Escape Hybrid Returns
When it launched in 2005, the Ford Escape Hybrid was one of the first hybrid SUVs on the market. After an eight-year hiatus, the Escape Hybrid is back and this time it’s available with a plug. Ford introduced this all-new Escape in 2020 with fresh styling and upgraded features in addition to the efficient plug-in hybrid powertrain. We spent a few days with the Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid and came away impressed with the level of utility and miserly use of gasoline.
For testing Ford provided us with a 2021 Ford Escape Titanium PHEV FWD painted in Rapid Red Metallic. As the top-level trim in the Escape lineup, the Titanium PHEV already comes well equipped with a long list of standard features. The test vehicle arrived equipped with a Premium Package that includes leather-trimmed seats, a head-up display, active park assist and a high-end B&O sound system for a total MSRP of $43,025. Competitors to the Escape PHEV include the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, Toyota RAV4 Prime, Kia Niro PHEV, Hyundai Tucson PHEV and the upcoming Kia Sportage PHEV.
When Ford introduced the current Escape for 2020 model year, it was a departure from the rest of the SUV lineup in terms of design. The grille stretches across the front and is positioned lower, while the sleek headlight design flows back along the front fenders, closer in style to the outgoing Fusion sedan rather than the larger Explorer. And since Ford has discontinued all of its passenger sedans, the Escape steps in as a viable alternative.
The sloping roofline of the Escape provides a sleek silhouette that not only looks good but also contributes to making this current generation the most aerodynamic Escape ever, further aided by a liftgate spoiler. Doors are deeply sculpted for a more modern effect, while large fender flares enhance the overall sporty styling.
Our favorite viewing angle of the Escape is from the rear. The integrated taillights with widely spaced ESCAPE badging across the tailgate, as well as integrated dual exhaust, give this entry-level SUV a premium look.
Under the Hood
Powering the Ford Escape PHEV is a 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle 4-cylinder engine teamed with an electric motor for a combined output of 220 horsepower. Power gets sent to the front wheels (PHEV is not available with AWD) via a continuously variable transmission.
Charging and Efficiency
According to the U.S. EPA, the Escape PHEV is rated at 105 MPGe combined / 40 MPG combined with a full electric range of 37 miles. Charging the Escape from empty using a standard household 110-volt outlet took about nine hours; a Level 2 charger would complete the same task in about 2.5 hours. During our time with the Escape Hybrid, plugging in the vehicle into a household outlet every evening meant we would awaken each day to a fully charged Escape.
With two-tone leather seat trim and simulated wood trim on the dashboard, the Escape Titanium has a premium feeling within the cabin. Seats offer decent support and remain comfortable even after extended drives. With Escape’s small shift dial the vehicle has plenty of space in the center console for storage, with easy access to USB ports and a wireless charger.
The Escape Titanium comes with an 8-inch touchscreen display as well as a 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster. Compared to other vehicles we’ve recently driven, the 8-inch screen seems a bit small but Ford makes good use of the real estate, so it is easy to read and navigate. The physical knobs for volume and tuning are certainly welcome. And intuitive climate controls are kept separate for easy access.
For a compact SUV, the rear seat of the 2021 Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid is surprisingly roomy and comfortable. The vehicle has plenty of legroom and even taller occupants will find headroom more than adequate. A relatively flat floor means less of a penalty for those stuck traveling in the middle seat.
The Ford Escape offers plenty of utility with space behind the rear seats for multiple pieces of luggage or other gear. Cargo space is slightly lower for the PHEV versus the non-hybrid variant since the batteries are stored beneath the floor, but most owners won’t find this to be an issue. Rear seats fold down easily to create more than 60 cubic feet of space.
During our time with the Escape PHEV, we took full advantage of the electric powertrain. As mentioned previously, we charged the vehicle overnight and awoke to an indicated 32 miles of electric range — slightly less than the EPA estimates indicate, but these numbers will vary depending on weather and driving habits. During our time in the Escape PHEV, we traveled more than 130 miles while averaging 126 mpg, running on gasoline for less than 30 of those miles.
Without much effort we were able to drive primarily in electric mode on city streets as well as at highway speeds. Acceleration is not very strong when sticking to electric driving in the Escape PHEV, but it’s nice to know that the power is available when needed. When crossing a busy intersection or passing slower vehicles, full throttle brings on the internal combustion engine and the Escape moves quickly. Once the conditions no longer require the additional power the engine shuts down and returns to EV-only mode.
Normal Hybrid Mode
Once the battery has been diminished, the Escape PHEV drives like a regular hybrid using the gas engine as needed. We found the transition between full EV mode and gas engine to be seamless thanks to a relatively quiet internal combustion engine. Overall the ride of the Escape Hybrid is smooth and comfortable no matter the power source.
As the auto industry continues its seemingly inevitable change — or rather charge (pun intended) — to electric vehicles, models such as the Ford Escape PHEV provide the best of both worlds: full electric driving for most situations with no range anxiety. With a stylish, comfortable interior, the latest high-tech features and plenty of utility, the Escape makes a great option in this very crowded market segment. Add in the impressive efficiency of the plug-in hybrid powertrain and this Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid is certainly worth consideration.