Fuel Efficient SUV?

Is the fuel efficient SUV an oxymoron? With Ford billing the Escape Hybrid as “the Most Fuel-Efficient SUV on Earth,” using the motto in press releases and commercials, one might admit that it’s a catchy phrase … even if it’s not quite factual. The Escape Hybrid is a nice little truck. But therein lies the problem.

It’s a truck.

The laws of physics tell us that a heavy, non-aerodynamic truck will deliver much less gas mileage than a lighter, more aerodynamic vehicle. In the commercial in question, a father and daughter climb up into their Ford Escape Hybrid … just daddy and his little girl, off to who knows where. The daughter complains that dad’s not driving a hybrid. He kindly lets her know that actually, he is driving a hybrid … but that he isn’t showing off … like the folks that drive, well … you know … the hybrid that looks like a hybrid.

Never mind that it’s just the two of them in that big truck and that the other smaller (unnamed vehicle) easily gets 50% better gas mileage. It’s all for effect. Ah, suburbia …

The Escape Hybrid does top the chart, delivering the best SUV gas mileage in America, but what if Ford built a lighter and more aerodynamic station wagon with interior room equivalent to the Escape … powering it with a fuel efficient diesel engine rather than a more complex hybrid set up? Would America buy it at 40 MPG?

We wouldn’t have to worry about which is the most fuel efficient SUV if we freed ourselves from the acronym and the mindset. A SUV is a station wagon, for all intents and purposes … a station wagon built on a truck frame.

If you live down a dirt road and the county doesn’t do much to maintain it … a fuel efficient SUV is in order. Likewise if you live in the middle of the desert …

Buy a truck to do truck things. Not to drive to the supermarket.

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