Ford: A smart game in 2009
Gasoline may be turning to liquid gold, but Ford Motor Co. is singing the praises of its Escape, an athletic-looking SUV that seems totally at ease carrying a kayak or towing a boat. This jock is seriously fuel-efficient?
“Gas prices are obviously on everyone’s mind,” said Ford spokesman Alan Hall. That includes Ford’s engineers, designers and marketing types, who’ve been tweaking the mileage and the company’s fuel economy message to consumers.
The first thing to remember, Hall explains, is that the Escape, which was introduced in 2001 looks like an SUV, but it’s a crossover, an appealing mix of both cars and trucks. It’s muscular and tall, but it uses unibody construction, which means the chassis and body are stamped together like most cars. The resulting lighter vehicle uses less fuel than, say, the Explorer, a traditionally built SUV that starts with a heavy chassis, then adds the body. Ford says the Escape gets 28 miles per gallon on the highway, 20 in the city.
Drivers who like four-cylinder fuel frugality will be pleased to know that Ford has stopped attaching its four-cylinder to a bargain-basement trim package. The old 2.3-liter has been upgraded to 2.5, providing a power boost, which auto buffs see as the most important improvement. This means the four-cylinder 2.5-liter engine is now available all the way to the top-of-the-line Escape Limited and Mercury Mariner Premier. Ford says this and other improvements contribute to a 6 percent increase in fuel efficiency.
That’s great, you say, and you like front-wheel drive, sitting a little higher in traffic, carrying a few large things and having the sporty cachet of an SUV. But you prefer a kinder, gentler interior to a rugged look. Take a gander at the Mercury Mariner, which Hall explains is the same vehicle under a more refined skin. Like the Escape, the Mariner has the new 2.5-liter engine and six-speed automatic transmission for more power but better fuel efficiency. Both introduce Easy Fuel™ capless refueling, which does not require a twist cover; ambient lighting, and standard cruise control.
For an even greener driving experience, consider hybrid versions of the Escape and Mariner. For 2009, a new engine processor smooths the transition between gasoline and electric vehicle modes. A new damping system reduces the vibration felt by the driver and passengers. Soy-based foam is used in the seats, substituting for petroleum-based products. The Escape offers eco-friendly seat fabrics made from 100 percent recycled materials.
For 2009, the Escape Hybrid also steps up to include the Escape Limited Hybrid. It has a range of amenities, such as a power moonroof and SYNC, the in-car communications and entertainment platform developed by Ford and Microsoft.
SYNC allows users to control most MP3 players and Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones hands-free, using voice commands. This feature is standard on the Escape Limited and Escape Hybrid, and on the Mariner Premier, Premier V-6 and Mariner Hybrid.
It’s optional on all other models. The hybrids and several gasoline versions of Escape and Mariner offer SIRIUS™ satellite radio, plus an initial six-month SIRIUS™ subscription. The gasoline version of the Escape starts at $19,715, and the Escape Hybrid begins at $28,305. The Mariner ranges a bit higher: from $22,935 for the gasoline version and $28,750 for the Mariner Hybrid.
Contributing: Online sources
Starts at $28,305
Engine 2.5 liter I-4 engine V-4
MPG 34 highway, 31 city
Features SYNC technology, SIRIUS® satellite radio, electric regenerative braking system, Atkinson Cycle for combustion
$28,295 to $36,555
This seven-passenger crossover looks a bit like a stretch SUV and draws love-it-or-hate-it responses for its “planted” stance and dark-tinted windows.
$37,665 to $46,000
Adaptive Cruise Control, updated keyless entry keypad lights up at a touch, pushbutton start. The amenities go on and on.
price not yet available
The 2009s offer a swing-down step for easy access to the truck bed and another step tucked up behind the cab to simplify reaching in from the side.
This SUV has better fuel economy with a combination of a new engine and six-speed transmission, as well as refined aerodynamics and new low-rolling-resistance tires.
This sports sedan is loaded: SIRIUS® satellite radio, BOSE® Centerpoint® surround sound, and Bluetooth wireless connection to a cell phone or media player.