Ford let us take its 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid for a day so we could evaluate this seriously upgraded model. From exterior to interior, the Escape Hybrid gets a complete makeover for the 2008 model year.
Ford substantially redesigned the Escape Hybrid for the 2008 model year, going from a sporty look to a more rugged look. The new design emulates Ford's line of trucks, even though the Escape is based on a car platform.
The navigation system's destination entry is easy to use through the touch-screen LCD. The buttons are big and the system works quickly, due to the fact that it went from a CD-based system in the previous generation to a DVD-based system for 2008.
When the engine shuts down in the Escape Hybrid, which it does frequently in traffic, the tachometer needle sits in the green area, below the zero. It also stays there when the car runs under electric power, up to about 25 mph before the gas engine kicks in.
The shifter on the Escape controls the continuously variable transmission, standard on the hybrid. The Escape Hybrid is available in front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Our test car is the front-wheel drive version.
The Escape's hybrid technology was licensed by Ford from Toyota. An engine control module determines when to use the motor and when to use the engine, based on vehicle speed, battery charge, and other factors.
With the larger LCD in the 2008 model, Ford put in a more detailed energy-flow screen. The screen shows when the electric motor and the gas engine are powering the wheels, and when electricity is flowing back into the batteries.