Auto123 reviews the 2022 Ford Escape PHEV.
Much as Ford wants to change this, for the moment, its Escape isn't necessarily first to come to many folks’ mind when thinking of a plug-in hybrid SUV. That’s to be expected, given that the regular-powered version, though certainly solid, is nowhere near the top of its class. The Dearborn-based manufacturer's compact SUV is outmatched by more accomplished and fun-to-drive competitors.
When we drove the pluggable variant during our week-long test drive, we didn't expect extraordinary performance. That's partly because it's only available in two-wheel drive and has a very limited range (electric), and also because we were in the middle of winter with temperatures well below freezing.
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What makes it stand out?
The five-seat Ford Escape compact SUV runs on a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor and a 14.4-kWh battery. Officially, this Escape is announced with a range of 61 km in all-electric mode. The combined output is 220 hp.
That 61 km is a reasonable enough figure - except that during our winter test, we noted a real-world electric range between recharges that was quite a bit lower, more in the neighborhood of 30 to 40 km between recharges.
The Escape PHEV’s direct rivals are still not that plentiful on the market, but they include Hyundai's Tucson PHEV and Toyota's RAV4 Prime, as well as the upcoming Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which is based on the new generation of that SUV.
Aside from the powertrain, this variant is identical to the rest of the Escape lineup and is only available in front-wheel drive mode. The interior is smaller than its competitors, but it's very comfortable and quiet.
That official range of 61 km tells you that it is indeed possible to drive only in electric mode. However, if you're doing a stretch on the highway, it's very easy - and advisable - to select the option of saving the available charge for later by using the engine's power; then you toggle back to electric mode as soon as you're back on city streets.
Keep in mind – actually you won’t be able to avoid noticing - that there’s a big difference between the electric mode or the combination of electric motor and gearbox, especially in terms of noise. Because once the combustion engine is running, the noise level goes up, especially in winter, and things can get quickly less pleasant. The CVT doesn't help in this respect, and it doesn't improve driving pleasure either.
Fortunately for our ears, the charging process is quite quick, so much of your basic commutes can be done on electric power. We didn't have a Level 2 charging station at home and charged the vehicle using the 110V outlet, by which method to fully charge the vehicle took about 12 hours. Don't forget that it was winter. With a level 2 charger, we're talking about 3 hours for a full charge.
At those times when the battery was too discharged to allow for driving in electric mode, we recorded an average consumption between 3L to 4L/ 100 km per trip. At the end of our week of testing, we had covered 500 km, 341 of them in electric mode, and recorded an average consumption of 4.1L/100 km. Which, overall, is not bad at all, especially in winter - and it’s reason to rejoice given our current gasoline prices!
What struck us right away was the comfort of the vehicle. The Escape drives very well, the seats are very comfortable and the suspension absorbs just about all the imperfections the road can throw at it. It has a little floating feel to it that is not very unpleasant given our weathered roads.
Interior storage spaces are numerous and well thought out. The sliding rear seat allows for versatility in the interior layout of the cargo area and rear occupant space. All Escape models (except the base model) come with a large touch screen. However, the system used is Sync 3 which is completely outdated. Fortunately, you can use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to get around that slight inconvenience.
We also couldn’t help noting the presence of hard plastic throughout the cabin and faux wood veneers that are a bit reminiscent of a Swedish furniture brand.
We really liked the front end of the Ford Escape PHEV Titanium. We thought, and several people remarked, that it has a Porsche Macan look to it. Certainly, the front grille, which takes up the entire front of the vehicle, is worthy of note, as is the work done on the front lights.
Compared to its competitors in this segment, the Escape offers decent space for passengers and their luggage, but it still lags behind its rivals. The PHEV version offers 869 litres of maximum cargo space compared to 950 for the non-electrified versions. The Toyota RAV4 Prime and Hyundai Tucson PHEV have a capacity of 949 and 902 litres, respectively.
The advantage of the Escape is that you can slide its (60/40) second row back of forth and thus allocate the space devoted to rear passengers or luggage according to your needs.
And the price?
The Ford Escape PHEV is only available in three variants. The SE version starts at $38,449, then the SEL at $41,249 and the Titanium sits at the top of the chart at $43,549. Our test model with options added came in at $47,199. That's expensive for sure, but what hurts the most is that it doesn't have a full incentive when compared to its rivals. Indeed, with a battery of only 14.4 kWh, it can only receive $6,500 in (in Quebec – that will vary by province) instead of the $13,000 for some competitors (again, in Quebec).
That's a shame, because overall the Escape PHEV is a very good vehicle; we expected average performance and at the end of our week of testing, that performance had exceeded our expectations, overall. It's a comfortable vehicle, it’s pleasant to drive and has enough space to accommodate small families.
The numerous driving assistance systems, provided you check all the boxes
We like less
The mediocre electric range
The weak on-board heating system
The noisy ride with the engine running
The CVT transmission
Hyundai Tucson PHEV
Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV
Kia Sorento PHEV
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (still to come)
Toyota RAV4 Prime