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Old 06-05-2004, 01:01   #1 (permalink)
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New Car Review: 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid

THE AUTO PAGE
By JOHN HEILIG
The Auto Channel




SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid
ENGINE: 2.3-liter Atkinson cycle inline 4/94 hp permanent magnet synchronous motor
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 133 hp @ 6,000 rpm/129 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: Electronically controlled CVT
WHEELBASE: 103.1 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 174.9 x 70.1 x 70.4 in.
TIRES: P235/70R16 All-Season BSW
STICKER PRICE: $23,000 (est.)

It's no secret that I believe hybrids are the way to go for better fuel economy and lower emissions. Ford, however, is committed to exploring and furthering hydrogen-fueled engines as the way to go. True, they're more environmentally compatible, but there's little or no infrastructure in which to refuel your vehicles outside of major cities. So for now, hybrids are the way to go.

We've seen small and mid-size sedans and coupes from Honda and Toyota in the past and discovered little lost performance. The Insight, Civic Hybrid and Prius all perform as well as their gasoline-engined counterparts.

Now Ford has introduced the Escape Hybrid for 2005. This is a bone-stock Escape powered by a combination of a 2.3-liter inline four cylinder engine rated at 133 hp and an electric motor rated at 94 hp. Together, they offer all the performance of the 200 hp V6 in the "normal" Escape. And the fuel economy goes off the charts.

Ford had the good sense (if annoying to the drivers) of introducing the Escape Hybrid in Los Angeles. Our test route took us through the middle of Beverly Hills and Hollywood in rush hour. Well, with all the tourists, every hour is rush hour in Hollywood. But this was not a mistake. Ford wanted to show us that the Escape can still be fuel efficient in stop-and-go traffic. In fact, our average fuel economy never dipped below 25 mpg even when we were standing in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The reason for this is that the engine management system shuts off the gasoline engine below a certain speed and the electric motor takes over, using no fuel. The batteries for the electric motor are recharged whenever the car brakes or decelerates, so there's no need to plug the car into a wall outlet.

Incidentally, that battery pack consists of 250 D-cell batteries, a whole herd of Energizer bunnies under there.



Our first seat time in the Escape Hybrid was a fuel economy run. When I drove, I averages around 25 mpg for the 10-mile route. My co-driver decided to keep his speed below the threshold speed for the gasoline engine, and averaged nearly 50 mpg. Of course, all the drivers behind us were upset, but it showed that we weren't wasting fuel in slow traffic situations.

We also took the Escape Hybrid on a nice off-road course. Now, even though the Escape has permanent all-wheel drive, it's not a hard core off-road vehicle. But we took it up hills, on some deep dirt and sand, and over some rocks as we climbed a hill that gave us some excellent vistas of the Pacific Ocean and Malibu. The Escape Hybrid handled all the difficulties in the road and made the off-road portion of the intro a lot of fun.

In normal driving, the Escape Hybrid is no different from any other Escape. It can accelerate with the best of them (both engines work together on acceleration) and keep up with any other cars on the highway.

The gasoline engine is an Atkinson Cycle. This has nothing to do with dieting, by the way. Briefly stated, this engine has an expansion ratio that is greater than the compression ratio, extracting as much heat from the exhaust gases as possible instead of pumping heat into the exhaust system. That means you get more work out of the same mass of air and fuel compared to the standard Otto cycle. The net result is an overall increase in fuel efficiency, but a decrease in low rpm torque. However, the electric motor, with enormous low rpm torque, compensates for this.

This same engine is used in the Mazda Millenia. In this case it's turbocharged, and called a Miller cycle.



There's little to distinguish the Escape Hybrid from any other Escape. There's a small "Hybrid" badge on the rear and a small gauge on the left of the instrument panel showing the status of the battery pack. There is an optional navigation video display that can also be configured to show energy flow and fuel economy, but this can also be a distraction during driving.

A neat addition is outlets for 12V DC and 110V AC in the center console.

We know other manufacturers are planning on introducing SUVs and trucks with hybrid technology in the future. Personally, I applaud this. Among these are GMC and Lexus, while Nissan has introduced a Hybrid Altima.

All these vehicles show the manufacturers' commitment to cleaner fuel and a way of improving economy and the environment.

The 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid is the first hybrid SUV I've driven and I think it's fabulous. I can't wait to drive the others.

