Ford's Entry-Level Hybrid SUV

The Escape Hybrid gets better mileage than Toyota's much pricier entries, and it's a reasonable off-road performer. Reliability could be an issue.

Published: 22-Jan-2006

I figured out that I was going to be giving the 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid SUV a pretty rigorous winter driving test about 9 p.m. one recent evening as I headed west out of New York City on Interstate 80. Not far from the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, a sign indicated that 1-80's three lanes curved off to the left, and I realized that the third lane was missing, having mysteriously disappeared in a maelstrom of swirling snow.

I also gradually concluded that the cars I was following at 30 miles per hour in what was supposed to be the right lane were actually driving on the shoulder of the road. It was snowing so hard that no one had any idea where the edge of the highway was.

There I was, caught on the Interstate in a nasty snowstorm -- ideal conditions for testing the Escape hybrid. That's because many people buy SUVs so they'll feel protected in an accident, and there was a definite chance of running off into a ditch or into the back of another car if the Escape didn't handle well in snow.

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