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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
An on-line review of the 2009 Escape Hybrid Hybrid & V6 models is posted at:
http://jalopnik.com/390790/2009-ford-escape-first-drive

I'm not sure I agree with all of the statements made about the pre-2009 Hybrids… maybe it was due to the fact I transitioned to a 2005 Escape Hybrid from a 1995 Nissan Altima & 1964 Plymouth Valiant, but the brake pedal has never felt as poor as described and the electric power steering has also been better than their impressions.

It's great to hear that the 2009 Hybrid improves on all of the systems, and their positive review has got me convinced to test drive a 2009 when I get the chance, but I have to say I have not found our 2005 Hybrid to be as disconnected as they describe.

Here is the review text from the site:

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While we're not quite willing to call this a full review, we did get some seat time with a couple of spankin' new 2009 Ford Escape models yesterday. We managed to get back-to-back seat time with both the 2008 and 2009 V6 4x4 Limited as well as the Hybrid for direct comparison on the same 20-mile circuit. When Hardigree reviewed the Escape's platform pal, the 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid, it was fairly obvious our impression was one of disconnectedness. The brakes felt funny, the handling was blah, and the steering felt numb. Ford apparently heard these complaints from its customers as well.

2009 Ford Escape Hybrid
For 2009, although virtually unchanged visually (the only distinguishing difference is a deeper chin spoiler) the new Hybrid Escapes see the 2.3L four cylinder engine upgraded to an Atkinson cycle 2.5L for a total of 177 net horsepower. The CVT gets a more aggressive software package and some improved tuning on the hardware side. Also new for '09 is the inclusion of Roll Stability Control and the fancy pants Limited trim.

Change for the Hybrid program for '09 focused on fixing the annoyances from the '08. The brake pedal feel was the biggest offender, it had been sort of a stepped feel, the first inch of travel was like a weak spring, second inch was like pushing through warm butter and the final was like real brakes, it was very disconcerting. Since the braking is done by wire, simulating the brake feel with a vacuum module was the solution and it is much, much improved. Braking feels direct and linear - just like real brakes!
The next little annoyance was the steering - with electric power steering, the on-center feel was about as natural and smooth as Bush delivering the Gettysburg Address. Tuning the amount of assist through software has greatly improved the feel of things.

And then there's the handing. Across the range a rear anti-roll bar has been added and across the range the *** end feels a lot more controllable, far more confident on high speed sweeping corners and through tight apexes alike. So how is the hybrid on the road? Sports car? Far from it, it still understeers like a pig, but that's the safety police for you. The engine note has moved one notch closer to throaty and the additional power is notable in a straight line. The hybrid system is FAR more willing to go into all-electric mode with the new tune, you find the engine shutting off all the time when lifting off the pedal. Engine on is barely even perceptible, like the best tuned automatic transmission in the world gently kicking down a gear.

Overall, the 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid contains a lot of touchy-feely improvements. The advances come from driver feel more than anything else, as a result its all very subjective. Regardless, the simulated inputs make this feel just like a real car, and if you didn't have that little leafy badge on the side, you'd be hard pressed to guess it was a hybrid.

2009 Ford Escape V6 4x4
The '08 Ford Escape was a lesson in engineering timing. The 200bhp V6 was forced to live with an outdated and unloved four speed automatic which liked to hunt and peck at gears, making spirited driving mean-spirited. With the 2009 model, both engine and trans get makeovers. The engine grows to 3.0 liters and gets a whopping 40bhp boost up to 240, but it's also mated to the new 6F35 six speed automatic. That new six speed goes out of its way to make the engine seem like a superstar. Combined with the anti-roll bar in the back, the new Escape V6 is... dare I say it? Kinda fun to drive. With the added power and defeated traction control, you can actually get a little tail happy with this thing.

Combined with an improved and easier to use Sync system and the optional and subscription-based Sirius Travelink, the "do I have to drive it?" idea actually starts to shift to "this isn't half bad". You won't find anyone spouting off about quarter mile times or comparing the styling against anything from Italy, but Ford seems to be making progress on its mini-UV's. It says something to note that we wouldn't be averse to actually spending a week with one. What kind of apostasy is this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
AND, Motor Trend weighs in with their review of the 2009 Ford Escape at:
http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/suv ... index.html

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First Drive: 2009 Ford Escape

Four-dollar-per-gallon gasoline may be wreaking havoc on sales of the Mustang, F-150 and Explorer, but it comes along at a convenient moment for the facelifted 2009 Escape and Mariner. Six-speed automatics replace four-speed automatics, there's a new lower front chin spoiler below the redesigned front fascia and rear tire spoilers for better aerodynamics, and new low rolling resistance 16-inch Michelin tires across the board. The old 153-horsepower 2.3-liter four has been bored and stroked (among other upgrades) to a 171-horsepower 2.5-liter, and the 3.0-liter V-6 gets new cylinder heads, injectors, intake and exhaust cams, manifolds and pistons, and a compression ratio bump from 10.0:1 to 10.3:1.

