2021 Ford Escape PHEV first drive

By Benjamin Yong
Benjamin Yong
Benjamin Yong
November 16, 2021 Updated: November 16, 2021

Ford has been a part of the electrification wave long before the technology became trendy, manufacturing a production Escape Hybrid way back in 2005. Fast forward to 2021 and a PHEV version of the popular compact SUV is now available for consumers, providing another option to go green minus the range anxiety of a pure EV.

“We’ve known Escape for its agile and practical nature – now we’ve given it even better fuel economy with the plug-in hybrid system possessing a very usable EV range. How usable? I’m going to share the official figures: 60 kilometres in electric-only mode, and the fuel consumption is 2.2 litres equivalent per 100 kilometres,” says Mathieu Rompre, Ford of Canada marketing manager, at a first drive event of the model held in Revelstoke, B.C. in late October.

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Plug-in hybrid badging. (By Benjamin Yong)

“With this vehicle we’re giving consumers an option to go to work and back and almost not spend any money on gas, and reduce their operating costs.”

The PHEV utilizes a 2.5-litre Atkinson-Cycle inline four-cylinder internal combustion engine (ICE) and an electric motor, mated to a continuously variable transmission, producing a net 220 horsepower that was just fine for getting around even the mountainous southeastern region of the province. A 14.4-kilowatt-hour battery is mounted underneath the crossover affording identical interior room to regular variants.

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Inside the Escape PHEV. (By Benjamin Yong)

Spending most of my journey in the Auto drive mode, and letting the computer decide when best to use the ICE or battery power for propulsion, much of the beginning leg of my journey from Kelowna was spent in near silence via the latter. However, logging a lot of highway miles, experiencing elevation changes and having many of the digital creature comforts turned on, the juice didn’t last long, causing the former to kick in partway through – which, though sounding a little whiny in the process as many hybrids do – happened rather seamlessly.

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ActiveX trimmed seating. (By Benjamin Yong)

The other three settings are the fully zero emissions EV Now, 100 per cent gasoline EV Later, and an EV Charge Mode causing the ICE to replenish the battery so the vehicle will have electricity to use at another time.

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The profile view. (By Benjamin Yong)

Styling wise this Escape boasts all the fourth generation changes like the swoopy new shape with a sloping roofline, sleek headlamps, and trapezoidal grill inspired by the contemporary Mustang. It’s also more aerodynamic and efficient than ever featuring a functional rear window spoiler, an underbody design that optimizes airflow, and a construction making extensive use of lightweight high-strength steel.

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The front fascia prominently featuring the trapezoidal grille. (By Benjamin Yong)

Three trims are available: SE, starting at $37,649, SEL ($40,649) bundling extras such as a hands-free, foot-activated liftgate and 18-inch alloy wheels, and Titanium ($43,749), offered for testing during the press junket, packing all the bells and whistles from a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster to an audiophile-approved B&O 10-speaker stereo.

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Fully digital instrument cluster. (By Benjamin Yong)

The Ford Co-Pilot360 driver assistance safety suite is standard equipment across all grades and includes emergency braking, blind-sport warning, lane-keeping system and more. An optional Assist+ add-on package throws in adaptive cruise control and and automatic evasive steering as well.

The 2021 Ford Escape PHEV is built at the brand’s Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky and is in dealerships now.

Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C. and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter @b_yong.