The little green ute

EV mode

Highway performance

Limited chrome accents

Hybrid power train

Fuel efficient

Continuously variable transaxle

Rear proximity sensor

Audiophile audio system

Standard inputs

Hard-drive-based navigation

Ford Microsoft Sync

Digital-audio sources

Hands-free calling

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.
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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.
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The Escape Hybrid is a competent cruiser at highway speeds, but its disconnected-steering feel and odd weight distribution had us nervous.
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As an Escape Limited model, our hybrid features chrome finishing on the grill and certain body accents.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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USB and auxiliary inputs are standard on the Ford Escape Hybrid.
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The optional hard-drive-based navigation system features crisp graphics and fast loading times. Traffic data, weather, and other useful information are served by Sirius Travel Link.
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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.
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Digital-audio sources include the USB port, a six-disc CD/DVD player with MP3-decoding capability, an internal 10GB hard-drive for ripping music from CDs, and A2DP Bluetooth audio streaming.
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Once paired with a compatible Bluetooth phone, the system downloads your contacts to the internal hard drive from where they can be accessed via Sync's voice command functions.
Caption by / Photo by Corinne Schulze/CNET
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