A Virtual World of Live Pictures.

Well, I finally got a taste of the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid SUV as part of my research on more fuel-efficient vehicles. If you didn’t read my previous article, let me bring you up to speed quickly. I currently drive a 2002 Nissan Xterra and am becoming increasingly concerned about rising fuel prices. What I wanted to know was if I have to give up my pleasure of driving an SUV to save money.

The first phase of my research was to locate a Ford Escape Hybrid for testing. Sounds easy enough, but it turns out it was a tall order, as it’s the best-selling compact SUV in Canada. Although there are about 5 Ford dealerships near my residence, I had to travel to another major city to find one. So there I was finally looking at a black 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD. The look was pleasingly aggressive and I really like the front end facelifts that Ford has given to many of their vehicles. The roof rack was a nice extra to accommodate my kayak and the interior seemed roomy enough for all the gear I would be bringing on my kayaking adventures. Although the interior space would carry my gear it wasn’t enough for my mountain bike, but that can be fixed with the rook rack. I don’t think I can sleep in the back either, but I guess I can invest in a better tent than the leaky one. So aside from the bike and the bedrooms, I was still in awe.

Let’s go back to the hybrid part of this machine. The dashboard was well designed and the battery gauge was intriguing. I wanted to know where the 330 volt battery was stored and see it but the sales staff wouldn’t let me open the metal cover on the back. My question to the sales staff was how reliable is the battery? The sales staff assured me that it is very reliable and has an 8-year warranty.

OK, the Escape Hybird looks like a normal SUV and has a battery, but how does it drive? When I started it up I immediately heard the typical 4 cylinder petrol engine. The seller said that the hybrid had been sitting idle for some time and therefore the batteries would need charging before being put into use and would charge quickly with a bit of handling. The way the battery is charged is that it takes the energy created during braking and stores it in the battery. I was curious to see how long it would take me to drive until the charge was sufficient, so I ventured through the busy streets of Mississauga. At the 6 minute drive time mark I was shocked at what happened next, as I stopped at a red light the engine became so quiet I was initially alarmed the vehicle had stalled great caught in a busy intersection! I started laughing as I pressed down on the gas pedal (not the gas pedal) and the Ford Hybrid moved forward. It was in electric mode, amazing! Once I started to throttle, the engine went into gas mode again because the demand was too much for the battery and it needed more charging. Had I had more time for the batteries to fully charge, I would have had more electric drive.

During my short trip, I experimented with electric and gas modes. I was very impressed with the performance in electric mode. The sound and feel were similar to driving a golf cart (a much larger golf cart, of course, with more accessories). I also felt really good about being in electric mode since during that time I was not wasting fuel and the emissions from the truck were practically non-existent.

I must conclude that the Ford Escape Hybrid is a must for drivers who enjoy SUVs. Like many of us who associate hybrid with “small,” we now need to shift our thoughts to “fuel efficient” and “functional.” Try a hybrid, save money and go green.

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