As I mentioned in a post a few days back, I had the distinct honor of being invited to Los Angeles this past week to attend a blogger event sponsored by Ford Motors. It was all part of their Escape Boredom campaign that they have running throughout the Summer, along with their sponsorship of the show On The Lot airing on Fox. In all, there were 17 bloggers invited to attend the event, from all over the United States and Canada, each with a unique focus to their blogs. There were blogs on filmmaking, comedy, shopping, trend setting, and more. All the other bloggers were wonderful people, and it was great to get to meet them and chat about blogging in general. I was a bit surprised at the interest in my blog, as it seemed everyone had questions about what it is a I do around here. Of course, interest in the blog was only out weighed by interest in my iPhone, which received a great deal of attention over the course of the two days.
The reason for the event was two fold. First, Ford wanted to reach out to bloggers and learn about the medium. They asked us lots of questions about blogging in general, and picked our brains about how a blog can be useful in communicating ideas and building online communities. The second reason was to put us in their new 2008 Escape and get our impressions of the vehicle. For those who don’t know, the Escape is Ford’s smallest SUV, quite a bit smaller in stature than it’s big brothers the Explorer and the Expedition.
I’ll preface my comments on the Escape by saying that I drive a 2005 Nissan Xterra. It’s a larger, more powerful, and more capable off road vehicle than the Escape, and fits my active lifestyle very well. While driving the Escape, there were times when I couldn’t help but compare it to my “X”, which really isn’t a fair comparison at all. A few years ago, the Xterra and Escape would have been considered to be in the same class, but Nissan redesigned their SUV back in 2005, which really moved it up into a different category. I tried to keep that in mind as I spent time with Ford’s redesigned model. I would also note, that of all the bloggers invited, I believe I was the only one already driving an SUV of any kind. I heard a number of them say that they would never have considered an SUV before they drove the Escape, but their sentiments changed markedly over the course of the two days.
Once I realized that I wasn’t driving my own vehicle, and took a step back to analyze the new Escape on it’s own merits, I began to see where the vehicle really stood out and carved it’s own niche. For starters, the Escape is built on a unibody platform, so it rides much more like a car and less “trucky” than my Xterra. And while the Xterra dashboard is spartan in it’s options, the Escape has nice, high quality gauges and dials, and an excellent touch screen system that includes a cool digital audio system, with iPod integration of course, a GPS navigation system, and on the hybrid Escape there is an option to monitor the performance of the electrical drive.
Speaking of they hybrid, which is the model I spent the most time with, I can honestly say that I’m very impressed with the performance. It doesn’t quite have the zip to it that the gas engine does, but it’s still plenty peppy for cruising around town. You might miss a little of that zip when you head out on the highway, as it doesn’t quite have the acceleration of the standard model, but it makes up for it with amazing gas milage. Ford claims that they hybrid Escape can get 34 mpg in the city, and after driving around L.A., I believe them. The Escape hybrid drive combines both a gas engine and an electrical drive and can be powered by either or a combination of both drives. When on the highway, for instance, the Escape is powered by it’s gas engine, but when you step on the accelerator, the electrical drive kicks in to increase the speed without burning more gas. A pretty innovative and energy efficient system. On the highway, Ford tells us, the Escape can get between 40 and 50 miles to the gallon. Other environmentally friendly touches on the Escape include seat fabric made from 100% post-industrial recycled materials and emissions that amount to mostly water vapor. In fact, the emissions on the hybrid model are so clean, that Ford reps boasted that we would be better off breathing straight from the tail pipe rather than risking the sketchy Los Angeles air. Anyone who has been to L.A. knows what an adventure that can be. 😉
All the technical mumbo jumbo and statistics aside though, I can honestly say that the new Escape is just plain fun to drive. On our second day in L.A. we took them on a Photo Road Rally to some of the more iconic locations in Hollywood. Cruising the crowded streets was a breeze, as the nimble Escape ducked in and out of traffic easily. It also felt much more like a car than an SUV has it handled the curves and hills of Mulholland Drive with aplomb, and most importantly of all, the guys at the valet parking station on Rodeo Drive didn’t laugh at us as we pulled in to park. Clearly, the Escape is an excellent commuter vehicle, and the inclusion of a hybrid option makes for a very Earth friendly package.
Finally, I’d like to thank Ford for the opportunity to attend the event. It was a real pleasure to get to know my fellow bloggers and the Ford staff, along with the folks from the Hill and Knowlton firm. You treated us like rockstars (blogstars?), and it was greatly appreciated. Thanks for the invite and thanks for even caring what this humble blogger even thinks.
Update: I had a couple of questions in the comments section regarding the electrical drive on the hybrid and how long the battery lasts between charges. I can’t answer that directly because I forgot to mention one of the other very cool aspects of the hybrid, and that’s the Regenerative Breaking System. What that RBS does is take kinetic energy created when you step on the breaks, an converts it to electrical energy that is used to recharge the battery. So, in a sense, it’s recharging as you drive it and use the breaks to slow and stop your vehicle. Pretty amazing technology really.
Also, to make things a little clearer on the use of the electrical and gas motors on the hybrid, it should be noted that the electrical drive is used to start the Escape, power it a low speeds, and to help the gas engine accelerate at high speeds. All of those unique things help to save on gasoline.
If you have any more questions on the Escape, post them in the comments section. I’m happy to answer any and all that I can.
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