© 2004 The Auto Page Syndicate
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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

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Old 06-23-2004, 06:52   #2 (permalink)
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Re: New Car Review: 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid

2005 Ford Escape Hybrid
The Escape Hybrid Shows How Green Ford’s Future Is

AUTOWEEK
By MARK VAUGHN


2005 FORD FOCUS HYBRID
ON SALE: End of summer
BASE PRICE: n/a
POWERTRAIN: 2.3-liter, 133-hp, 129-lb-ft I4 and 94-hp (70-kW) permanent magnet AC synchronous motor; fwd, CVT
CURB WEIGHT: 3627 pounds
0 TO 60 MPH: n/a

The guy at valet said that to get to the Ford event we should go down the stairs and to the right. So we went downstairs and to the right and wound up in a hallway packed with Hacky Sack-playing, hemp-wearing, yoga-practicing peaceniks drinking (we are not making this up) organic lactose-free milk shakes. Maybe this is some new image Ford is cultivating. It is trying hard to be seen as the “green” car company, and the guys in the hemp outfits and beards saying, “Alright” and “Cool” might have just been actors. Hmmm...

Ford likes to beat into the ground (some say “tout”) its Earth-friendly corporate outlook. It boasts of the “living roof” on the new River Rouge plant near its world headquarters in Dearborn, about how it makes more alternative-fuel vehicles than any carmaker since, like, Woodstock, even if most of the “flex fuel” vehicles spend their entire lives running on gasoline. But when we heard the first speaker who stood before the Hacky Sackers say, “Everybody close your eyes, just close your eyes, and imagine an area of your life that you’d like to improve,” and the second speaker says, “Let’s all pull together to fight the power!” we knew this was probably not the Hybrid Escape new product intro.

Ford’s Hybrid Escape is not about fighting the power, it’s about creating more of it—in a more efficient way. When we finally found the right presentation, it wasn’t all that different from the first one we saw. Ford COO Jim Padilla (who bears a powerful resemblance to the Wizard of Oz) was speaking about “a better world.”

“We’re serious about a better world,” said Padilla, in case anyone thought he was just kidding about it and what he really wanted was a worse world.

The way to Padilla and Ford’s better world is through hybrids. Hybrids are the next logical step on the way to... well, we don’t really know what’s next. Maybe hydrogen or electricity or coal or perpetual motion. But before we get there we have to make better use of the increasingly precious petroleum that is left. Doing that means less CO2 into the atmosphere, yes, but it also means a corporate break for Ford in CAFE, which is ever tougher to meet since all anyone buys nowadays are big, lumbering sport/utility vehicles.



Ford’s Hybrid Escape carries 200 pounds of nickel-metal hydride batteries that produce a peak output of 400 volts and 70 kW or 94 hp. That works in concert with, and sometimes apart from, the 133-hp, 2.3-liter four-cylinder gas engine under the hood.

Ford engineers like to point out that their Escape makes more power than the Toyota Prius. The Prius puts out 50 kW or 67 hp of electric motor and 76 hp from its 1.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. But the Prius also weighs a lot less, 2890 pounds to the Escape’s 3627. Honda’s Civic Hybrid makes 85 hp on gas and 13.4 on electricity and weighs 2675 pounds, while the Honda Insight beats everybody at 67 hp gas and 10 kW electric, but with a curb weight of 1850 pounds, or almost nothing.

In the critical mpg race, Insight still rules at 60/65 city/highway. Prius turns in 60/51 and Civic Hybrid gets 48/47. Ford is not releasing its mileage figures yet, but that doesn’t stop it from throwing around figures just so it can talk smack.

Padilla cited an Escape Hybrid that went 576 miles, covering every block in the borough of Manhattan, on one tank of gas. That vehicle came away with 38 mpg. Ford engineers have thrown out a 55-mpg figure for the Escape Hybrid. We, however, tried as hard as we could to get lousy mileage and wound up with a sustained 17.6 mpg over one stretch of 5.8 city miles, according to the dashboard readout.

So a lot of the differences between all the hybrid drivetrains will come down to marketing. The advantage of the Ford Hybrid Escape is that it comes in an SUV body much loved by today’s market, with your choice of front- or all-wheel drive, which won’t be offer-ed by a competitor until Lexus debuts the RX 400H at the end of the year and Toyota unveils the Hybrid Highlander in early 2005.

