CHATHAM, Mass. – During the first trip I made in the 2021 Ford Escape Titanium PHEV – plug-in hybrid electric vehicle – the compact sport-utility/crossover’s (SUV/CUV) instant fuel-economy meter registered 999 miles per gallon.

I can easily explain this amazing result: virtually the entire 32 mile-trip occurred without using a gallon of gasoline as the electric motor did most of the propulsion work.

The Escape, which was completely redesigned for the 2020 model year and largely unchanged for 2021 and 2022 (so the comments here cover the latest version), provides exceptional fuel economy, as well as comfortable room for five persons and their stuff, all within the sleek two-box design along with solid compact SUV value from one of the vehicles which first defined this market segment.

Gas, electric: environmentally better without any range anxiety

Gas-electric hybrids, whether plug-in or self-charging versions, provide environmentally friendly running of an electric vehicle without any concerns when it comes to driving range thanks to the gasoline engine.

Speaking of range, Ford says the target range for this CUV on a full tank (11.2 gallons) of gasoline is 550 miles and considering I saw a 54.5-miles-per-gallon number on the fuel economy meter when I completed my week in the Escape PHEV, this seems quite reasonable. If your daily drives are within 30 miles, they can be done primarily on electricity and you simply charge the battery when you return home.

Charging the PHEV’s can be done in 11 hours on a standard 110-volt Level 1 charger or about 3.5 hours on a 240-volt Level 2 unit. In addition, when the Escape is driven in EV Charge mode, the battery is replenished (other driving modes are Auto EV where the Escape decides electric or gas; EV Now for all-electric or EV Later to conserve electric range and thus operate on gasoline power). And taking my foot off the accelerator pedal sent energy into the battery as the system’s regenerative braking  actuated.

The Escape Titanium PHEV’s powertrain starts with a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle hybrid four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. The front-wheel-drive (FWD) hybrid produces a combined system horsepower of 200 (165 hp from the gasoline engine), and a top speed of 85 mph in electric-only mode.

Getting this power to the road is an efficient four-wheel independent suspension system. Up front, MacPherson-type struts, a stabilizer bar and twin-tube hydraulic gas-pressurized shock absorbers do the work. In the rear, an independent double lateral link setup with a stabilizer bar, progressive-rate springs and hydraulic gas-pressurized shocks is specified.

The braking system features four-wheel discs (16-inch rotors, vented in the front, solid in the rear; single-piston calipers) with anti-lock (ABS) and regenerative capability to utilize stopping energy to top off the battery.

The wheels housing the brakes are 18-inch machined-face aluminum on the PHEV wearing 225/R18 all-season black-sidewall tires.

Ford Co-Pilot360™ Assist+ driver-assistance standard

Driving the Escape Titanium PHEV means having the extensive Ford Co-Pilot360™ Assist+ at your service. The Co-Pilot360 features pre-collision assist with automatic-emergency braking (AEB) and dynamic-brake support; automatic high-beams; lane-keeping system (includes lane-keep assist, lane-keeping alert and driver alert); blind-spot information system (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert; post-collision braking; hill-start assist and auto hold and rearview camera.

The Titanium trim level adds the Assist+ features like speed-sign recognition and adaptive cruise control. Making maneuvering within tight areas easier is Ford’s active park assist 2.0.

Inside, comprehensive amenities and technology

Fitting for a modern crossover, the Escape Titanium PHEV’s interior includes the technological features expected like:

  • An eight-inch color touchscreen controlling the infotainment systems with voice recognition and steering-wheel and dash buttons as additional controls
  • Infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility
  • 10-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system
  • Voice-activated navigation system
  • 4G WiFi hotspot
  • Wireless charging pad for mobile devices

FordPass Connect™ is a standard feature that provides 4G LTE Wi-Fi for up to 10 mobile devices with compatible wireless subscription service. FordPass Connect also gives drivers remote access to their Escape, allowing them to use their smartphone to lock, unlock, locate and start the vehicle, as well as monitor key vehicle diagnostics.

Creature- occupant comforts include automatic dual-zone climate-control system and electrically adjusted, heated front seats (the driver’s with memory which also includes the positioning of the outside rearview mirrors).

Up above the roomy interior (104 cubic feet of passenger volume with a maximum cargo volume of 60.8 cu. ft. with the second row folded and 34.4 behind the second row). Is a power tilt/slide panoramic moonroof.

A very efficient compact SUV

The compact SUV segment evolved because buyers wanted smaller, more efficient and less-expensive vehicles than the traditional SUVs represented. One of the first into this segment, introduced in 2000, was the Ford Escape.

The Escape family today comes in four trim levels (S, SE, SEL, Titanium); with a choice of four powertrains (two gasoline, one hybrid, one plug-in hybrid) and either front [FWD]- or all-wheel [AWD] drive.

The 2022 FWD S version has a base price of $26,760 while the range-topping Titanium PHEV bases out at $40,435. We drove a 2021 model which had a base price of $38,885 and with options, destination & delivery, totaled $43.025 (again, virtually identical to the 2022 model).

So, in its fourth generation, the Ford Escape, especially in its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants, represents major evolution for the compact SUV. It offers room, technology and outstanding fuel/operating economy, and in Escape Titanium PHEV form, a comprehensively equipped gas-sipping conveyance.

Next week TBR Drives the 2022 BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe