The Blue Oval’s sales are dominated by the popular Ranger ute but it’s hoping a more environmentally friendly SUV will attract new buyers to the brand.
Ford now offers petrol-electric power in its mid-size Escape SUV but it has chosen a different route from popular rivals.
The Blue Oval has skipped over the self-charging hybrid tech found in competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and gone for a plug-in option instead.
Plug-ins are much more expensive but bring more environmental credentials as they can complete the average daily commute on electric power alone.
The Escape Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) combines a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor fed by a 14.4kWh battery. The combined power output of the hybrid set-up is for 167kW, sent through a CVT auto that drives the front wheels.
Ford claims the Escape PHEV can drive for 56km on pure electric power alone and has a miserly claimed fuel use figure of 1.5L/100km.
That all depends on how you use it.
When the car is in EV Auto mode, which blends electric and petrol power, it will do pretty close to that fuel-use number for the first 100km of driving. After the battery is drained consumption will jump significantly.
In EV Now mode it uses just the electric motor. If the driver is careful with the throttle and lets the electric motor slow the car to recapture charge, it’ll hit Ford’s claim of more than 50km EV-only range.
There is also a EV Charge setting that uses the petrol engine as a generator to recharge the battery. Expect fuel use figures well above 10L/100km in this mode, though.
Ford doesn’t provide a combined torque figure but there is ample shove off the mark thanks to the electric motor, which delivers maximum torque instantly.
When the battery is depleted, the petrol engine provides adequate performance but it’s well short of the cracking 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder found in the regular petrol versions.
Firm suspension means you’ll feel more bumps than the average mid-size SUV, but the trade off is the Escape corners better than the others.
It’s available in ST-Line grade only and prices start from about $58,000 drive-away, about $15,000 more than the petrol-powered equivalent.
There are a few rivals to the Escape. The smaller MG HS plug-in hybrid starts at $46,490 drive-away, while the larger Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will start north of $50,000 when it arrives later this year.
Ford justifies the top-shelf price tag with a bountiful list of standard equipment.
The ST-Line grade brings an array of sporty exterior and interior touches.
There are flashy 18-inch alloy wheels, a unique upper grille design, sports front and rear bumpers, a large rear spoiler and lowered sports suspension.
Inside the theme continues with black highlights, a flat-bottomed steering wheel with contrast red stitching and alloy pedals.
Passengers are pampered with leather-accented seats, a 10-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo and ambient lighting.
There is excellent forward vision thanks to a high seating position and a 10-way electronically adjustable seat.
The back row is roomy and a generous 556-litre boot can swallow the weekly shop and kids’ school bags with ease.
Heated front seats, a hands-free tailgate and adaptive headlights are part of a $1950 ST-Line Pack.
Technophiles will appreciate the 12.3-inch digital instrument display and eight-inch central touchscreen that is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Other tech goodies include a wireless device charging pad, satnav and digital radio.
There’s a comprehensive array of hi-tech driver aids including automatic emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert.
Ford covers the Escape with a five year/unlimited km warranty, and servicing is affordable at $1945 for the first five years.
Three and a half stars.
Smart driving and super efficient family SUV, although the price will scare a few buyers away.
FORD ESCAPE ST-LINE PHEV
PRICE About $58,000 drive-away
ENGINE 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol and electric motor, 167kW
WARRANTY/SERVICING Five years/unlimited km, $1945 over five years
SAFETY 6 airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-seat occupant alert and radar cruise
SPARE space saver
LUGGAGE 556 litres