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Old 11-23-2004, 07:17   #1 (permalink)
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Review:Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD

Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD

After a million man-hours, Ford cranks out the first hybrid SUV.

CAR&DRIVER
BY DAVE VANDERWERP
PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON KILEY



By industry standards, it takes an American automaker about three years to turn out a new car. That fact may have people wondering why it's taken Ford five years and 100 engineers to successfully install a hybrid drivetrain in an existing vehicle, the Escape SUV. Whatever the reason, the baby is a year overdue but has finally arrived.

The Escape now joins a burgeoning array of hybrids from Toyota and Honda. This first Ford hybrid follows the technology path of the Toyota Prius by combining an efficient gasoline engine with not one but two electric motors. The gas engine is the base Escape's 2.3-liter four, which has been modified to run on the Atkinson cycle. The specifics of the Atkinson cycle can get a little complicated, but basically, it takes in less air-fuel mixture than when running on the conventional Otto cycle (what almost all gas engines use) in exchange for a greater expansion ratio. So although it's more efficient—and thus increases fuel economy—it makes less power simply because it inhales less air and fuel. Power drops from 153 to 133 horsepower and torque from 152 to 129 pound-feet. The benefit of having two electric motors—one driving the wheels and the other used to start the engine and spread the transmission's ratios—amounts to improved fuel economy in city driving and some extra thrust to bolster the efficiency-biased four-banger. Two motors and a planetary-type continuously variable transmission (CVT) permit the Escape and the Prius to be driven via electric power only, whereas no Honda can be driven this way. Further, the dual-motor scenario is more efficient at capturing energy since one of the electric motors is connected directly to the wheels.



The electric motors are powered by a 330-volt battery pack that resides beneath the Escape's load floor. The battery is charged in two ways: regeneratively, capturing energy during braking, or via the gas engine.

Unlike the pioneering Honda Insight hybrid, the Escape doesn't come with any purpose-built hybrid tricks—there are no extremely narrow, low-rolling-resistance tires and no aerodynamic teardrop shape like the Insight's.

Turning the key in the ignition starts the electric motor, which in turn fires the hybrid's gas engine. It cranks with a quiet whir and then shuts off, assuming everything is up to temperature, the battery has sufficient charge, and the climate control is in the appropriate setting. Under extremely light throttle, the electric motor will provide all the power necessary to creep around in urban traffic. In normal circumstances, the gas engine shudders to life somewhere between 10 and 20 mph to help the propulsion cause and will shut down again somewhere below 30 mph when slowing for a stop.



Inside, the differences between hybrid and gas-powered Escapes are negligible. The engine-temperature gauge has been replaced with a charge-and-assist meter. When the gas engine shuts off, the tachometer falls below the "0" level to an "EV" designation that indicates the electric motor is running the show. And the screen of the $1850 nav option provides fuel-economy and power-flow information. Unlike other hybrid makers, Ford didn't include a gauge to show how much juice remains in the battery, but there's not much the driver can do about that in any case.

The Escape wears knobby all-season rubber and punches the same hole in the air as do most tall wagons, so we were a bit curious to see if we could achieve the EPA's 33 mpg city and 29 mpg highway ratings.

We equaled that 33 mpg over about 100 miles of stop-and-go city driving and came close to the EPA highway number of 29 mpg over a 400-mile highway-only run. We never drove over 75 mph but still averaged 28 mpg, 1 mpg short. There's no reining in the speed merchants around here, so the Escape's stay with us produced a fuel-economy average of just 25 mpg over its entire 1600-mile stay. By comparison, two V-6 Escapes and a Tribute that passed through our hands previously have scored overall averages ranging from 17 to 21 mpg. From 17 to 25 mpg is a whopping 47-percent improvement, and 21 to 25 is a still-impressive 19-percent gain.

Speaking of costs, our hybrid Escape was delivered with an eye-bulging $32,450 price tag. Ford compares this hybrid with a well-equipped V-6 model, so that big number is the result of a $3000 hybrid premium and $3855 worth of options, including navigation, leather seats, and extra airbags. Discount shoppers can delete four-wheel drive to save $1625 but will still pay the extra $3000.

For comparison purposes, we acquired a nonhybrid 2.3-liter four-cylinder Escape with four-wheel drive, an automatic, and a bargain price of $23,235. The EPA projects that the conventional Escape will deliver 19 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. Using the same city and highway loops, we got 22 and 26, respectively, but netted a so-so 20 mpg when we put it in the hands of the office leadfoots. What we concluded, however, is that its 14.7-second 0-to-60 time and 20.1-second quarter-mile trip make it a shoe-in for the worst acceleration numbers we've seen this year.

