The Ford AWD system is not
The Ford AWD system is not similar to the Honda system. There is a lot more electronic/computerized design in the Ford system compared to the Honda mechanical/hydraliuc pumping system.
Look at this link for the Ford information: http://www.ford-trucks.com/specs/200..._escape_2.html
This link for the Honda system: http://www.off-road.com/trucks4x4/Fe.../detail/465007
In your post, you admit the AWD is only for traction during rain and the occasional snow fall. If this is true, you would be better off with just FWD. I got an AWD system because I spend most winter weekends skiing-nordic skiing--and because the Escape Hybrid I located came with AWD and there was no other new 2005 model in this country when I purchased this vehicle in 2007.
As for a mileage hit with AWD, I notice a drop in steady and heavy downpours, more than in snow! This is due to the engaging of the rear wheels. I use Winter tires during the coldest months of the year. These tires have much bettter traction than the stock EcoPlus tires on the vehicle. This helps with minimizing wheel slippage. However, my winter tires have more rolling resistance than the stock EcoPlus tires. How much does the AWD system really "hit" the fuel economy is debateable. I have read 1-3 miles frequently, some claim 5mpg and who knows if the EPA ratings are a real world reflection? There are posters who have gotten over 40mpg with the AWD system. Then again, there are many environmental and individual driver factors that come into play when one refers to mileage ratings.
Remember, the hybrid vehicle should be cleaner burning than the gas only vehicle.
I believe the RX400H rear
I believe the RX400H rear wheels are only driven by a separate electric traction motor and is not recommended for off road use. The FEH/MMH AWD is driven by the electric motors and the engine except in reverse. There is no reverse gear, so the electric traction motor reverses direction to back-up. The FEH/MMH AWD is approved to be driven off road. For this reason, the drag on a I-4 Atkinson cycle engine causes more of a hit in MPG than the Toyota V6 SUV engine with its disconnected rear wheels.
With 75 miles of driving each day, I would forget the AWD FEH/MMH with todays gas prices. The FWD performs very good in snow and it handles mild off road use here in Florida very well. Never came close to getting stuck with my FWD '05 FEH. I would take the savings from the AWD (tax incentive, cost, mileage,etc) and order the new 2nd generation Navigational System with the '09 FWD FEH or MMH. The added power of the new 2.5L Atkinson cycle engine with no reduction in mileage should be very impressive. There are so many improvements in the '09, I ordered a Limited with Nav because my '05 is still worth much more than the gas Escape. When I say I'm getting the new '09, people are quick to ask me if I'll sell my '05. My wife will drive my '05 FEH till the 2010 Prius is available. Big improvements are coming for the 2010 Prius.
Thanks guys, your points are
Thanks guys, your points are dead-on. Our desire for an AWD car also somewhat stems from the fact that we may move to Sacramento or Denver to get closer to skiing in which we would require an AWD car. I know with good snow tires you can get up and down I-70, but I've done it several times and prefer AWD. In California, CalTrans shows no mercy for 2wd vehicles.
However, I'm probably better off getting FWD and if we move (20-30% chance) we'll get an AWD one and just deal with it then.
As far as the links posted above, it does appear the Ford's system is somewhat predictive, however, I recall reading somewhere that the FEH/MMH's AWD system is different than the regular Escape and ONLY powers the rear wheels with the electric motor (so I'm not sure that link clears the issue at hand). The fact that reverse is only via the electric motor is disconcerting as well, and could make it less capable than the CR-V in reality.
I think everyone is right, for our needs FWD is probably better, especially since the AWD system has so many caveats (mileage, tax credit, reverse issues, added cost, etc.). Also, in Texas it's much harder to find AWD on the lot so I'd likely have to order/wait for it. I know two months ago I could've easily got an 08 Hybrid on a lot, but no one had an AWD for us to test drive.
Thanks again and please continue to share your thoughts on the subject.
The reason the AWD Escape
The reason the AWD Escape Hybrid powers reverse only with the traction battery is due to the transmission. The Hybrid version has an electronic CVT that does not have a reverse gear. Otherwise the hybrid and non-hybrid AWD systems are the same. As for the Hybrid AWD system being less capable than the Honda CR-V is non-sense. The only issue with the AWD reverse is if you have a loaded heavy trailer and you are attempting to back up a hill. There is no problem going in reverse without a trailer in the AWD Hybrid in deep snow. I have this system on my 2005 Escape Hybrid and have backed up in 10 inches of wet snow.
I'd like to know if Ford's
I'd like to know if Ford's "Intelligent AWD/4WD" always means the same system, regardless of which vehicle you're talking about. In the Edge, which is marketed as a sporty, speedy crossover, Ford Says this about Intelligent AWD: "Using a preemptive slip strategy, the system continuously monitors vehicle speed, throttle input and steering angle to seamlessly deliver torque to the appropriate wheel even before wheel slippage occurs. The system also helps eliminate torque steer and helps balance the vehicle when cornering."
The Escape is marketed differently, and the press releases don't go into as much detail about Intelligent 4WD. BillyK's linked article does have this one little tidbit about the Escape: "...and can even predict slip and preclude it from happening at all."
Is the Escape's system as good as the MDX's? Maybe?
Thanks, AWD is becoming less
Thanks, AWD is becoming less of a concern. To Kermit, how would you rank the following between the Prius and Escape?
1. Driver and front seat passenger comfort/space
2. Road nice
3. Road/wind noise at 70-80mph
4. Rear passenger comfort/space
5. Features/Ammenities (assume both were fully loaded)
6. Build quality
8. Cargo volume with backseats up and down