Ford's 'Cute Ute' Isn't Gas Guzzler

The Escape Hybrid's 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine is paired with a 70-kilowatt motor that produces the equivalent of about 95 horsepower - enough to move the SUV through city traffic all by itself.

Published: 23-May-2005

StartFragment --> As I leave work for the day and head for an SUV parked in an underground garage, a colleague glances up from her desk and, with a sweet smile, says: "I hope you hit a lot of traffic."

But she's not sarcastically demanding gas-pump justice from a solo commuter driving way too much car. Rather, she knows that when I start the slow roll home, my ride will be golf-cart quiet and (mostly) emissions-free.

The vehicle: a 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid, the gas-electric version of the V6 "cute ute" launched in 2001 and first offered in hybrid form last fall. About $3,500 more than its outwardly identical gasoline counterpart, it's the pioneer in a paradoxical-sounding category: the eco-friendly sport-utility vehicle.

With "clean diesel" vehicles a couple of model years in the future, and hydrogen fuel-cell cars even farther down the road, it's encouraging to see automakers working to deliver a smart interim option for consumers seeking fuel efficiency and ultralow emissions in an SUV.

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Third quarter losses and fierce competition for American car and truck buyers, prompted the automaker to launch a corporate-wide campaign last month to reposition Ford Motor as a leader in innovation and cutting-edge energy policies.

While Ford is having trouble getting hybrids to American buyers, in the UK, Ford cars average 20-40 mpg more than their US counterparts.

Ford's next hybrid will be the Fusion slated to be introduced in 2008, along with the Mercury Milan Hybrid.

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