By on November 22, 2019

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi front quarter

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi profile

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi front seats

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi rear seat

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi front

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi rear

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi rear seat 2

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi dashboard

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi center stack

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.

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi rear quarter

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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75 Comments on “2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi Review – 400,000 Miles of Cabbie Farts...”

  • avatar

    But can you drift it?

  • avatar

    Yes it doesn’t drive like other cars with a CVT because this isn’t a purely mechanical CVT it is an electric one, and frankly the most elegant and durable solution to the “CVT problem” other than maybe the current Accord Hybrid which is even farther from a real CVT, with only an occasional mechanical link between the engine and wheels.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. Instead of a belt slipping back and forth on conical pulleys as in a conventional CVT, you have a single planetary gearset that never has to shift. It’s a ridiculously good powertrain solution. Honestly, once you’ve driven one (or two, in my case) for a while and gotten used to how it works, it makes conventional transmissions seem really silly.

      • 0 avatar
        Greg Hamilton

        It is shame that the writers of the comments are better informed than the writers on this site, but that is more often than not the case. This car does have a planetary gearset CVT aka eCVT like most Toyota hybrids not a belt driven CVT.
        I think it was a mistake on Ford’s part to wait so long for another hybrid Escape. This was by all accounts a very reliable car, and would have served Ford well if they had not discontinued it. The Ford Escape hybrid is the only non Toyota New York city taxi that can withstand the constant abuse of the construction and potholed streets of the city now that the Ford Crown Vics have been retired.

        • 0 avatar

          It was a great hybrid, I know a lot of guys who have them and love them and are hanging on to them as long as they can

        • 0 avatar

          Unfortunately Ford thought a Hybrid Escape would limit the sales of the C-Max so that is why they didn’t include it in the 2013 redesign. Even though we have two C-Maxes it never should have existed. I’m betting an Escape Hybrid would have added significant sales as the Escape Hybrid was very popular with fleets and they probably would have continued to buy them if the C-Max wasn’t there to take its place.

        • 0 avatar

          I think Ford skipped hybrid of the now-outgoing version of the escape for a number of reasons. First, the Escape and the C-Max have almost the same interior room. The C-Max hybrid weighs about the same as the non-hybrid Escape, around 3,600 lbs. If you add the hybrid drivetrain to the Escape, you get a car between 3800 and 4000 lbs. If you remember, Ford initially EPA-rated the C-Max based on the Fusion Hybrid’s testing numbers because those two vehicles shared the same weight and powertrain; but the C-Max is less aerodynamic than the Fusion, so Ford was forced to cut the EPA rating down to 42 city /37 highway. The Escape Hybrid is heavier and less aerodynamic than even the C-max, so I’m guessing it would have tested out at something like 39-34. That may not have been good enough to meet CAFE goals A secondary reason may have been plant capacity. There may not have been enough room at the Louisville lpant that makes the escape for a hybrid version

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t know about making conventional transmissions seem silly, but having owned 5 spanning the first 3 generations of Ford Hybrids I do love it for my daily drivers.

        • 0 avatar

          I didn’t realize how totally spoiled I had gotten with a conventional-transmission-free household until the first time I rented a car after getting our current fleet. It was a Sienna, with the Aisin 8-speed, an unobjectionable transmission with which I’m very familiar. But all of a sudden every shift felt like an Event and the whole driving experience seemed rougher than necessary.

          My most recent rental was a Dodge Charger with the fake ZF 8-speed, and that was less dramatic because that trans is so good, but it still just felt like constant shifting.

      • 0 avatar

        It is my understanding that there is some greater or lesser association with Toyota with this hybrid system.

        • 0 avatar

          They are quite similar.

        • 0 avatar

          The basic theory of operation is the same and the ones found in the Escape were manufactured by Aisin.

          However the basic architecture is dramatically different than the original Toyota system.

          The Toyota was a single axis with only the final drive reduction between the traction motor and the wheels.

          The Ford system is a multi axis design that allows for an additional reduction between the traction motor and the final drive reduction. This improves torque available at the wheels and higher regen braking currents at lower speeds.

          The other huge advantage to this design is it allows a higher engine off road speed w/o causing the other Motor Generator to overspeed. Making it suitable for plug in applications.

          Toyota briefly included an additional planetary set between the traction motor and the power split planetary, to make the original Prius Prime. Since then they have switched the Prius to the same basic design as the Ford was all along.

  • avatar

    I’ll take the crown Vic in extended length.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m only here to rant that the Panther platform in general would have been even better with the Crown Vic on it’s 114 in wheelbase (as it was in life) the Grand Marquis on the 117 in wheelbase that the Town Car got and the Town Car on the 123 in wheelbase that only the extended models got.

      That is all.

      • 0 avatar

        The only problem with the Panther in all its wheelbase iterations in New York City is that it’s now too big for NYC’s narrow/reduced lanes due to bicycle lanes. Various traffic-clogging signal changes were made to lengthen wait times and slow down traffic.

