While the world waits for electrics to improve their range and charge time figures, the plug-in hybrid is a terrific compromise, allowing fully electric city driving with extended range gasoline touring when necessary. Ford has ticked those boxes with the release of a plug-in hybrid version of its new Escape compact SUV.
The plug-in hybrid version's liquid-cooled 14.4-kWh lithium battery pack can handle 30 or more miles (at least 50 km) of purely electric driving, enough to allow many folks to complete their daily commuting runs without buying fuel or creating any tailpipe emissions. For longer range or harder driving, a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder Atkinson cycle gasoline engine kicks in, with the system boasting a total power output of up to 221 hp (165 kilowatts).
The plug-in will charge fully from zero in 10 to 11 hours on a 110-volt wall plug, or 3.5 hours on a 240-volt level 2 charger – fast charging really isn't a factor for these things, since the gasoline engine takes over seamlessly when power runs out, so you'd simply charge it at home overnight and probably end up doing the vast majority of your driving in electric-only mode. So really, few are going to be doing this:
There are four EV modes to choose from – EV Now, which goes fully electric until the battery runs down; EV Later, which goes full gasoline and saves the battery power for later use; Auto EV, which lets the vehicle choose the most appropriate power delivery; and a new EV Charge mode, which runs it on gasoline and powers up a generator to charge up the battery as you drive.
Other engine options include a couple of EcoBoost turbos, the biggest being a 2-liter, and the smaller being a 1.5 liter with cylinder deactivation technology as a focus on fuel efficiency. There's also a regular hybrid using the same engine and motor configuration as the plug-in, but without the large battery. On the upside, the non-hybrids get a bit of extra leg room in the back when you slide the seats right back.
Technology-wise, there's plenty of driver assist gear available, from adaptive cruise control (which works all the way down to a full stop and helps keep you in the center of the lane), to active park assist (which is now a totally hands- and feet-off parking experience for both parallel and perpendicular parking), to evasive steering assist, and plenty of other bits and pieces. Titanium versions can be optioned up with a neat little HUD, and all versions come with a standard 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection that connects up to 10 devices to the internet as you drive.
You can get it with the Sync 3 voice-control system, and add on Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, as well as Ford+Alexa and Waze navigation if you like ducking down backstreets. And you can option it up with a 10-speaker, 575-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo upgrade.
Above all, Ford is touting the new Escape as a light, responsive and fun thing to drive. We look forward to getting our hands on one when the plug-in hybrid version hits showrooms sometime in Q2 2020. Other versions will appear later this year.
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