified version of which appears in the Hybrid.

On the Hybrid, some computer revisions are designed to further refine what is already a barely perceptible transition between gasoline and electric power. A new regenerative braking system promises to feel more like normal brakes when charging the batteries by recapturing the energy used to slow the vehicle. And an antiskid system, designed to correct a skid by applying brakes to individual wheels, is standard on 2009 Escape Hybrids.

An antiskid system is a key safety feature previously unavailable on the Escape Hybrid. It’s especially important because Ford Escapes not equipped with an antiskid system did poorly in government tests of rollover resistance.

No change to the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid will significantly alter its performance or passenger accommodations from those of the 2008 model. Statements in this review about performance and accommodations are based on detailed test drives of the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Test Drive back to top

Driving the Ford Escape Hybrid:  The Ford Escape Hybrid handles just like the gas-only four-cylinder Escape. Cornering at normal speeds is stable. Acceleration with the Escape Hybrid feels more like it’s powered by a small V-6.

The hybrid system excels in saving fuel during city driving, where it can propel the vehicle solely on electric power. While the Escape Hybrid can be driven like a conventional SUV, it requires some attention to driving technique to get the most use out of the electric drive.

Assuming the battery is in a charged state, it is easy to drive the Escape Hybrid up to a speed of 25 mph on electric power. It does take a light foot, but not to the point of holding up normal traffic. Typically, the Escape Hybrid can start and stop and cruise at 25 mph for up to a half mile before the gas engine kicks in to automatically replenish the batteries. Exceed that speed or distance, or accelerate at a faster rate, and the transition to gasoline power is virtually seamless.

The Escape Hybrid also saves gas by automatically turning off the engine when coming to a stop, and keeping it off at a standstill while it runs accessories on battery power. Weather conditions and climate-control settings do impact performance, however. Running the air conditioning full blast on a hot day will cause the gas engine to run continuously. Ford recommends using the “ECON” setting on the climate control to reduce demand on the engine.

Riding in the Ford Escape Hybrid:  Ford Escape has a rigid body that helps this small SUV have a solid feel that belies its size. The ride is quiet and smooth, with good absorption of bumps. The interior has a rather bland look and is constructed of cheap feeling materials. The leather trim of the Premium Package is an upgrade over the standard cloth. Headroom is ample and legroom feels above average for vehicles in this class.

Ford Escape Hybrid dashboard and controls:  Control layout is clean and simple. Switches have a substantial feel. The unique tachometer of the Escape Hybrid has a green zone below the zero to indicate when the vehicle is driving on electric power. Another gauge indicates whether the electric motor is charging the batteries or assisting the gasoline engine. Both are useful for modifying driving habits in the quest for optimum fuel economy. Less useful, though entertaining nonetheless is the graphic display that can be switched on the center screen showing what the hybrid system is doing.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Prices back to top

Base price of the front-wheel-drive Ford Escape Hybrid is around $27,000. An all-wheel drive version runs around $28,500.

Options are limited to comfort, convenience, and appearance features. The hybrid Premium Package costs $1,200 and includes leather upholstery, a roof rack, and a 110-volt power outlet. Leather upholstery can be ordered separately for about $700. A package with a power moonroof and satellite radio is $1,000. A navigation system is $2,700.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Fuel Economy back to top

The EPA for 2008 revised its fuel-economy rating methods to better reflect real-world driving conditions. However, gas-electric hybrids still tend to perform disproportionately well in EPA testing. In real-world driver, hybrid owners often discover their fuel economy to be higher than the EPA estimates. And as with all vehicles, actual fuel mileage depends heavily on driving habits. As a rule, the slower and gentler, the better.

The EPA rates the front-wheel-drive Ford Escape Hybrid at 34 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg in highway driving. However, test Escape Hybrids have averaged as low as 21.5 mpg in mostly city driving in hot weather. Under more ideal conditions, it will achieve up to 30 mpg in city driving.

Mostly due to the additional weight of the all-wheel drive components, AWD Ford Escape Hybrids aren’t as fuel-efficient as front-drive versions. The EPA rates the AWD Escape Hybrid at 29 mpg city, 27 mpg highway.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Safety and Reliability back to top

Ford Escape Hybrids have the same safety equipment as gas-only Escapes, including as standard head-protecting side curtain airbags and torso-protecting front-seat side airbags.

The Escape received four out of five stars for driver protection in government frontal crash testing. In side-impact testing, the Escape garnered top five-star ratings for front-and rear passenger protection.

In testing for rollover risk, the Escape rated three out of five stars, but no longer tips like previous models thanks to the addition of a standard antiskid system.

J.D. Power and Associates, the leading customer satisfaction ratings firm, find Ford Escape scores average overall in quality and reliability. Escape shows strongly in areas of powertrain and other mechanical quality, while interior design issues received the most complaints from owners. For study purposes, the Ford Escape Hybrid is considered a variation of the base Ford Escape, rather than a separate model.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Release Date back to top

The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid release date is late August 2009.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Competition back to top

The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid competes against two versions of the Vue Green Line compact SUV from the Saturn division of General Motors. The current Saturn Vue went on sale for model-year 2008 and is an Americanized version of a compact SUV built by GM’s European Opel brand.

The Saturn Vue Green Line comes as a “mild” hybrid and introduces a new version for 2009 called the Green Line 2 Mode.

The Saturn Vue Green Line “mild” hybrid cannot drive on electric power alone. It uses a four-cylinder engine supplemented by an electric motor to give it some extra power. It also shuts the gas engine off when stopped or slowing down, and recharges the batteries through regenerative braking. Fuel-mileage advantages of a mild hybrid are more modest than with a full hybrid, but sticker prices are lower since mild hybrids are not as technologically complex as full hybrids. Additionally, it qualifies for a lower tax credit. A Vue Green Line can be had for around $24,000.

New for 2009 is the Saturn Vue Green Line 2 Mode hybrid. Its electric-motor hybrid system is teamed with a 3.6-liter V-6 gas engine. This Vue hybrid is capable of running on electric power alone. GM predicts its will achieve up to 50-percent better fuel economy than the gas-powered V-6 Vue. The Saturn Vue Green Line 2 Mode hybrid is rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds; the Escape Hybrid is rated to tow 1,000 pounds. Pricing for the Saturn Vue Green Line 2 Mode hybrid is yet to be determined.

Note that the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid has a counterpart at Ford’s Mercury division. The Mercury Mariner Hybrid is a carbon copy of the Escape Hybrid except for its Mercury badges, some upscale styling details, and nicer interior appointments. Performance is the same, so it’s just a matter of personal taste. Prices average around $500 more than a comparably equipped Escape Hybrid.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Next Steps