On a hot day, you'll notice that the air conditioning shuts off in the hybrid when the engine does, because it's driven by a belt off the engine. But if you don't mind compromising your greenie status, you can switch the climate-control dial to "Max A/C" or a defrost setting, and it will stay on.



Electric-assisted steering allows the wheel to work even when the gas engine is shut off, and the driver will notice the steering has ample weight to it, although it doesn't provide much feedback—adequate for around-town putzing but not so good when exploring the Continentals' 0.73-g limit.

Ford says the Escape hybrid offers acceleration performance similar to the V-6 Escape model's, but we came up about two seconds slower across the board, from a rather listless 10.8-second 0-to-60 saunter to an 18.2-second quarter-mile time. The last V-6 Escape we tested completed the same tasks in 8.5 and 16.3 seconds, respectively.

Much of this sluggish straight-line performance comes because there really isn't any way to launch this Escape aggressively. Since all the braking and acceleration is by wire, the pedals are nothing more than a request to the computer, and the computer frowns on brake-torquing. Another hindrance is that the planetary CVT's available gear ratios are dictated by a combination of vehicle speed and the electric motors' maximum speeds. This constraint means that at low vehicle speeds the electric motor can't spin fast enough to bring the gas engine to its 6000-rpm power peak and, in fact, the gas engine can't reach its power peak until about 75 mph. Also, the 3839-pound hybrid was nearly 350 pounds heavier than the last four-wheel-drive V-6 Escape we tested ["White Snow and the 11 Dwarfs," C/D, March 2001].

Once moving above parking-lot speeds, we noticed the hybrid Escape's performance felt much more V-6-like, providing acceptable passing capability and executing the 30-to-50-mph and 50-to-70-mph passing tests in 4.6 and 7.2 seconds, 0.7 and 2.0 seconds slower than the V-6.

When the driver pushes the brake pedal, the brake-by-wire system divvies up how much stopping power is provided by recapturing energy through the electric motor and at what point the four-wheel discs should step in to help. All this computer-controlled wizardry wouldn't be apparent to the driver, but we noted that the amount of pedal travel seems less than normal, and it has a sort of fake feel to it, more like a video-game input. Stopping our hybrid Escape from 70 mph took an unimpressive 195 feet, 26 feet longer than the last V-6 Escape we tested.

Ford hopes to sell 20,000 2005 Escape hybrids. That's about 12 percent of all Escapes, and some environmental groups argue it is not enough to compensate for Ford's less-than-average CAFE performance.

Ford says it would build more than the 20,000 hybrids promised, but that is currently the maximum amount of batteries the supplier can produce. This may become a problem, since Toyota has been struggling to meet Prius demand for the same reason, and even though the company recently upped global production by 50 percent to 15,000 a month, U.S. customers must endure waits of eight months.

Although it can't deliver the 50-or-so mpg of the hybrid econocars, 25 mpg may sound good to buyers who just have to have an SUV.


THE VERDICT
Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD
Highs: Best fuel economy we've measured in a sport-ute, hybrid status hasn't compromised any of the Escape's usefulness.
Lows: Not the bargain the Toyota Prius is, lethargic, 10 percent heavier than a V-6 Escape.
The Verdict: Proof that hybrid technology works for sport-utility vehicles. Just don't expect 50 mpg

COUNTERPOINT

RON KIINO
Like any gas-powered Escape, the hybrid version looks good inside and out; it drives and feels much like a car; and it offers good utility in a compact package. In those ways, Ford did an excellent job not messing with an already-successful sport-ute. And I feel obliged to applaud any SUV—even a compact—that can clip over 30 mpg in city driving. Yet my adulation is still lukewarm. Ford made claims such as "world's most fuel-efficient sport-utility vehicle" and 0-to-60 performance "comparable to the 200-hp V-6 engine in the conventional Escape." If that means 25 mpg and 0-to-60 in almost 11 seconds, I'll save 10 grand and get on a waiting list for a Prius.

SCOTT L. MOSHER
Not only does the hybrid Escape underconsume compared with its XLS four-cylinder sibling (even on the highway), but it also substantially outperforms it. Our hybrid, equipped with many options, was $2600 more than a

V-6 Limited with every imaginable option. So, yeah, that's a fair amount of change and takes some getting used to when you consider this is the most expensively priced hybrid to come to market. But factor in the government's hybrid tax incentive (a $1000 deduction for 2005) and the savings in your fuel expenses, and I have a feeling you'll feel like a greenie wannabe too!

