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2008 Ford Escape Hybrid First Impressions

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Michel Deslauriers
A round of improvements makes this battery-backed SUV better
A round ofimprovements makes this battery-backed SUV better

Gatineau, Quebec - After a successful launch of the Escape Hybrid in 2005, Ford must now performsome tweaks to its compact SUV in order to keep it competitive.

The refreshed and improved 2008 Ford Escape line-up.

For 2008, the whole Escape line gets a reskin as well as a redesigned interior.And just like before, the Hybrid model is visually indistinguishable from theconventional ones; only small hybrid logos on the front fenders and rearliftgate reveal its identity.

The inside
Ford has listened to actual Escape owners through fuel economy trainingsessions, as well as scanning websites and forums, to gain some input on how toimprove the SUV's cockpit. The dashboard now looks like the ones in other Fordtrucks, such as the Edge and the Explorer. And although there is still a lot ofhard plastic, it looks much better and more serious than the outgoing model's.

The old green instrument panel backlighting has been gladly ditched in favourof a more soothing ice-blue scheme. The new climate control buttons and rotarydials are easy to use. Most of the displayed information has been moved to thetop of the centre stack, including climate control settings, outsidetemperature, compass, date and time. The navigation screen is too small but atleast it has a touch-screen.

The seats suited me just fine, and the optional leather in the
Escape Hybridmodel I drove felt pretty good. The cloth seat fabric is made from 100%recycled materials. The centre armrest has a very deep storage bin, which ishandy while trying to hide your valuables when the truck is parked. In back,the seats are also comfortable and space is sufficient, but it is acompact-sized vehicle, so sitting three across is tight.

The outside
When the Escape hit showrooms for the 2001 model year, it looked good and hadclean lines. But there are so many on the road now that, in my opinion atleast, it quickly started to look old. A careful evolution has been done, andthe new Hybrid now shares the tough-guy front-end appearance with other Fordtrucks. The edgy, chromed-plated facelift works well for now, that is, untilthe Ford sells another million of them.

According to Ford, the raised greenhouse and bulging hood are the main reasonssome people think the new Escape looks bigger, although dimensions remainlargely unchanged. It's an evolution rather than a revolution.

The new Escape might look bigger than its predecessor, but it is not.

Michel Deslauriers
Michel Deslauriers
Automotive expert