        Both were designed to drive people out of cars and into public transit, but have a deleterious effect on taxi service in general and large taxi use in particular. Smaller and more nimble hybrid taxis are now required, both to negotiate lower-capacity NYC streets, and handle more frequent stop-and-go traffic.

  • avatar

    Pretty good .

    I’ve seen a few similar high mileage Toyota Prius’ in taxi livery too .

    I hate these but they do seem to be the way of the future .


  • avatar

    May be a publicity stunt, but it’s useful to see how these new drivetrains stand up to years of abuse. Well done Ford, and I’m not saying that often lately.

  • avatar

    The vinyl seat cushion on my 1995 GMT400 looked similar to that driver seat – until last month. Now it is covered in a handsome super-durable (50,000 Wyzenbeek-Wire Screen double rubs) polyolefin tweed, with new foam cushioning added. Covered the back wall of the cab in the same fabric (after adding sound-deadening mat and polyester batting), because I’m a grown-up and can make my own choices. :-)

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    These were quite durable cabs. They were roomy for two passengers and fuel economy was a bit better than the Bloomberg era one size fits all “Taxi of tomorrow” Nissan NV.

  • avatar

    Cars last forever when you drive them 24×7. I worked for a courier company in college that would get 500-600K out of crappy ’80s Ford Escorts running them around the clock in shifts.

  • avatar

    It’s a shame Ford cannot build reliable vehicles like this anymore.

    Current Fords can’t even make it out of the factory without needing major repair.

    • 0 avatar

      This really does irk me. The industry was building great cars before Obama got involved. If you wanted fuel economy, you could buy a Prius that returned 50 mpg or an Escape that gave you more than 30 mpg while being as durable as a hammer. Now everything is being rushed to production in the hope that it can be kept running through the warranty period while the executives parachute away. The fascists-in-denial never wanted to buy fuel efficient vehicles. They wanted everyone else to have to buy fuel efficient vehicles to offset their senses of entitlement.

      • 0 avatar

        Example #2. Please see 737 Max. A design rushed to market in the name of “green” engineering, with low cost bogus H1B engineers, built to a profit margin that boosted Harvard Schooled Business Theory thinking management. Sad. Yes late 90’s and Early 2000’s was peak car.

        • 0 avatar

          The late 1990s and early 2000s we’re the era of boringly competent conventional ICE vehicles with enough electronic automation to be decent vehicles.

          That’s not a bad thing (I liked driving those cars), but the current era of EVs is far better in terms of interest and enthusiasm. There’s a lot of cool and interesting EVs coming out, and that’s awesome.

          Tesla’s “cybertruck” is something you never would have seen IRL in the late 1990s or early 2000s. Love it or hate it, it’s new and interesting and it makes a great Jeep Gladiator competitor.

          Also, guys like you combined bitterly about the cars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, because the curmudgeons of that era didn’t know how to deal with ECUs/PCMs. (It is a different skillset than those guys had, but using an OBD-II reader is well within the means the average driveway mechanic.)

          There are a lot of things we seriously need to fix about this era (regulatory capture is FAR worse than it was in 2012), but the cars are cool!

        • 0 avatar

          You’re forgetting the business plan of continuing the basic chassis from circa 1967 and then adding more powerful engines which upsets its power/weight balance. The 737 NG should have been the last overhaul and a clean sheet design should be been implemented.

          Death by MBA.

      • 0 avatar

        “The industry was building great cars before Obama got involved.”

        Leave it to you to make it about an ex president who had zip to do with it .

        One can’t even have a hot cuppa joe without you making a dishonest political case out of it using made up conspiracies .


        • 0 avatar

          Bingo! -Thanks Nate.

          Gotta blame everything on Barack Obama. Get over it Todd. Can’t imagine why the current guy doesn’t worry you ten times more than Obama.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t worry about Trump for the same reason I know Obama’s fascist command economy meddling has damaged our car market. I haven’t replaced my brain with bong water like your support group.

    • 0 avatar

      I would be interested in hearing more from someone who knows about the footprint-based CAFE rules. It seems to me like the new rules were specifically tailored to GM (fullsize SUV’s), but I have no supporting evidence.

      I agree with your assessment of peak ICE.

      You make some good points about EV’s. But I don’t think we’ve reached peak EV yet. My current baseline plan is to bridge from my family’s current ICE fleet directly to EV’s (with the exception of my old truck which I plan to continue modifying on my own). I am a big fan of OBDII by the way (my 1995 truck missed it by one year).

      Thinking out loud to anyone,
      I like the general longevity of hybrids, but I dislike the multiple potential points of failure. So I’m on the fence here.

      • 0 avatar

        ToolGuy – hybrids are indeed very complicated. I’m not reading/hearing much about hybrid drivetrain failures though. A friend bought a Prius with a degraded battery. Opened up the battery, replaced a cell or two with used cells purchased on EBay for $50 and the problems went away. That Prius had nearly 300K miles on it.

        • 0 avatar

          RE : Prius batteries

          Just like we did with the Bell Helicopter batteries in L.A.P.D. Air Support, they’re made up of lots of little separate cells that are able to be removed , serviced, tested and replaced very cheaply….