We drove the Escape Hybrid on- and off-road and found it almost effortless to operate. Waiting at red lights the Escape Hybrid engine stops. If you don’t lead-foot it off the line it accelerates on electricity up to 25 mph. When the gas engine does kick in, it’s very subtle.

We drove it up and down some relatively steep dirt trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, and found it way more than adequate for any of the off-highway excursions that 99 percent of buyers will ever take it on.

Watching one that was parked at a demo with a TV set running off the battery pack, we saw how the gas engine came on automatically as the battery pack drained to keep the TV going. It was all very clever.

When you consider that most commuters in most cities spend their morning and afternoon drives stopping and starting, hybrids make sense. And they are the wave of the future, after all. For now.
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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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Old 06-30-2004, 11:23   #3 (permalink)
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Re: New Car Review: 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid

Is Ford's Escape Hybrid green enough?

By Anita and Paul Lienert / Special to The Detroit News



GROSSE POINTE WOODS --There's little doubt that the purchase of a hybrid vehicle is fraught with meaning for consumers, especially in this era of high gasoline prices and turmoil in the Middle East.

As we were in the middle of evaluating the all-new 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid sport utility vehicle, we sat around our kitchen table with Linus Meldrum, a 52-year-old artist and father of three from Port Royal, Pa., who is one of our oldest friends.

Like other consumers we've talked to, Meldrum seemed to be in awe of the potential of hybrids, which combine a traditional gasoline engine with an electric motor and are promoted as being cleaner and more fuel-efficient.

"As far as I see it, there are two reasons to buy a hybrid," Meldrum said. "To be a good person and to save money by using cheap electricity instead of expensive gas."

With those kinds of expectations -- especially the sense that a hybrid may reflect on a buyer's social responsibility and goodness -- we'd love to recommend the Escape Hybrid, which is just beginning to reach Ford dealers.

But we can't -- at least not without some serious reservations and an explicit warning: You may not get the kind of superior gas mileage you expect out of this, or any hybrid, depending on how you drive it.

In other words, consumers need to have realistic expectations about hybrids to avoid the real possibility of being turned off by them early in the game.

Ford touts the Escape Hybrid as being "the most fuel-efficient SUV in the world." Based on its projected Environmental Protection Agency ratings, Ford says the Escape Hybrid has the ability to get about 35 to 40 miles per gallon in city driving and to travel more than 500 miles on a single 15-gallon tank. In its initial publicity material, the company says the Escape Hybrid gets about 50 percent better fuel economy than a conventional Escape.

But in an interview last week, Mary Ann Wright, chief engineer on the Escape Hybrid, added a huge caveat: At highway speeds, the vehicle's mileage is considerably less than it is in the city -- around 29-31 mpg.

"There are so many things that can affect fuel economy," Wright said. "We are trying to manage customer expectations."

Wright said that Ford wants to "make sure that people understand this is an awesome urban vehicle and a solid highway vehicle." But she noted that aggressive driving, weather conditions, use of the air conditioner and other factors would have an impact on the vehicle's actual mileage.

Our results with the Escape Hybrid were not nearly as good as Ford suggested or we expected. We drove a front-wheel-drive Escape Hybrid with options that included a leather package and exterior appearance upgrades, such as body-colored cladding. It had a sticker price of $30,130, including a $590 destination charge. The base Escape Hybrid is priced at $26,970.

We racked up 187.6 miles over the course of several days. Our driving primarily consisted of highway excursions in the rain along Interstate 696 from our home in Grosse Pointe Woods to Milford and another trip on Interstate 94 to Port Huron. About one-quarter of our route consisted of city driving in the Grosse Pointes and Detroit.

According to our calculations, the front-drive Escape Hybrid returned an average 26.92 miles per gallon. You can expect the four-wheel-drive version to get even lower mileage under similar conditions.

For comparison purposes, a standard Ford Escape with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and five-speed manual transmission is rated by the EPA at 24 miles per gallon in city driving and 29 on the highway. The base price is $19,855.

In other words, our gas-electric hybrid returned about the same mileage we could expect to get from a conventional gas-engine Escape, or from such traditional competitors as the Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4. And the Escape Hybrid costs a whole lot more -- $7,000, or 35 percent more, if you're comparing base models.

So if fuel economy is a wash and you're really not saving money or precious resources, you're left with the other presumed hybrid benefit -- that it is supposed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Then the question becomes, how much of a premium are you willing to pay to assume some environmental responsibility and assuage your social conscience?