So now the V-6 actually has a V-6-like horsepower number, up 40 ponies to 240. Both engines get intelligent variable valve timing. The hybrid gets the new 2.5-liter, too, and for '09 runs on the Atkinson cycle. It has a new engine processor and a new powertrain damping system, to cut vibrations and feedback.Ford anticipates EPA mileage will be up 1-mpg city, 1-mpg highway, whether you get the four, the V-6 or the hybrid. The biggest change, though, is that you no longer have to buy one of the bottom-feeder trim levels to get four-cylinder fuel economy. The 2.5 is available all the way up to the Escape Limited and Mercury Mariner Premier versions. Small engines are big now, even with buyers who can afford more. Ford even removed the "V-6" badge from so-equipped '09 models as if it has become a badge of extravagance and disregard for the environment and global oil supply.

That makes the extra 18 horses for the four-banger the most important improvement. The 171-horse Escape isn't a rocket. It's simply an adequate engine in a smallish crossover, the right vehicle for those who like to ride higher than in cars, carry a few things and manage 21/27 mpg (FWD) or 20/25 (AWD), assuming the EPA backs up Ford on its estimates. Ford says about 45 percent of buyers choose four-cylinder models, virtually unchanged since the first Escape launched as a '01 model. Now that the new four is close to the fours in the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 for refinement, and packs in five extra horses, the "take rate" ought to zoom well past the V-6.

Added refinement comes with the new four, producing better engine noise. It's still a raspy sounding four under full-throttle acceleration, but it's fairly smooth under most conditions. The six-speed automatic (a five-speed manual remains standard with the four) smoothens the power delivery, and there's none of the hunting for gears of the old 2.3-liter/four-speed auto combo. Acceleration matches the '08's 200-horsepower V-6/four-speed auto combination, at 10.4 seconds for 0-60 mph, Ford says.

The extra 40 horses in the V-6 made necessary by the more powerful new four cuts 0-60 mph times by 1.7 seconds, according to the manufacturer. Ford also has revised the suspension, including the addition of a rear anti-roll bar for all models, making the "2009 Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner more fun to drive." Well, no. It's not fun to drive. It's a crossover sport/utility vehicle. But it's more refined and quieter at speed. And by the way, Ford claims the lower-front air dam saves 3/4-mpg at 70 mph. The low rolling resistance tires makes the steering feel lighter at low speeds. Suspension is stable and reasonably comfortable over crusty roads. As for "fun to drive," you don't want to take any CUV this tall too deeply into the curves, anyway. This one is no exception.

With the new 2.5 in the hybrid, 0-60 acceleration is 0.1-second quicker than the gas-only four, Ford says (10.3 seconds). Which begs the question, why not make 'em all hybrids? More realistically, why not hike production up past 25,000 per year? Ford says it is increasing hybrid production, by adding the 2.5-liter/Atkinson cycle system in the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan later this year. It doesn't look like Ford will build more than 25,000 of those per year, so it's doubling hybrid production, and anyway, it expects buyers to respond more to a hybrid car than a hybrid CUV. If you drive a lot of highway miles, the new 2.5's 27/25 highway mpg (FWD/AWD), or even 28 mpg with the manual gearbox, is close enough to the hybrid's 30/27 highway mpg (FWD/AWD), Ford argues.

That may be true, but it's obvious that Ford isn't increasing hybrid production beyond that 50,000 - even as $4 per gallon gas makes the extra sticker cost payoff more quickly - because it has a limit to what it can lose per-car. Ford, to Chrysler co-president Jim Press' recent point, doesn't get financial assistance for such technological experimentation the way Toyota (and Honda) did from Japan in the late '90s. When Toyota announced in late '05 doubling of its hybrid production, it was clear the automaker had cut hybrid production costs sufficiently to make money on them. Ford isn't there, yet.

Ford does say the refined hybrid is more seamless between electric and gas modes, and has made transition from electric regenerative braking to traditional braking more seamless, as well. True, no doubt, but I couldn't get the Escape Hybrid engine to shut down completely in my fairly short drive. I did get a touchy reaction during one braking situation.

Should you buy one, or recommend it to people you like? If the Escape is the type of transportation appliance you need, or your friends want, it belongs on a consideration list along with the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. That's not just because the '09 Escape is a substantial improvement, it's also because the RAV and CR-V haven't much improved, in a segment that's virtually devoid of standouts.

2009 Escape/Mariner Safety, all standard:
* AdvanceTrac and Roll Stability Control.
* Safety Canopy side air curtain technology.
* Personal Safety System, a suite of seven safety technologies featuring smart airbags.
* Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
* LATCH Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children on rear seats.

Features and Connectivity:
* SYNC standard on Escape Limited and Escape Hybrid, Mariner Premier, Premier V-6 and Mariner Hybrid, optional on all others.
* SIRIUS Satellite Radio on Escape XLT and Limited, Mariner Premier and Premier V-6 and all hybrid models. Includes six-month SIRIUS subscription.
* Voice-Activated Navigation with SIRIUS Travel Link optional on Escape/Mariner includes AM/FM/six-disc in-dash changer, seven speakers, subwoofer.
* Ambient lighting standard on Escape Limited/Limited Hybrid, Mariner Premier/Premier V-6.
* Steering wheel controls standard on all Mercury Mariners.
* Auxiliary input jack in instrument panel, 110-volt AC power outlet standard, all models.
 

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HybridArchitect said:
The biggest change, though, is that you no longer have to buy one of the bottom-feeder trim levels to get four-cylinder fuel economy. The 2.5 is available all the way up to the Escape Limited and Mercury Mariner Premier versions. Small engines are big now, even with buyers who can afford more.
This I didn't know, it seems like the most signifigant thing to me. Now if you could only get a four cyl five speed Limited...
 
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