This weekend I had a rental car, a Ford Escape Hybrid from Hertz. I was actually pretty excited to try it out, even though I did not request it in advance, to see what it was like. Overall the experience was positive but I did notice a couple of interesting quirks.
First and foremost, the highway mileage is disappointing. I went about 90 miles of straight highway driving and used almost half a tank of gas. The capacity is 15 gallons so let’s say I used 5.5 gallons which means I was only getting 16 miles to the gallon. I think this has to do with the fact that I tend to drive between 80-90 miles per hour on the freeway (just ask anyone who has driven with me) and the Escape was working overtime trying to keep up. My car gets better mileage than this on the freeway and it’s engine is almost 2.5 times as large as measured by displacement and has 271 extra horses.
Around town the mileage story turned around pretty quickly and I calculated I was getting as much as 40 mpg around town. This is due to the fact that the electric motor works primarily at low speed while on the freeway the smallish powerplant is working full capacity plus some to move the small SUV.
Ford says the electric motors can move the Escape up to 25 miles per hour but I could never get it above 15 mph without the gas motor kicking in. At stoplights the car turns off, which can take a little getting used to but then you kind of like it because the car at rest is quiet and without vibration. What I had to get used to was turning off the car when it appeared to not be running… on more than a couple of occasions I got out in a parking lot only to be reminded by the car that the keys were still in the ignition and it was running even though it wasn’t “running” at the time.
Speaking of vibrations, I think Ford tried to cut down as much weight as possible in this vehicle to compensate for the extra weight the batteries bring. One area they certainly focused attention on was insulation as this car is noisy and “hollow” feeling compared to other similarly sized vehicles I have driven.
Performance wise this is not a race car but it does have some solid pickup from a dead stop but only to about 20 mph. It’s like how a golf cart has a certain “torqueiness” from a stop but doesn’t actually get going very fast. The other interesting thing is that it brakes really well because the power generation equipment kicks in and helps slow the vehicle, although it does emit a whining sound while doing so which is kind of annoying.
Overall, I would buy one of these as a car for around town use and not for commuting (aside from the fact that it didn’t qualify for the HOV sticker program in California, there are none of those left anyway). There’s plenty of space for putting stuff and it drives fine, plus the mileage in that scenario is great compared to other vehicles in it’s class.