2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi Review - 400,000 Miles of Cabbie Farts

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Do not adjust your dial. Despite all appearances to the contrary, you have not been magically transported back in time to halfway through the Obama administration. Yes, we know the design of this venerable website hasn’t changed significantly since then, but you have to trust us on this one – it is indeed late 2019, and yet I’m driving a cab from 2012.

It’s the 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi, fresh from service on the mean streets of New York City, and with over four hundred thousand miles on the original hybrid powertrain. It’s been stripped of the meter and medallion, of course – can’t have shrimp-eating journalists trying to double-dip by hacking while being a hack – but otherwise is very close to how it rolled into Ford’s care a few months back.

It’s a marketing stunt, to be certain. Ford is using one of its oldest, highest-mileage hybrids to sell journalists and the general public on the durability of this solution to electrified motoring. I’m here to say that, while I was skeptical of this stunt, I’m now a believer.

Obviously this isn’t your typical review – it’s impossible for me to rate the fit and finish of an otherwise-basic commuter car that has been abused by indifferent drivers and careless passengers for the better part of seven years, having racked up nearly the mileage between the moon and back in that time. The interior is seriously beat, with holes drilled haphazardly in the dash for the aforementioned taximeter, an inoperable driver’s power window, and a visor that flopped into my face as I made a turn.

Seats front and rear are ugly, with a black vinyl cover for the split-folding rear bench having been artfully accented with black duct tape on the curb side. Front seats are similarly ugly – the vinyl cover on the driver’s squab could use some of that duct tape, while the cloth on the passenger seat and the upright of the drivers’ seat seem to be beyond the help of steam cleaning. The floors, front and rear, are covered with what should be an easy-clean rubberized material that’s now wearing away from the feet of Manhattan partygoers.

The exterior, when considering the condition of the cabin, looks remarkably fresh. Nitpicks include some color mismatches – especially on the driver’s front quarter panel – but this is really more a complaint against the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission. A hole remains on the hood where the once-valuable medallion was once affixed.

For our New York-area readers, this entire experience will be familiar. One doesn’t expect opulence when hailing a cab – merely a relatively quiet place away from more mass forms of mass transit. My tweenaged daughters, however, were initially thrilled with the thought of being shuttled to school in a real-life New York taxi. Upon opening the door and being confronted with the sights and smells of a well-used cab, however, they insisted on their usual yellow bus rather than this hybrid chariot.

Yes, don’t forget that this is indeed a hybrid. The EPA estimated 34 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, 32 mpg combined when this was new, and I’d have to believe that figure would be still achievable. Fuelly, for example, shows Escape Hybrids with this 2.5-liter four managing around 31.0 mpg over their lifespans.

A pair of suspiciously similar stories have brought me to the conclusion that this one 2012 Escape Hybrid is not a durability fluke. Half a million miles or more is not unheard of.

And the drivetrain in this well-abused Escape Hybrid is indeed holding up nicely. While the noise from the engine room can be a bit coarse when the gas engine cuts in, the transitions between the two propulsion systems are seamless. The CVT has none of the unpleasantness found in much of the contemporary competition – I honestly thought it had a traditional automatic before looking at the spec sheets. Power delivery is good, with plenty of low-end torque for stoplight drags and passing maneuvers.

I have to believe that the suspension had attention paid to it before hitting the press fleet, as there were no clunks, rattles, or shakes typical of any car of this age. There was no evidence either through the steering wheel or my ears of chunked sway bar bushings or worn tie rod ends. Plug my nose, put gloves on my hands, and blindfold me, and the only clue to the age and miles would be what seems to be noise in the catalytic converter area when the gas engine fires.

Ok, maybe don’t blindfold me if I’m about to drive.

Yes, I’ve been drawn in with a public relations stunt. Obviously this beat-up old cab is meant to sell the new 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid, which Tim seemed to like a couple months back. Honestly, if the reliability remains the same as the old model, this new one is a no-brainer – as it seems to be an incredible value.

The MSRP on this 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi, when painted in TLC-specified School Bus Yellow, was $32,940 after delivery. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index calculator tells me that translates to $37,398.70 in current dollars. The newest Escape Hybrid? Lightly optioned, it can be had for $30,095.

Just not in yellow.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Redapple2 Brandee. Another Stanford grad. Bankman Fried. The blood test girl. Mary Barra.
  • Redapple2 CruiseSTUPID, battery problems, software, killing carplay and AM. Why is this so hard.
  • Alan Like all testing and analysis work you need a good set of requirements. If you don't you'll find or end up with gaps.
  • Alan In aviation there is more vigourous testing, well, until Boeing changed things.
  • Alan This outcome was certain.The US, Australia and Canada need to approach this differently. A policy towards plug in hybrids should of been a first step. As in CAFE gradually tighten FE from there.There's no reason why you can't have a 2 litre F-150 with electric motors putting out 400-500hp. A 2 litre turbo is good for 200hp more than enough to move a pickup.Also increase fuel tax/excise every year to fill the void in loss of revenue.