Let us play devil's advocate and pose a different question: Aren't you better off buying a more sensible vehicle -- a sedan or a wagon -- with an equally efficient powertrain and a more affordable price tag?

When we reported our results to Ford spokesman David Reuter, he said, "If you got 27-28 (miles per gallon) in a combination of city and highway driving, it is representative of what we are getting. If you want to get 35-40 (miles per gallon), that's primarily city-only driving.

"The more city driving you do, the higher the number will be. Once you are on the highway, you are pretty much on the gasoline engine only. You don't get the benefit of the hybrid power pack."

The Escape Hybrid is equipped with a 2.3-liter I-4 engine and an electric traction motor. Together, the hybrid system makes a net 155 horsepower. Ford says the hybrid drivetrain offers "the performance feel of a larger V-6." In fact, it makes less power than the four-cylinder CRV and RAV4.

Like other hybrids, the Escape's gasoline engine automatically shuts off instead of idling inefficiently when the vehicle is at rest. It restarts automatically when you engage the throttle.

The engine is paired with an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic transmission, which is designed to save fuel. The SUV can be ordered with an optional automatic four-wheel-drive system and it can tow up to 1,000 pounds.

The hybrid version operates exactly like a traditional SUV. It does not need to be plugged in to recharge. Instead, energy is regenerated every time you hit the brakes.

At a glance, the Escape Hybrid looks almost identical to its internal-combustion-powered sibling, with the same 103.1-inch wheelbase. The only visual differences are a rear vent window on the driver's side that automatically opens to cool the rear-mounted 330-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. Also, the vehicle's nameplate is adorned with a tiny green leaf to reflect its environmentally friendly nature.

The driving sensation is similar to the conventional Escape, although we noticed some occasional whooshing sounds coming from the rear. Ford said that was a fan on the auxiliary climate control that helps maintain the proper temperature for the battery pack in the rear. The four-cylinder gas engine is also noisy at highway speeds.

The Escape Hybrid appears to have plenty of power for passing and merging on the highway. It also has good ride quality and is easy to park. Because of its relatively short wheelbase, we noted excessive body roll and a slight tippy feeling in corners.

In the cabin, the Escape's shift lever has been moved from the steering column to the floor.

The Escape Hybrid also features new chrome-ringed gauges, better seat fabrics and -- for the first time -- side-curtain air bags, which are bundled with side air bags as part of a $425 options package.

We thought the interior was rather ho-hum and plasticky, especially given the fact that a fully loaded four-wheel-drive model will cost you over $32,000 -- about the price of an entry luxury sedan. The interior lacks lighted vanity mirrors and rear-seat climate and audio controls. The cabin's workmanship was only average. We noted rough flashing on the edges of the front vents, for example.

With the Escape Hybrid, Ford places itself on the cutting edge of what promises to be an explosion of hybrid vehicles in the coming years. J.D. Power and Associates, a global marketing information firm, reports that the number of hybrid models is expected to grow from five in 2003 to more than 30 by 2008.

After our short introduction to the new Ford Escape Hybrid, we're still waiting for the completely guilt-free SUV.


Ford Motor Co.
In the cabin, the Escape Hybrid features new chrome-ringed gauges, better seat fabrics and side-curtain air bags.


Ford Motor Co.
A 330-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery located under the floor of the Escape Hybrid stores energy to power the electric drive system.


Ford Motor Co.
Under the cover of the Escape Hybrid power plant is a 70-kilowatt motor and a 4-cylinder gasoline engine that together cut emissions and save fuel.

How Ford's hybrid measures up

'05 Ford Escape Hybrid '04 Honda CRV '04 Toyota RAV4
Wheelbase (in.): 103.1 103.1 98.0
Length (in.): 174.9 178.6 166.6
Width (in.): 70.1 70.2 68.3
Height (in.): 70.4 66.2 66.1
Curb weight (lbs.): 3,627 3,258 3,119
Base engine: DOHC 2.3L I-4 & electric motor DOHC 2.4L I-4 DOHC 2.4L I-4
Output (hp): 155 160 161
EPA Fuel economy (mpg): 35/40 (est.) 23/28 24/30
Base price: $26,970 $19,490 $18,990

Sources: Automakers, Kelley Blue Book
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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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