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Motoring: Ford Escape and Jeep Grand Cherokee latest green-ish machines

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | November 12th, 2007

The Ford Escape and the Jeep Grand Cherokee are not direct competitors, after all the Grand Cherokee is quite a bit bigger, more luxurious and costs almost twice as much as the Escape.

So why am I featuring them together?

Well, both of these vehicles have been in the market for some time, but for 2008 both have been revamped a bit.

While the styling changes and interior upgrading is fine, both Ford and Jeep have done a much better job than expected in both those areas, the biggest improvement comes in the powertrain.

Both the Escape and the Grand Cherokee are now available with engines that have an eye on fuel economy, but both companies achieved this with different solutions.

Ford has had the Escape Hybrid for a few years, and has just improved it with the 2008 model. The Escape Hybrid gets its motivation from a 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine producing 133 hp and 124 lb/ft of torque, and it drives its front-wheels (or all-wheels if you pick the all-wheel drive version) through a CVT-automatic transmission. Considering the weight of this vehicle (3,794 lbs.) it doesn't have much power, but that is before you realize it has a second engine. The electric motor system gives this vehicle some needed go-power, and in full use, this hybrid powertrain can add up to 40 hp extra.

Also, if you learn to drive it in economy mode, you can crawl through city centres using just electric power, thus saving you more gas. As an end result, I was able to average just under 8-litres/100km, which is phenomenal for a vehicle of this size.

It isn't a fast vehicle and when you push it hard to overtake anyone on the highway, it becomes quite noisy, not only because of the transmission whine, but also from both engines working very hard and protesting at it.

So it won't win any performance awards, but if you do like having more go power, the Escape V6 is available, which produces 200 hp. Earlier this year I lived with an Escape V6 and was very impressed with its performance, but was less happy with its fuel economy of around 14-litres/100km. Since the Escape Hybrid and the Escape V6 are priced roughly the same, both starting at over $31,000, if you give me the choice to pick between the performance of the V6 and the economy of the Hybrid, I would certainly go for the Hybrid.

Now if only there was a solution to have both economy and performance.

That is where the Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel comes in. Sure some of you might want to point out, that at about $60,000, you can almost buy two Escapes for the price of this Grand Cherokee Diesel, but that would be missing the point.

While the Escape is a pleasant vehicle, the Grand Cherokee Diesel is a proper luxury vehicle. It is very spacious and very well appointed. You certainly won't complain about any lack of gadgets in here. My test vehicle was fully loaded with navigation and even a DVD system for the back seat passengers (you can watch DVD's in the front screen too, but only if the transmission is in Park).

So it certainly pleases you with its many toys (its MyGIG entertainment system is so complex, I need to write a book to explain everything it can do), but the best feature on this vehicle is its Mercedes-Benz sourced 3.0-litre, V6 diesel engine. This motor produces 215 hp, which is an adequate number, but really impresses with its 376 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to all-wheels through another Mercedes-Benz item, a great six-speed automatic gearbox.

While power figures on paper can give you some idea, with the Grand Cherokee Diesel, you really have to feel it to believe it. This truck pulls hard and it is surprisingly fast. Many times I found myself going well over the posted speed limit because it just pulls so effortlessly. Also, unlike other diesels I have come across, this one is relatively quiet, especially on the highway. I absolutely loved it, and I didn't mind the fuel bills either, as this full-size SUV was averaging 11-litres/100km, which is great.

I liked it so much, I would advise anyone looking to spend $60,000 on an SUV, they should buy a Grand Cherokee Diesel, it is certainly the best buy in its category at the moment, in my view.

The same goes for the Ford Escape Hybrid, if you are looking to buy a smaller SUV and looking to spend up to $35,000, there is no better alternative in my view.

Plus, for once you can drive around in an SUV and not feel guilty about killing the planet.

So there you have it, two great vehicles, both from American manufacturers. Who says Americans can't build good vehicles.
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