When we first got our Escape Hybrid, nobody fought to get the keys for it. We all liked the updated grille, which is a much better fit with Ford's truck and SUV lineup. The all-new interior, minus a few gripes, was well-received. We even liked the color. Unfortunately, we all had the same preconceived notion that since it was a hybrid, it would accelerate like a slug and be absolutely no fun to drive. We were mistaken.

Senior Editor Dan Ward was first behind the wheel, and after driving it for a day, called me on his cell phone to remark on the fuel mileage he was able to coax out of the Escape. Dan's driving style, which consists of lead-footed acceleration to Southern California highway cruising speeds, is often reflected in the fuel mileage of some test vehicles. Dan got 29 mpg out of the Escape. He figured that my driving style, which he considers geriatric by comparison, should yield much higher mileage.

Once I was behind the wheel, I was able to get the average mileage to 31.5 mpg in mixed city and highway driving, but after a few hundred miles of highway-only driving in hilly conditions at 70+mph, the average dropped down to 29.5. I was paying attention to the fuel mileage meter in the center display, and would have had better results at 60-65mph, but keeping up with traffic dictated otherwise.

The performance is on par with a compact V-6 SUV, with just the slightest bit of lag when going from a dead stop to full-on acceleration. In other words, there are virtually zero compromises with respects to the powertrain. The only noticeable difference is in handling, as the Hybrid is heavier than a normal Escape, and it's slightly less like a go-cart.