The Ford Escape comes with three different powertrains for 2008: a 153-horsepower, 2.3L four-cylinder, a 200-horsepower, 3.0L V6, or a hybrid powertrain, which pairs a 133- horsepower Atkinson-cycle version of the 2.3L four with an electric motor system, battery pack, regenerative braking, and a sophisticated management system. Four-cylinder and V6 models are offered in XLS, XLT, and Limited trims, but the hybrid powertrain is only available in a single Hybrid model.
All models, including the Hybrid, offer a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The AWD system can seamlessly deliver more torque to the back wheels as needed before the front wheels slip, and it also serves to enhance stability when cornering. The system can vary torque front-to-back and side-to-side.
A four-speed automatic transmission comes with all Escape four-cylinder and V6 models, except the base XLS four-cylinder, which is also available with a five-speed manual. The Hybrid gets a CVT automatic system.
The Hybrid has a "full hybrid" system, meaning that it can operate for short distances and low speeds on electric power alone; the gasoline engine automatically shuts off during those times and when possible at stoplights to help maximize fuel efficiency. EPA ratings for the Hybrid are up this year, to 34 city, 33 highway.
The standard Escape is quite fuel-efficient as well; with the four-cylinder and manual transmission, it achieves ratings of 22 city, 28 highway.
All Escape models now have the speed-sensitive electric power assist steering system, which eliminates noise and increases efficiency. Four-cylinder and V6 Escapes come with a front disc/rear drum brake system, while Hybrids get four-wheel discs--both with anti-lock.
The AdvanceTrac system with roll stability control is now standard; front side air bags plus full-length Safety Canopy side-curtain bags are also included in all models.
The Escape now has a plastic-and-polyester seat fabric made of 100 percent post-industrial waste--substances manufactured for retail use that didn't make it to the consumer. Ford says that the use of this material could save an estimated 600,000 gallons of water, 1.8 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent, and seven million kilowatt hours of electricity.
Limited and Hybrid models come equipped with the most luxury and convenience features. Highlights on the Limited include leather upholstery, a keypad entry system, an upgraded sound system, chrome trim and bezels inside, fog lamps, and bright machined aluminum wheels. The Hybrid includes dual-zone automatic climate control, the eco-friendly fabric, fog lamps, and unique alloy wheels.
Major options on the Escape include larger 17-inch chrome-clad wheels, a 320-watt Audiophile sound system, Sirius satellite radio, a DVD-based navigation system, leather-trimmed power seats, a power moonroof, a roof rack, and a reverse sensing system.
For 2008, the Ford Escape gets restyled inside and out, and also has a number of mechanical improvements. Design-wise, new blacked-out middle side pillars, integrated running boards, and available 17-inch wheels accent a higher beltline, while the hood has been raised and matched with a front fascia and grille that now bears more of a family resemblance to Ford's larger trucks and SUVs. In back, along with new taillamps there are also new step pads.
The interior is also reconfigured, with a more upscale feel, redesigned radio and climate controls, and what Ford claims is an industry first: seating surfaces made of 100-percent recycled materials. Also, the emergency brake has been relocated as a floor pedal, and door panels have been resculpted for more space. There are also revised storage bins throughout, and instrument backlighting is in Ice Blue.
Mechanically, the Escape gets larger stabilizer bars for crisper handling, a new braking system, and a new electric power assist steering system, along with various improvements to reduce noise and vibration.
Safety content has also been increased. AdvanceTrac with roll stability control and anti-lock brakes are now standard across the line, as are full-length Safety Canopy side-curtain air bags and seat-mounted side air bags for front occupants.