Choices are good. People who like crossover sport utility vehicles — sometimes called compact SUVs or cute utes — will have a choice this summer of two new plug-in hybrid midsize SUVs, both of which should be in dealer showrooms this summer. Toyota last week announced its all new RAV4 Prime. Now Ford has joined the SUV party with its Escape plug-in hybrid. The Ford will probably beat the Toyota to market by a few months.
Comparisons between the two vehicles are inevitable, so lets begin. The Escape PHEV lists for $34,235, including a destination charge. It has a 14.1 kWh battery, which means it qualifies for a $6,800 federal tax credit. It has an electric-only range of 37 miles and an MPGe rating of 100, according to the EPA.
In comparison, the RAV4 Prime has 5 more miles of range, about 100 more horsepower, qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit and comes standard with all-wheel drive. The Escape does not offer all-wheel drive because the battery is located where the driveshaft would go. But here’s the big difference — the RAV4 Prime costs about $5,000 more, including the delivery charge.
Apples to apples, with the Ford Escape PHEV you get front-wheel drive, decent range, and a lower price. With the RAV4 Prime you get a little more range, dominance in the stoplight grand prix, and all-wheel drive, but a higher cost. Are the two cars comparable? That depends on the tastes, needs, and budget of a prospective purchaser. It’s why they make Coke and Pepsi (and Dr. Pepper and Moxie, too). You pays your money and you takes your choice. That being said, saving 5 grand up front will appeal to lots of folks, especially those who don’t live in snowy places where AWD is practically a necessity.
According to Green Car Reports, the base Escape SE PHEV comes standard with a heated driver’s seat, LED headlights and taillights, and a 6.0-inch touchscreen system. The $36,815 SEL model adds fog lamps, roof rails, and a hands-free power tailgate. It also unlocks other options such as a panoramic moonroof. The range-topping Titanium version starts at $40,030 and gets a 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, wireless charging, leather upholstery, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen.
“The original Ford Escape was the world’s first hybrid SUV and the all-new Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrid represents how far we’ve come in technology and efficiency,” Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer, said in a statement.
The Escape PHEV has four driver-selectable operating modes. According to TechCrunch, those who don’t want to ponder all the possibilities and permutations can simply opt for Auto EV mode, which lets the vehicle decide whether to run on gas or electric power. The EV Now mode puts the vehicle on all-electric power. EV Later mode lets drivers switch to full gas-hybrid driving to conserve electric miles for later, and EV Charge mode will charge the battery while driving and generate electric-only miles to use later.
Charging takes up to 11 hours with a 110 volt Level 1 charger. A 240 volt Level 2 charger reduces charging time to around 3.5 hours. The plug-in hybrid Escape comes standard with advanced driver assistance system features such as adaptive cruise control and lane centering, evasive steering assist, and a voice activated navigation system. The plug-in option is not available on Escape S or SE Sport models.
The Escape PHEV may not be the sine qua non of electric motoring but it is affordable, attractive, and loaded with features that other companies charge extra for. Of course, some will turn their noses up at any plug-in hybrid, but if it helps people get familiar with driving electric and get over their fear of running out of battery charge, that’s a good thing for us all. At 37 miles of range, owners could go weeks without using a drop of gasoline — assuming they remember to plug in once in a while.