Hybrid War: Ford Touts Escape Plug-in As Efficiency King, but Toyota Has Two Things It Wants to Tell You

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

In the compact crossover segment, at least, the sky’s the limit when it comes to choice. And making inroads into this enormously popular crowd is plug-in hybrid power — a feature added to two major players this year: the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.

As efficiency numbers trickle out, Ford is claiming victory over its rival, though which of the two models ultimately boasts the most appeal will be borne out in future sales figures.

Why is the Blue Oval so confident? The 2020 Escape PHEV’s newly released MPGe rating. At 100 MPGe, the Escape PHEV outclasses the 2021 RAV4 Prime’s estimated combined fuel efficiency rating of 94 MPGe.

It’s a slim gap, but one Ford is ready and willing to exploit. Then there’s the issue of price, which is a gap Ford’s very willing to point out. A base Escape PHEV is promised for under $35,000 (sans destination fee), while Toyota’s target for the RAV4 Prime is a sub-$40k MSRP.

Of course, if that other kind of green means nothing to you, there’s something the RAV4 Prime boasts that the Escape PHEV can’t: greater all-electric driving range. The Toyota claims 42 miles of gas-free driving versus the Ford’s 37. Again, not a huge gap, and one that, when combined with the Ford’s greater level of efficiency in standard hybrid mode, isn’t likely to amount to any savings. Unless you plan on never gassing up and keeping trips to EV range-only distances, that is.

In hybrid mode, the Escape PHEV is estimated to rate 41 mpg on the combined cycle. While Toyota hasn’t released such figures for the RAV4 Prime, the RAV4 Hybrid gets 40 mpg combined, and that’s without the Prime’s bulkier battery pack in tow.

In the area of power, however, Toyota trounces Ford. Let’s forget efficiency of fuel or dollars for a moment and focus on something very few compact crossover drivers fixate on: speed. The combined output of the RAV4 Prime is 302 horsepower — good for a sprint to 60 mph in a swift 5.8 seconds. Total system output for the Ford is 221 hp.

Last, but most certainly not least, is the fact that the Escape PHEV is a front-drive-only proposition, while the RAV4 Prime comes with standard all-wheel drive. That alone will be worth the extra cost and decreased efficiency to many buyers.

In announcing the new specs, Ford didn’t mention Toyota; rather, it focused on how better the Escape PHEV is to family life when compared to the defunct Fusion Energi plug-in it (sort of) replaces. To the company’s product development chief, it offers up the best blend of easy-to-live-with attributes in an age of pandemic-related uncertainty.

“The economic and environmental impacts of this virus have created a roller coaster for consumers looking to balance value, need and efficiency going forward,” Hau Thai-Tang said in a release. “Ford Escape Plug-In Hybrid is that ideal balance our customers want.”

[Image: Ford]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
5 of 26 comments
  • EBFlex EBFlex on Jun 08, 2020

    Toyota should also tout the fact that the Rav4 interior isn't a dreadful, low quality exercise in cost savings. But seriously, the more powerful AWD Rav4 gets SLIGHTLY less MPG than the far less powerful, wrong wheel drive Escape? This is news?

    • See 1 previous
    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Jun 09, 2020

      Driven one? I Have and it is pretty dreadful as well but I am biased against those sorts of cars so I suppose I'm predisposed to nitpick it to death.

  • Conundrum Conundrum on Jun 09, 2020

    It's not as if the new Escape has been getting rave reviews as a vehicle in its own right. With Ford's inability to hang doors, hoods, dashes and tailgates straight now almost a decade long, who with any sort of reasoning and ability to read properly would buy a Ford over an equivalent Toyota anyway? I've got no skin in the game, because crossovers do not interest me in the slightest, but c'mon. Cue a million Ford owners with skew-whiff quality rearing up on their hind legs berating reality, with backup stories of people down the street whose Toyota whatsitsname fell apart after three months. Sure, and that's why Toyota is the biggest auto company in the world and Ford is in the lower half of the top ten, with customers clamoring to get a Henry-mobile if it's not an F150 which is solid and needs no excuses. Never did understand doggie-like loyalty when it comes to choosing a vehicle. or anything else for that matter.

    • EBFlex EBFlex on Jun 09, 2020

      "It’s not as if the new Escape has been getting rave reviews as a vehicle in its own right." You're right. Ford really bungled the new Explorer/MKExplorer and the new Escape. All three are garbage.

  • M B When the NorthStar happened, it was a part of GM's "rebuilding" of the Cadillac brand. Money to finance it was shuffled from Oldsmobile, which resulted in Olds having to only facelift its products, which BEGAN its slide down the mountain. Olds stagnated in product and appearances.First time I looked at the GM Parts illustration of a NorthStar V-8, I was impressed AND immediately saw the many things that were expensive, costly to produce, and could have been done less expensively. I saw it as an expensive disaster getting ready to happen. Way too much over-kill for the typical Cadillac owner of the time.Even so, there were a few areas where cost-cutting seemed to exist. The production gasket/seal between the main bearing plate and the block was not substantial enough to prevent seeps. At the time, about $1500.00 to fix.In many ways, the NS engine was designed to make far more power than it did. I ran across an article on a man who was building kits to put the NS in Chevy S-10 pickups. With his home-built 4bbl intake and a 600cfm Holley 4bbl, suddenly . . . 400 horsepower resulted. Seems the low hood line resulted in manifolding compromises which decreased the production power levels.GM was seeking to out-do its foreign competitors with the NS design and execution. In many ways they did, just that FEW people noticed.
  • Redapple2 Do Hybrids and be done with it.
  • Redapple2 Panamera = road porn.
  • Akear What an absurd strategy. They are basically giving up after all these years. When a company drinks the EV hemlock failure is just around the corner.
  • Graham The answer to a question that shouldn't have been asked LOL