          During the first run of Prius there were several companies that would buy up every wrecked Prius they could find and use the batteries cells to ‘rebuild’ the battery packs in high mileage taxis etc….

          I have no idea if this is still a thing .

          Speaking of bong water, there’s a few people here who have serious mental deficiencies .

          Some people simply enjoy being afraid and work diligently at it then try to blame others .

          I, of course, keep my tin foil hat clean and snug, it even has ear flaps…..


  • avatar

    I continually hear very good things about the Ford Hybrid system.

    The Fusions I believe are holding up very well also.

    I actually rather like the Fusion Hybrid….

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    “Honestly, if the reliability remains the same as the old model…”

    Yeah, it won’t. At least I wouldn’t bet money on it. This 2012 Escape was designed, engineered and screwed together by an actual automobile manufacturer and not a “mobility company.”

  • avatar

    Aside from the flooring, I’ve seen much worse Escapes wear-wise. Also, these things are tough bastards. I’ve seen fleet-worn ones with miles approaching 200k that keep chugging. Also, great budget CUVs – ample ground clearance, peppy even with the 4-cylinder, and great efficiency along with a huge, airy cabin. I honestly like them more than the successor Escape. I got one for my girlfriend (’10 Tribute) and one for her sister (’12 Escape LTD) and they both have had zero issues.

  • avatar

    I’ve been in plenty of these in actual New York taxi service, and this review is bang-on, except that this one definitely must have had work done to the suspension. No vehicle can survive 16 hours a day on New York streets without frequent and severe suspension wear, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a New York cab of any make that didn’t have more than its share of clunks and creaks.

    • 0 avatar

      At the very minimum it has new sway bar links as the OE ones are plastic.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what I was thinking too. Even vehicles that are legendary for their sturdiness sound like buckets of bolts after 100K miles in NYC. I commuted in Crown Vic taxis for a couple of years, and they clunked and rattled like Chevy Monzas on the way to the junkyard. Town Cars that were still luxurious to ride in at 250K miles on the surprisingly-crummy streets of San Diego sounded like loaded U-Haul trucks crashing over the broken pavement of New York after 150K miles.

      I’m not sure I can blame Ford for refreshing the suspension and steering components of this car. Any owner can do that too, as long as the drivetrain is still good and the body hasn’t lost its starch like a 996 that’s done 200 laps on R-compounds.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s instructive to compare the Highlander Hybrids I encounter as NYC taxis to my own (53k miles, dealer-maintained). Beyond the clunks and rattles, the ride feels like a completely different vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        “Any owner can do that too…”

        If the springs, struts and strut mounts are new, next stop is the lower control arms? My 2005 Avalon (205K miles) still has a little bit of looseness in the front suspension over small pavement irregularities. I saw today that RockAuto has a Moog “front end kit” which includes control arms, ball joints and tie rod ends. I’m seriously considering doing this, but will need to raise the engine/transaxle slightly to reach the control arm bolts (which are blocked by the engine mounts).

  • avatar

    I see a little rust at the top of the rear wheelarch, and maybe starting at the rear bottom of the arch, but generally it’s not bad.

  • avatar

    “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. ”

    I suppose that actually looking underneath it would be beneath your station.

  • avatar

    Those things are definitely survivors, although the back seat is small. But their suspension was very rough on Manhattan street, like on stilts. Not sure if it’s from wear or by design.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    The issue being is that the 2012 actually looks better than the new one Ford is coming out with…….

  • avatar

    We had a number of these at work and I have spent plenty of time in them as NYC cabs as
    Well. Mileage of over 500k is not that unusual. By then they usually rattle and bang over a pebble in the street but they do hold up well. Interior is pretty damn cheap with lots of hard plastic but they do stand the test of time. This is not a one off fluke.

  • avatar

    We had 3 2005 or 2006 Escape hybrids as work trucks. Being in Wisconsin, 1 was totalled after hitting ice with 360k on it, mine blew the engine with 350k on it, which was probably due to low oil, and the 3rd had the front end rust out from under it with 330k on it. Zero maintenance or repair was ever required on the drive train on any of them. All 3 had a water pump failure at some point, and the battery cooling fans died once.

    Remarkably reliable drive train.

  • avatar

    My initial reaction was ‘OK, where’s the underside pics, under the hood, etc’. What a ripoff.

    But I’m sure it was power washed, leaks fixed, bushings replaced, new struts, possibly motor mounts and whatnot.

    The private owner wouldn’t fix those things (with such high mileage), some are too expensive, especially when the intention is to drive it into the ground, get max returns and walk away.

    But it’s all fair play and its exterior cosmetics/bumpers look too good, sparkling headlights, etc.

  • avatar

    As a Manhattan resident, these have been my least favorite taxis. I have *never* ridden in one where I felt the suspension wasn’t completely trashed. Each ride was an exercise in feeling every bump in high fidelity accompanied by loud clunking noises.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    400K miles is just barely getting broken in for a Chevy Volt!….LOL

  • avatar

    A perfect example of why Uber is so popular. That thing is disgusting inside.

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