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2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD Road Test

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2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD (Photo: Justin Pritchard,
A hybrid 4x4 is an automotive oxymoron--like jumbo shrimp, or government organization. The word Hybrid conjures up images of frightfully slow, awkward looking cars, driven by people with pocket protectors and thick glasses who have better things to worry about than the price of gas. On the other hand, we often see a 4x4 badge on the kind of machine that tramples all over Mother Nature, squishing baby saplings and swilling gas like it's on its way to a sixties drive thru. So what happens when you combine the two opposites into one package?

Cutting edge, interesting things, that's what.

That's what Ford discovered upon releasing the Escape Hybrid, which not only offers all the ruggedness and safety of an SUV, also one of the most advanced uses of hybrid technology on the road today. It's a Ford Truck first--tough, well built, reliable and confident. It's a hybrid second--with near-zero emissions and quiet, environmentally friendly operation. The two sides never really sacrifice for one another.

Research and development on the Hybrid system have allowed environmentally concerned and cutting edge motorists to have their cake and eat it too.

You've probably seen some hybrid vehicles silently buzzing around the streets near where you live. You've probably got some questions: well, wonder no more. Here are the answers to some of the more common questions I was asked while driving Ford's Escape Hybrid:

1)It runs on batteries, right?
2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD (Photo: Justin Pritchard,
Sort of. The batteries drive the car through an electric motor in some situations, like when you first accelerate slowly out of a stoplight. It continues to do so under light acceleration up to about 50 km/h. The battery only mode is sustained until the battery charge gets low, the electrical drain is increased (for instance, activating the rear defroster), or the throttle is pressed beyond a certain limit. Battery-only driving is a unique experience. Be careful navigating parking lots, as no one will hear you coming--it's so quiet, you can hear the fuel sloshing around in the tank underneath. For fun, show up at an intersection and watch pedestrians watching you pull away in total silence.

Another benefit to this quiet operation I observed had to do with bird watching. You can slowly, silently crawl up snow covered backroads and stalk your favorite bird with camera in hand, not giving away your location by the sound of your engine. All the while, you are warm and comfortable inside the Escape with dry feet and the content feeling that you are observing nature's beauty while helping preserve it at the same time.

2)If it runs on batteries, it must use almost no gas!
2006 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD (Photo: Justin Pritchard,
Not quite. It still has a normal gasoline engine which provides acceleration and battery charging. The power from the gasoline engine and the electric motor are managed by the on-board computer for the most economical operation with no driver input required. There is a display to show you what the Escape's hybrid drive system is up to. The gasoline engine is a 2.3-liter Atkinson Cycle engine with 130 horsepower. The electric system generates 94 horsepower. Combined output is 155 horsepower. That's more than some other 4-cylinder SUV models available.