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Old 09-18-2007, 01:00 PM
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Arrow 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid: World-class, Earth-friendly

Quietly the best-selling sport-utility vehicle in Canada, as well as the leading V6-powered compact SUV (Honda's CR-V, among others, outsells the four-cylinder variant), Ford has sold more than one million Escapes -- 125,000 in Canada -- since 2001. In Canada, at least, that makes the Escape more important to Ford's coffers than the company's trademark Explorer. So, even its modest refreshening for 2008 is greeted with equal measures of anticipation and dread by the company's execs, who desperately need some good news and who may commit seppuku if Yours Truly and other motor scribes pooh-pooh it.

That they don't have to break out the traditional tanto dagger on this one will surely come as a great relief. For one thing, the Escape's all-new styling is quite inspired. There's a little bit of Land Rover in the new Escape and, for those shopping for a little macho in their compact SUV, the 2008's new square-jawed profile will add a mas****nity much lacking in this segment. Those looking for a definitive styling cue will certainly find one in the bold chrome grille that extends deep into the front fenders. For once, a domestic SUV maker has managed to be audacious without resorting to the graceless.

The new Escape's interior has also come in for an upgrade, the most noticeable of which is a centre dashboard that doesn't look as if it's seeking refuge from a Crown Vic. The switchgear appears much more modern than the outgoing model's, upgraded trim levels get a navigation system that's now DVD-based and, despite the temptation to use all that computing power for some complicated computer system (i.e., BMW's iDrive), the Escape's interior is mercifully simple. In fact, the highest-tech interior bit is the Hybrid version's little pictographic display of instantaneous and average fuel economy that we -- and numerous owners, we're told -- use to see just how miserly we can be while keeping up with traffic.

There are some firsts, however. Ford claims the Escape Hybrid (as well as the base version of the standard model) is the first vehicle to use seat coverings completely woven from recycled material. Not making the cloth from virgin material allows Ford to conserve some 600,000 gallons of water, 818,000 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents and more than seven million kilowatt hours of electricity annually. Besides the recycled material, the Escape Hybrid provides a number of other benefits, not the least of which is a conventional three-pronged 115-volt outlet conveniently situated in the centre console.

Of course, any hybrid's claim to fame isn't laptop recharging but fuel economy. And here the Escape Hybrid truly shines. The most miserly of all sport-utes, the Hybrid manages a fuel economy improvement -- 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres overall versus 6.7 -- over last year's models despite having basically the same powertrain architecture.

Source: [url=http://autos.canada.com/news/story.html?id=25f771be-95f8-485c-88f9-822faa29415b]Driving.ca[/url]
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