Urban dwellers will love the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited's great fuel economy and awesome Sync-based tech package, but freeway commuters will find its high-speed manners unsettling.
The little green ute
The 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid Limited is a fantastic and eco-friendly around-town runabout. Its performance is perfectly suited for the low speeds of densely populated urban areas. However, its highway performance is less than admirable.
With light acceleration from stopped, the Escape Hybrid operates under 100-percent electric motivation. That means zero emissions and next to zero noise. It can maintain EV mode until more power is needed or until about 20 mph, whichever comes first.
Ford's hybrid drive system pairs the extra-efficient Atkinson-cycle gasoline engine and an electric engine with a planetary gear set. Power is rated at a combined 153 horsepower, with torque coming in at 136 pound-feet.
Drive the front-wheel drive Escape Hybrid Limited like an EPA tester and you'll be rewarded with 34 city and 31 highway mpg. During the course of our testing, we consistently sat about 30 mpg, so the EPA numbers are quite realistic.
The continuously variable transaxle (CVT) features infinitely variable gear ratios within its range. This allows the gasoline engine to stay in its eco-friendly sweet spot while the transmission handles the rest.
In lieu of a backup camera option, the Escape features a rear-proximity sensor that periodically beeps when something (or someone) is behind it, beeping faster as the distance between the vehicle and the obstacle closes.
The seven-speaker "Ford Audiophile" stereo system uses digital-processing magic to lift the soundstage up above the dashboard to somewhere around the driver's ear level. While this made music listening particularly enjoyable, it created an oddly hollow sound when listening to talk radio and audiobooks.
Ford's Microsoft-developed Sync technology reads the metadata for connected music devices and allows artists, genres, and songs to be selected with simple voice commands and a speech-to-text system that can recognize proper nouns.