CSABA CSERE
With the appearance of every new hybrid model, I become a stronger believer in the technology. Hybrids aren't for everyone, but this particular Ford Escape provides yet another piece of evidence that the technology works as promised, delivering seamless performance and excellent fuel economy while demanding no special skills or techniques from its driver. The only downside I see is the roughly $3000 increment you must pay for it. But for that price you get a wonderful urban runabout with excellent space for four adults and plenty of luggage, all-weather traction, and outstanding efficiency. Works for me.

FORD ESCAPE HYBRID 4WD
Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon

Price as tested: $32,450

Price and option breakdown: base Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD (includes $590 freight), $28,595; navigation system (includes hybrid energy-flow graphic), $1850; Appearance package, $625; Safety package (consists of curtain and front-side airbags), $595; leather seats, $575; 110-volt power outlet, $110; cargo cover, $75; rear floor mats, $25

Major standard accessories: power windows, driver seat, and locks; remote locking; A/C; cruise control; tilting steering wheel; rear defroster and wiper

Sound system: Audiophile AM-FM radio/CD changer, 7 speakers

ENGINE
Type: inline-4, aluminum block and head
Bore x stroke: 3.44 x 3.70 in, 87.5 x 94.0mm
Displacement: 138 cu in, 2261cc
Effective Atkinson-cycle compression ratio: 4.0:1-12.3:1
Fuel-delivery system: port injection
Valve gear: belt-driven double overhead cams,
4 valves per cylinder
Power (SAE net): 133 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE net): 129 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Redline: 6000 rpm

ELECTRIC MOTOR
Type: 3-phase AC permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor powered by 250 1.3-volt nickel-metal hydride batteries
Power (SAE net): 94 bhp @ 3000-5000 rpm

DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: continuously variable automatic
Final-drive ratio: 3.04:1
4-wheel-drive system: full time with automatic rear-axle
engagement and open front
and rear differentials

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 103.1 in
Track, front/rear: 61.3/60.9 in
Length/width/height: 174.9/70.1/70.4 in
Ground clearance: 8.0 in
Drag area, Cd (0.40) x frontal area (28.9 sq ft):11.6 sq ft
Curb weight: 3839 lb
Weight distribution, F/R: 56.4/43.6%
Curb weight per horsepower: 24.8 lb
Fuel capacity: 15.0 gal

CHASSIS/BODY
Type: unit construction
Body material: welded steel stampings

INTERIOR
SAE volume, front seat: 56 cu ft
rear seat: 45 cu ft
cargo, seats up/down: 28/66 cu ft
Practical cargo room, length of pipe: 125.5 in
largest sheet of plywood: 40.5 x 58.5 in
no. of 10 x 10 x 16-in boxes, seats up/down: 15/41
Front-seat adjustments: fore-and-aft, seatback angle; driver only: front height, rear height
Restraint systems, front: manual 3-point belts; driver and passenger front, side, and curtain airbags rear: manual 3-point belts, curtain airbags

SUSPENSION
Front: ind, strut located by a control arm, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear: ind, 1 trailing arm and 2 lateral links per side, coil springs

STEERING
Type: rack-and-pinion with electric power assist
Steering ratio: 17.9:1
Turns lock-to-lock: 3.3
Turning circle curb-to-curb: 37.7 ft

BRAKES
Type: regenerative electric and electrohydraulic by wire
Front: 11.9 x 1.0-in vented disc
Rear: 11.9 x 1.0-in disc

WHEELS AND TIRES
Wheel size/type: 7.0 x 16 in/cast aluminum
Tires: Continental ContiTrac EcoPlus, P235/70R-16 104T M+S
Test inflation pressures, F/R: 35/35 psi
Spare: high-pressure compact


C/D TEST RESULTS
ACCELERATION Seconds
Zero to 30 mph: 3.7
40 mph: 5.5
50 mph: 7.9
60 mph: 10.8
70 mph: 14.6
80 mph: 19.7
90 mph: 28.6
Street start, 5-60 mph: 11.1
Top-gear acceleration, 30-50: mph 4.6
50-70 mph: 7.2
Standing 1/4-mile: 18.2 sec @ 77 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 102 mph

BRAKING
70-0 mph @ impending lockup: 195 ft

HANDLING
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.73 g
Understeer: minimal moderate excessive

FUEL ECONOMY
EPA city driving: 33 mpg
EPA highway driving: 29 mpg
C/D-observed: 25 mpg

INTERIOR SOUND LEVEL
Idle (internal-combustion engine off): 32 dBA
Full-throttle acceleration: 75 dBA
70-mph cruising: 72 dBA
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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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