A hybrid version of the Escape was released in 2004, making it the first hybrid SUV.
The Escape is built on the Ford CD2 platform, which is in turn based on the Mazda GF platform, which was used by the Mazda 626.
The first generation Ford Escape was released in North America for the 2001 model year. It was slotted below the larger truck based Explorer in Ford's lineup, but was larger than the small SUV offerings from Honda and Toyota. At the time, most sport utility vehicles used a truck based Body-on-frame design. Solid rear axles were commonly used due to their ability to carry heavy loads at the expense of a comfortable ride and good handling. Ford realized that most SUV owners did not take their vehicles off road, and decided instead to use a car-like Monocoque design with a fully independent suspension and rack and pinion steering for the Escape. Although not meant for serious off-roading, a full time all wheel drive system supplied by Dana was optional which included a locking center differential activated by a switch on the dashboard. The all wheel drive system normally sends most of the power from the engine to the front wheels. If slipping is detected at the front, more power will be sent to the rear wheels in a fraction of a second. The entire braking system was built by Continental Teves including the ABS and various related suspension components. CKD production began in 2002 at Ford Lio Ho Motor Co. in Taiwan for various Asian markets.
Safety and security
Crash test results for the Escape have been mixed. In the New Car Assessment Program administered by the USA based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the car received 5 out of 5 stars for driver protection and 4 out of 5 stars for passenger protection in a 35mph (56km/h) frontal impact. The SUV received 5 stars for both driver and rear passenger in the side impact test. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 40mph (64km/h) frontal offset test, 2001-2004 Escapes received a score of "Marginal". Vehicles equipped with the optional side air bags received a score of "Good" in the 31mph (50km/h) side impact test, while those without the optional air bags received a score of "Poor".