The 2021 Ford Escape PHEV Hybrid Is Surprisingly Deep

2021 Ford Escape Phev Featured Image
2021 Ford Escape PHEV Featured Image

Looking below the surface of the 2021 Ford Escape plug-in hybrid is rewarding.

The depth and beauty of the Ford Escape’s red color announced that this was a quality car, one that might be full of surprises. The first surprise to the untrained eye is that my test car was actually the 2021 Ford Escape plug-in hybrid (PHEV). This means that the Escape gets its power not only from a 4-cylinder engine, but also from an electric motor that you can plug in. That combination is really fun, especially if you are new to hybrids and electric cars. There is no range anxiety from the car being exclusively electric. If you run a lot of shorter errands or live in the city, you can drive without using gas the whole time. The electric motor will go about 37 miles purely on electricity. The 4-cylinder gas engine will get about 40 MPG–a very competitive measure for a compact SUV.

My test Escape PHEV was the Titanium trim level, which starts at $38,885. It had an upgraded paint job and the Premium package with 18” aluminum wheels, panoramic sun roof, wireless charging and a couple other goodies. That package increased the price to $43,025. 

Related: The All New 2020 Ford Escape: A Redesigned Hybrid SUV for Where Life Takes You

Front Seat Of The Ford Escape Phev. Photo: Sara Lacey

Front seat of the Ford Escape PHEV. And yes, we had snow on the ground. In May. Photo: Sara Lacey

This is a Car You Want to Spend Time In

The second surprise is that I can’t tell you how much I liked the interior of the Escape PHEV. The quality of interior materials was quite good. There were a few plastic parts, but the dials, knobs, and buttons all felt sturdy and solid. The combination of black and beige leather paired with blond wood made the car feel Scandinavian and simple. But it wasn’t lacking in anything.

Mulitmedia Screen. Photo: Sara Lacey

Ford’s Sync 4 mulitmedia screen. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Escape PHEV is not an exercise in deprivation, which can be the impression one gets from fuel efficient vehicles. I’d like to thank the Ford design people who simply made this car feel well-thought out. When it’s nicely edited, the final product winds up feeling inclusive and accommodating but not overdone. Again, a nice surprise.

Related: USED: Escaping In The 2017 Ford Escape Titanium On A Southbound Road Trip

Back Seat Of The Ford Escape Phev. Photo- Sara Lacey

Back seat (and more springtime snow, because we don’t get enough in the winter) in the Ford Escape PHEV. Photo: Sara Lacey

Charging is not a Hurdle Because You can do it at Home

I was able to charge the Escape PHEV at my house, like any owner would. It’s not a high-speed charging situation, but you don’t really need that since the Escape’s batteries top out at about 37 miles. You can plug in to a regular outlet (110 volt) at night and replenish much of the charge. When I charged it in my garage it recouped around 17 miles but that’s because I plugged it in immediately when I got home, and started late in the mornings.

Related: The Plug-in Hybrid Electric Car Debate In My House

Charging Port And Indicator. Photo: Sara Lacey

Charging port and indicator. Photo: Sara Lacey

If you want more juice in that period of time, you can use a 240v outlet, the same type of outlet your home clothes dryer uses, and have more miles waiting for you at each charge. It’ll replenish the full 37 miles in a bit over two hours. If you are out in the world, you can look for a charging station that has a Level 2 charger, which is like using the 240v outlet at home. You’re still going to need a few hours to get a full charge.

But when you run out, never fear. Your 4-cylinder engine kicks in and gets you where you need to go. Hilariously, the Ford was so quiet in electric mode that when the engine kicked on I thought something had broken. Then I remembered that’s how engines sound. 

Related: 13 of Our Absolute Favorite Electric, Hybrid, and PHEV Vehicles

Plugging In At Home. Photo: Sara Lacey

Plugging in at home. Photo: Sara Lacey

The Escape PHEV’s Ride Quality is a Standout for Electric Newbies

The Escape uses more than just an electric outlet to charge. It also uses regenerative braking to charge the batteries. So it’s not just a direct loss of charge when you drive. When you’re baking and coasting, you’re putting miles back on to your battery to keep you going.

That said, the Escape drives more like a traditional, non-electric car. Meaning, it doesn’t utilize one-pedal driving, nor are the brakes wildly grabby despite the regeneration going on. Those characteristics that are attributed to electric cars are largely absent or muted in the Escape, and that can be attractive to people who aren’t ready to take the full electric leap.

Related: BEVs, PHEVs, and Hybrids: Everything You Need to Know About Cars With Alternative Power

Electic Power Noted In The Instrument Cluster. Photo: Sara Lacey

Electic power noted in the instrument cluster. Photo: Sara Lacey

Features Aplenty, for the Most Part

Some of the creature comforts that I loved were the panoramic sliding moonroof, which was another surprise. Many of these big glass roofs in electric cars do not open. It’s counterproductive to fuel efficiency to have a giant hole in the roof sucking air into the cabin; but having the roof open does make you feel like the Escape is closer to a regular car. The Escape PHEV had a heated steering wheel, as well as heated seats in the front. The stereo sounded great, and the touchscreen was easy to use. Ford’s multimedia system is fairly effortless and well organized.There is a USB-A and USB-C port for charging your devices, and remote start.

Grocery Run In The Escape Phev. Photo: Sara Lacey

Grocery run in the Escape PHEV. Photo: Sara Lacey

The cargo area in the Escape PHEV had plenty of room for grocery runs, and would even do okay with a Costco trip, unless it included a treadmill and a 62” television. Errands are made a bit easier with the hands-free lift gate. There are seats for five. The poor soul who gets stuck in the center of the rear seat doesn’t actually have it too bad, as the floor only has a mild hump in it. There are two sets of latch connectors, and three tether anchors, though if you’re going to need to use three car seats at once you better test them to see if they fit.

There are safety systems galore, like active park assist, adaptive cruise control, a pedestrian alert system, and a reverse sensing system.

Climate Controls. Photo: Sara Lacey

Climate controls. Photo: Sara Lacey

So What is it Missing?

For some, the Escape PHEV’s hitch is that it is front-wheel drive; all wheel drive is not available on the plug in hybrid. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for most places, my friends who live in the mountains believe that is a game-changer. They live in areas that actually require AWD at times, so that’s a fair concern. But for most buyers who drive in only occasional snow and inclement weather, the front wheel drive should not be a major concern. 

For those who are hoping for the insane, immediate power that electric cars are becoming known for, that isn’t happening here. And because it’s working to just make the most of your fuel (both gas and electric), buyers shouldn’t be expecting it, either.

What buyers should expect is a solid car with a good number of creature comforts wrapped up in a package that doesn’t take them to the gas station every few days – or lets them skip the gas station for weeks at a time. Ford delivers in this department, and fortunately that was not a surprise.

Disclosure: Ford provided the Escape PHEV for me to test. All opinions are my own.

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Sara has written about cars since 2005. She used to beat them up with her kids and write about... More about Sara Lacey