Money Wise--The Environmentally Friendly SUV

It's no big secret: SUVs guzzle gas. Environmentalists hate them, but most SUV drivers wouldn't trade them for anything in the world. But there is a compromise.

Hybrid cars are becoming the hottest thing on four wheels. And why not? With gasoline prices sky high, hybrids can help put the brakes on fuel consumption. and they're friendly to the environment. If you're tempted by hybrids but prefer the size and performance of an SUV, the Ford Escape hybrid is a vehicle to put you in the driver's seat.

"It has much the same power and driving capability as the standard gasoline powered model, but with the hybrid engine that provides fuel economy and fuel savings for the consumer," said Good Housekeeping Institute engineer Gary Zukowski.

The hybrid Escape uses both an electric motor and a gasoline engine. "While you're driving on the highway and using the gasoline engine, the battery pack is charging," explained Zukowski.

Does this hybrid live up to the hype? Good Housekeeping took the vehicle for a test run and here are some points to drive home. "It feels like any other vehicle that you drive; it's smooth, it just drives right along," said Zukowski.

But check out what happens when the car comes to a stop: "It feels as though the engine has stalled, but in fact both the gasoline and electric engine have both shut down, in order to save both gas and electric power," said Zukowski.

No need to panic, you'll have to get used to the sudden quiet, where you can ponder the money you are saving. "Ford estimates you will see anywhere from 35 to 40 miles per gallon in city conditions and about 35 miles per gallon on the highway," reported Zukowski.

The regular Ford Escape gets only about 20 miles in the city and 25 on the highway. And there are even more savings: though the hybrid Escape's sticker price will be about $3,300 more than a standard Escape, you're eligible for a $1,500 federal tax deduction. And your state may have a deduction as well.

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Reported by: Dmitra Denmark,